Ask Urania

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Urania, o'er her star-bespangled lyre,
With touch of majesty diffused her soul;...
And o'er the swelling vault--the glowing sky,
The new-born stars hung out their lamps on high,
And rolled their mighty orbs to music's sweetest sound."
An Ode to Music, by James G. Percival

Ask Urania

Question...
What is astronomy?
Patricia K.
9.22.07

My Reply...
What is astronomy, you ask? It is true that astronomy is a concept that is very difficult for many mere mortals to understand, especially those poor souls who live in your large cities, always surrounded by light, unable to see all the wonders in the sky above.

But in reality, even when you think about how the concrete that forms your buildings came to be, or contemplate why there are earthquakes, or how oil was formed from the remains of living matter so many, many years ago, in a way, you are an astronomer.

You see, astronomy is truly the study of everything. It encompasses the determination of how this Universe you live in began. It looks at all that was created in the Universe. This includes what humans consider "normal matter," the stuff that makes stars, planets, comets, asteroids. Part of this is what you, my children, see around you today - Earth's solid body, her clouds and atmosphere, and every living thing upon her, as well as all the objects that you detect with your telescopes, be they on Earth or in space. But it also includes "dark matter" that you cannot see, and you only know of its existence because of the gravitational influence it has on those magnificent islands of swirling stars, gas, and dust that you know as "galaxies." It even includes the study of something just discovered in the last decade, not even a blip in the life of the Universe you live in - and that is what you call "dark energy," a force that is making the Universe fly apart faster and faster and faster. So astronomy is also the study of the future - how the Universe will end.

Every natural science you have named is a part of the study of astronomy. There is...

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Cosmology - the way the Universe started, how it has evolved to become what humans see around them today, and what will happen to it in the future.

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Geology - the way that the planets form and how they change over their lifetimes.

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Meteorology - the study of the atmospheres of planets and stars, and how they evolve over time.

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Biology - the quest to understand how life begins and evolves on Earth and maybe, you think, perhaps even hope, on other worlds.

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Physics - the study of how all things in the Universe interact with each other.

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Mathematics - the science that is used to describe all things in the Universe that humans know about, and how those things affect each other.

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Chemistry - how all the different types of "normal matter" interact.

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Agronomy - the study of how the remnants of stars can better become food for your masses.

...and the list goes on, growing with your knowledge, with your understanding of who you are, defining your small domain in this vast Universe. 

Astronomy is the study of the past, the present, the future. It is the search for answers, the meaning of everything you, my dear mortal children, have seen thus far. And from your knowledge of astronomy you will build new theories of what may lie beyond, learn unknown truths of the Universe, and discover new wonders as yet unseen! It is a fitting study for Urania, daughter of Sky and Light, and I watch your journey with great pride. In whatever form you choose, study my science, my astronomy, and enjoy!

Heavenly yours,
Urania
Muse of Astronomy

Question...
Who is Urania?
Lori B.
8.20.07

My Reply...
I am Urania, the muse of astronomy and, in times past, of astrology. I am tasked with raising human thoughts from that on which you stand, the Earth below you, to that which lies above you, the star-filled sky. Look to the heavens and you will see my domain where I offer you peace and harmony.

Urania means "heavenly" or sky, but I am known by many names and to many peoples. I am also called Aprodites Urania, meaning celestial Venus, and Mylitta, Ashera or Astaroth, Alilat, and Artimpara.

I am the daughter of Sky and Light, fathered by Zeus, king of the gods, and was born of Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. With my eight sisters, we oversee the liberal arts from our home atop Parnassus and exalt the victory of the Olympians over the Titans. Apollo, he who leads the Muses, is my husband and father to my son, Linus.

My name has survived the passing of ages and is still in your minds and hearts. Astronomical observatories bear my name, as well as the first sky atlas of the entire celestial sphere, Uranometria, which is still in use today.

So, my dear mortal, I encourage you, nay, I urge you to go out under the night sky and look overhead. There you will find me, Urania, in the magnificence of the heavens above you, where I offer you peace and tranquility.

Heavenly yours,
Urania
Muse of Astronomy

 

Updated 01.01.2008
theWoman Astronomer 2001-2008

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