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tags: blog stars and galaxies u of t toronto AST201H1 astronomy reddit

ABOUT "LAUDING THE STARS"

by MATT GARVIN

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WHY DID I WRITE THIS ARTICLE?

When I was at the University of Toronto, in the 1990s, I took a couple astronomy courses. I majored in English Literature, so taking some astronomy on the side showed I had at least somewhat of an interest in the subject. Unfortunately, that interest almost got snuffed out by my astronomy professors, who in my experience, made something fascinating into something that felt very dry and boring. Side Note: Oddly, one of my astronomy profs was a parent of a friend of a friend. Though I only realized that some time into my course. He was a real grump.

The neatest thing I learned between two astronomy courses was this: The majority of astronomers believe in intelligent, extra-terrestrial life. But! They also believe that it is so far away from us that aliens are very unlikely to be visiting us. This, in fact, is the position that Carl Sagan held, who might be the most famous astronomer of all time, and was regularly on TV in the 1970s and 1980s proselytizing science. Coming to realize that most of the pointy-headed astronomers believed in aliens was pretty damn cool and enlightening. (At the time I was fairly unfamiliar with Carl Sagan and his legacy.)

Aside from that, there are two other big things I remember from astronomy class in the 1990s. First, there really are black holes; they aren't just some science fiction plot device. Second, at some point our own sun would become much bigger and swallow up some of the closest planets, which may even include our earth! There were many other things I learned of course, but those two tidbits stand out. Again, they are cool little nuggets! But trust me, most, and possibly all, of the cool stuff was presented in a very boring fashion. Perhaps my profs had lost their passion, or were just poor communicators, but I came to dread going to my astronomy classes. I still remember the name of one of those courses: "Stars and Galaxies." I just googled it, and even now it is on offer at U of T. I sure hope the profs are doing a better job with it these days.

In any case, my passion was never fully extinguished. And thanks to the internet, and especially Youtube, I have been able to stoke my interest again. I have been re-introduced to astronomy, but by people on Youtube and Reddit that are passionate about it. Becoming re-acquainted has confirmed this stuff really is cool, and it has made this passion of mine grow legs again.

Truth is, I think that many people would be more interested in astronomy if they felt it was accessible, and if some of the "cool stuff" was presented up front. So I decided to write an article on "stars that you can see with the naked eye," and to do so with an enthusiasm and sense of wonder that was sorely lacking in my astronomy courses from way back. My goal here is to bridge the gap between poets and astronomers, and to flesh out just how amazing these far off little specks of light really are. If any astronomy profs at U of T read this article, feel free to share it with your class. :)

May I present: "Lauding the Stars: Part 1"...


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