The first time I saw Jupiter with its moons for myself was like a religious moment. It changed the way I saw the world. In actually watching the moons go round Jupiter, it helped me understand what an enormous thing Galileo discovered, and how important his seeing Jupiter and its moons was for his understanding. It completely changed the world. I read Galileo’s “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” while at university, and have seen images in books, on TV & online. But nothing touches the awe of seeing a heavenly body with your own eyes, using binoculars or a small telescope, from the back yard.
But, it doesn’t stop there. Actually seeing Saturn for myself for the first time, I cannot describe how that felt, except that it was such a thrill to see this object that we have all heard about, seen pictures of, a planet with rings around it. Seeing it with my own eyes, even the rings, even though tiny, still sends a shiver up my spine! There is so much to see in the night sky, it is full of things that are stunningly beautiful and awe inspiring – sheets of nebulosity, galaxies, comets, seeing the places where stars are being born. Yet we often walk around oblivious to what is going on right in front of our eyes. The name Arthur Koestler gave to his book about the early astronomers is so appropriate, the Sleepwalkers. We humans are like sleepwalkers, not looking up above us – but when we do awake, it is to a world full of wonder and beauty.
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