I´ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. – Galileo Galilei
Have you ever got out of an experience, realized you can do better and can´t stop hitting yourself? I know, because I´m exactly in that position right now. I just got off from a phone interview for an international organisation. Looking back, I know I gave the right answers, but I was soooo nervous that I know I could have done better. Much, much better. Because I know the answers to the questions.
The whole interview focused on astronomy because they have a project for next year, which is the International Year of Astronomy. For additional background, next year is the IYA because it marks the 400th year of the Galilean telescope and the publication of Johannes Kepler´s Astronomia Nova. These are two of the biggest breakthroughs in astronomy, one of the oldest of the sciences.
Just how important is the discovery of the telescope, one might ask? As wikipedia so clearly puts it, ¨Astronomers of early civilizations performed methodical observations of the night sky, and astronomical artifacts have been found from much earlier periods. However, the invention of the telescope was required before astronomy was able to develop into a modern science.¨ In short, without the telescope, we would not have conclusive evidence of the movement of celestial objects and the formation and even the development of the universe.
Galileo improved the telescope to until 30x the original magnification of the Dutch perspective glass and from there discovered the Galilean satellites, confirmed the phases of Venus and observed and analyzed sunspots. Tagged as the ¨father of modern observational astronomy¨, it is only fitting to make him a central figure in the celebration of the IYA.
But let us not forget Kepler. His Astronomia Nova is a publication of his 10-year study of the movement of Mars. As wikipedia explains it, ¨Where previous astronomers had relied on geometric models to explain the observed positions of the planets, Kepler sought for and discovered physical causes for planetary motion. Prior to Kepler, Nicolaus Copernicus proposed in 1543 that the Earth and other planets orbit the Sun. Kepler was the first astronomer to prove this conjecture with rigorous scientific arguments.¨
Hence, 2009 was declared by the United Nations to be the fitting year for the IYA. Although in the Netherlands, this year is the 400th year of the telescope, because Lippershey discovered it in 1608. Personally, I would like to ask where Nicolaus Copernicus is left in all of these? Perhaps it is very important to note that he was the one who proposed the idea of heliocentrism? Come on, we even share the same birthday! =)
Anyway, back to the interview. One of the questions with which I really had to gather my thoughts was, ¨What would you consider to be the biggest breakthrough in Astronomy in the last ten years?¨ I remembered watching the mystery of the Starchild skull in National Geographic one time and that is the only thing I could think of, so I mentioned it. Technically, it was not a wrong answer. Although the Starchild story borders on alienology. But I just thought of a better answer — the discovery of water, or seemingly water, in Mars! That could mean that there could be life on Mars. And other life forms other than us, earthlings, can only be considered a major breakthrough. After that interview, I just read about the discovery of snow on Mars!
I really, really feel bad about not being able to say that. And all of the things I wrote here about astronomy and the IYA, in the way that I wrote it. But writing about it now makes me feel a little better. I may have been very nervous (that was really something because I never got sooo anxious in a job interview, and it was over the phone!) but I would not say stupid.#