PHYSICAL SCIENCES

Astronomy


INTRODUCTION

Part 1

This is an introduction, as well as a personal reflection & a personal account, of my experience of the study of astronomy.  There have been many influences that have made for my present interest in this field in 2015 at the age of 71.  In this last decade(70-80) of my late adulthood, as some human development psychologists call the years from 60 to 80 in the lifespan, I feel as if my study of this fascinating field has just begun.  As I head into the evening of my life early or late depending, of course, on just how long I live into this 21st century, my interest in astronomy and its many sub-categories has peaked. These sub-fields, sub-categories, of astronomy include:

1 Observational astronomy

1.1 Radio astronomy
1.2 Infrared astronomy
1.3 Optical astronomy
1.4 Ultraviolet astronomy
1.5 X-ray astronomy
1.6 Gamma-ray astronomy
1.7 Fields not based on the electromagnetic spectrum
1.8 Astrometry and celestial mechanics

2 Theoretical astronomy
3 Specific subfields

3.1 Solar astronomy
3.2 Planetary science
3.3 Stellar astronomy
3.4 Galactic astronomy
3.5 Extragalactic astronomy
3.6 Cosmology

4 Interdisciplinary studies

For a comprehensive overview of astronomy, one of the oldest sciences, & its development in the 20th & 21st centuries; of the field of professional astronomy and its split into observational and theoretical branches, go to the following link. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of astronomical objects. This data is then analyzed using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. The two fields complement each other, with theoretical astronomy seeking to explain the observational results and observations being used to confirm theoretical results. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomy

INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY

The International Year of Astronomy was a year-long celebration of astronomy that took place in 2009 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope. These were made by Galileo and involved the publication of Johannes Kepler's Astronomia Nova in the 17th century.  In 2009 I went onto two old-age pensions. I was 65. I was able to continue enjoying my retirement free, as I was by then, from FT, PT and most casual-volunteer work. I was free, too, from the responsibilities of raising a family, of being engaged in paid employment, & of attending to tasks as part of the wider community, meetings, endless meetings, as John Cleese portrayed them in his humorous videos on the subject.  

INTRODUCTION

Part 1.1:

By the time I was on an old-age pension in 2009 at the age of 65, the many responsibilities that had involved me in 60 to 80 hours a week of various nose-to-the grindstone activities in previous decades, had gradually fallen away.  As I headed into my late 60s, my time was freed to study a range of subjects, one of which was astronomy and its related subjects of astrophysics, physics and mathematics.

By 2015 I had been collecting resources for my file on astronomy for ten years. I had only come to any degree of systematic study of astronomy in the years after my retirement from FT, PT & casual-volunteer work at several stages in the years 1999 to 2005.  In 2009, with my home paid-for, with my pensions and my investments providing my wife and I with a stable financial-core to go the distance in the remaining years of our lifespan, the years of my 70s, and old-age, the years after 80, beckoned bright with promise. According to this one model of human development I would not even be "old" until 2024.

Part 2

Astronomy has never been part of the formal curriculum at any level of my educational experience.  I have known several people personally with an interest in astronomy. My mother’s brother, Harold Cornfield & my maternal grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, had more than a little interest in the subject, an interest I remember them having as far back as the 1950s when I was in primary school.  I visited my uncle in a nearby town, and I visited by grandfather in the same town in which I lived.  I visited him in his small room where he lived in the home of his eldest daughter Florence, my mother’s sister, and her family.  I was exposed to the personality of my grandfather in the years 1944 to 1958. I was exposed to the influence of my mother's brother until 1967 when I left southern Ontario for Baffin Island.  I had contact with my uncle until the age of 23 with only a rare letter from him after I moved to Canada's Arctic and then to Australia. He studied astronomy—although I don’t remember ever talking to him about his interests in that field. In some ways I often think his influence was subliminal.

Part 3

I have had a fascination with the subject since the start of the space age in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and since my becoming affiliated with the Bahá'í Faith back in the 1950s during my adolescence. Part of the core of Baha'i beliefs is the view that our planet, Earth, is a single organism & that the time has come in the long history of humanity to unite this organism politically, economically, socially & spiritually. The global, the international, outreach of this newest, this latest, of the Abrahamic religions influenced me from the early 1950s.  It was also instrumental, I think in retrospect, in developing my interest in the field of astronomy.

It is difficult not to be interested in the subject as a member of the first generation of human beings to be involved in space exploration(SE).  
While the observation of objects in space, known as astronomy, predates reliable recorded history, it was the development of large and relatively efficient rockets during the early 20th century that allowed physical SE to become a reality. Common rationales for exploring space include: advancing scientific research, uniting different nations, ensuring the future survival of humanity & developing military and strategic advantages against other countries. Space exploration is the ongoing discovery and exploration of celestial structures in outer space by means of continuously evolving and growing space technology. While the study of space is carried out mainly by astronomers with telescopes, the physical exploration of space is conducted both by unmanned robotic probes and human spaceflight. For a comprehensive overview of SE go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_exploration

Part 3.1

SE has often been used as a proxy competition for geopolitical rivalries such as the Cold War. The early era of space exploration was driven by a "Space Race" between the Soviet Union and the United States, the launch of the first man-made object to orbit the Earth, the USSR's Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957, and the first Moon landing by the American Apollo 11 craft on 20 July 1969 are often taken as the boundaries for this initial period.  By 1969 I had returned to Ontario's Golden Horseshoe where I had spent my childhood and adolescence---after spending a year in orbit, so to speak, on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic as a teacher of Inuit children in primary school. 

The Soviet space program achieved many of the first milestones, including the first living being in orbit in 1957, the first human spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin aboard Vostok 1 in 1961, the first spacewalk, by Aleksei Leonov, on 18 March 1965, the first automatic landing on another celestial body in 1966, and the launch of the first space station, Salyut 1 in 1971.  Salyut 1 was the first international space station(ISS) of any kind, launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1971. More stations followed in the Salyut programme, and heritage of that space station program is still in use on the ISS. On June 29, after 23 days and flying 362 orbits, the mission was cut short due to problems aboard the station, including an electrical fire. Salyut 1 was moved to a higher orbit in July and August 1971 to ensure that it would not be destroyed prematurely through orbital decay.

By July 1971 I had moved from Canada to Australia and continued my teaching career in the Antipodes.  
After the first 20 years of SE, focus shifted from one-off flights to renewable hardware, such as the Space Shuttle program, and from competition to cooperation as with the International Space Station (ISS). My focus, too, had shifted, and this focus is described in detail in my autobiography for those who are interested. It had shifted from the Inuit people in Canada to the Aboriginal people of Australia and, by the early 1970s, I could see the development of my teaching career in post-secondary education, in ways that had not been possible in Canada.

Part 4

During my young adulthood and middle age, my years from the age of 20 to 60, I never followed-up my interest in astronomy, space exploration and all things involved in the space age in any serious way.  I was fully occupied with: my career and my health, my family-life and my community responsibilities. My interest in astronomy slowly percolated through the many windows of my life and through a vast interest inventory that had begun to occupy me in my adolescence. I visited two or three of those planetariums that dot the landscape of the cities of the world; I browsed through a few books; I listened to, & watched, the occasional special on astronomy in the electronic media: on radio & television, & in magazines & journals.


My current astronomy resource file here in my study in Tasmania, of which these paragraphs serve as an introduction, marks a beginning point to my own formal study of this fascinating field.  It is a study that is largely episodic rather than systematic due to my continuing wide and general academic interests. Time will tell how serious this episodic study will become given the variety of my other academic interests in this the evening of my life.  In the first ten years that this file has been in existence, March 2005 to Febuary 2015, I have collected more than 30 articles & made two lists of journals on the subject of astronomy.  A start had been made and it will continue beyond this Five Year Plan(2011 to 2016) of the international Baha'i community, a community with which I have now been associated for over sixty years. It will continue as long as my mind is functioning well in the years and decades ahead, hopefully until at least 2044 when I will be 100.

Part 5

In 2009, as I pointed out at the beginning of this introduction to my collection of articles and journals on astronomy, astronomy was celebrating four centuries of its modern existence, beginning with Galileo in 1609.  In December 2010 a National Geographic video-documentary was televised in celebration of the IYA.  It was entitled: Journey to the Edge of the Universe. In this first 16 years of my retirement, 1999 to 2015, there has been an increasing range of stimuli that have deepened my interest in, & furthered my knowledge of, astronomy. Time will tell how this interest in astronomy develops in the last decade(70-80) of my late adulthood as some human development psychologists call the years from 60 to 80 in the lifespan.

The aeronautics company, SpaceX, is positioning itself to establish a human colony on Mars. As its website explains: "SpaceX was founded under the belief that a future where humanity is out exploring the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one where we are not. Today SpaceX is actively developing the technologies to make this possible, with the ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars. “The key thing for me,” Elon Musk told a reporter for The Guardian in 2013, is to develop the technology to transport large numbers of people and cargo to Mars…. There’s no rush in the sense that humanity’s doom is imminent; I don’t think the end is nigh. But I do think we face some small risk of calamitous events. It’s sort of like why you buy car or life insurance. It’s not because you think you’ll die tomorrow, but because you might. For more on going to Mars and a review of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance(Ecco, 400 pages) go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/aug/13/elon-musk-man-mars/


Ron Price
29/5/'11 to 5/8/'15.


ASTRONOMY AND EXPERIMENTATION

The online journal Techné(14:3 Fall 2010) had a paper entitled Astronomy and Experimentation.  In this paper the author contested Ian Hacking’s claim that astronomers do not experiment. Riding on this thesis is a re-evaluation of his view that astronomers are less justified than other natural scientists in believing in the existence of the objects they study, and that astronomers are not proper natural scientists at all. The defense of this author's position depends upon carefully examining what, exactly, is being manipulated in an experiment, and the role of experimental effects for Hacking’s experimental realism. The author argues that Hacking’s experimental realism is not adequately defended, and even if we accept it in good grace, the case can be still made that astronomers experiment by Hacking’s account. For more go to: http://www.pdcnet.org/8525763B0050E6F8/file/B033F86E0DB74E588525781C

THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990, and remains in operation. With a 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) mirror, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared spectra. The telescope is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble. For more on the HST and its successor go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble_Space_Telescope

THE COSMOS: MANY VIDEOS

By the time I entered my 70s in 2014 the internet and television were awash with videos on physics and astrophysics, astronomy and its many sub-fields I mentioned at the outset to this page. Tonight, as I write this latest update(11/5/'15) a wonderful video or TV program was available entitled: Strip the Cosmos. This was only one of Series 1. The series uses stunning CGI animation to strip planets, moons, black holes, stars and galaxies – layer by layer – to solve key mysteries surrounding the origin and destiny of the universe. Are there signs of life beneath the surface of Mars? What’s it like entering a wormhole? What lies at the center of the Sun? How did asteroids help shape the solar system? This series explores these and other mysteries by cracking open space rocks, peeling away planetary surfaces and stripping stars from their galaxies to expose the hidden secrets of six space wonders: the Sun, Black Holes, Asteroids, Mars, Comets and Alien Worlds.

As astrophysicists uncover these unique cosmological landscapes, we come face-to-face with the people who are working to understand them – the scientists performing missions that will get their questions answered. The series reveals how scientists can use sand dunes to predict the weather on Mars, engineers have developed a space robot to collect and return part of an asteroid to Earth and astronomers have discovered that one day our galaxy will dramatically collide with its neighbour. This series reveals worlds never seen before; stunning CGI animation peels back the layers, revealing alien landscapes of fragile lava caves, roiling plasma seas, cosmic platinum mines, and the hungry black hole at the center of our galaxy – cosmological wonders that play a surprising role defining our place in the universe. For more on this series go to: http://docuwiki.net/index.php?title=Strip_the_Cosmos:_Series_1

MULTIVERSE

The multiverse, or meta-universe, is the hypothetical set of infinite or finite possible universes.  I first came across this notion in a televsion program entitled: "Which Universe Are We In?"(SBSONE TV, 16/2/'15, 7:30 to 8:30 pm) The concept of the multiverse includes the Universe we consistently experience. This multiverse comprises everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, & energy as well as the physical laws & constants   that describe them. The various universes within the multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes or "alternate universes". The structure of the multiverse, the nature of each universe within it and the relationships among the various constituent universes, depend on the specific multiverse hypothesis considered. Multiple universes have been hypothesized in cosmology, physics, astronomy, religion,  philosophy, transpersonal psychology, and fiction, particularly in science fiction and fantasy. In these contexts, parallel universes are also called "alternate universes", "quantum universes", "interpenetrating dimensions", "parallel dimensions", "parallel worlds", "alternate realities", "alternate timelines", and "dimensional planes," among others. The term 'multiverse' was coined in 1895 by the American philosopher and psychologist William James in a different context.

The multiverse hypothesis is a source of debate within the physics community. Physicists disagree about whether the multiverse exists, & whether the multiverse is a proper subject of scientific inquiry. Supporters of one of the multiverse hypotheses include Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg, Brian Greene, Max Tegmark, Alan Guth, among many others. In contrast, critics such as Jim Baggott, David Gross, Paul Steinhardt, George Ellis, & Paul Davies have argued that the multiverse question is philosophical rather than scientific, that the multiverse cannot be a scientific question because it lacks falsifiability, or even that the multiverse hypothesis is harmful or pseudoscientific. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

MY SPACE RACE
...in a world of spin-offs

Part 1:

In my more than thirty years of my autobiographical writing, 1983 to 2015,  I have used many templates and frameworks, devices and arrangements, plans and patterns,  in which to provide a perspective on my life-narrative.  The template or framework below involves the space race. The 'Space Race' was a 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union and the United States, for supremacy in spaceflight capability. The race took place from 1955 to 1972. The technological superiority required for such supremacy was seen as necessary for national security, and it was also symbolic of ideological superiority. This 'Space Race' spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites, unmanned probes of the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.

The competition began on August 2, 1955, when the Soviet Union responded to the US announcement four days earlier of their intent to launch artificial satellites for the International Geophysical Year, by declaring they would also launch a satellite "in the near future".  The Soviet Union beat the US to this, with the October 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik 1. The competition peaked with the July 20, 1969 US landing of the first humans on the Moon with Apollo 11, and it concluded in a period of détente with the April 1972 agreement on a co-operative Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, resulting in the July 1975 rendezvous in Earth orbit of a US astronaut crew with a Soviet cosmonaut crew.1

Part 2:

This space race was part of the back-drop of my life from the age of 11 to 31.  In the northern summer of 1955 I entered grade 4 and began my 9 year baseball career from late childhood to late adolescence. My mother had also just begun to take me along to what were then called, and still are, "Baha'i firesides". In the southern winter of 1975 I was lecturing at the Box Hill Institute of Technical and Further Education in Melbourne Australia, and I was the secretary of a small Baha'i group in Kew Victoria. I was also just about to enter my second marriage.  In 1969 I was teaching primary school in Canada when the first men landed on the moon,  and in 1972 I was teaching high school in Australia when a more cooperative relationship between the USA and the USSR began.

Those two decades were a period of vast change in my life-narrative from being a primary school student in Canada to a university graduate and, as I say above, on my way to a second marriage which, by December 1975, had two children, and in Melbourne Australia.  I won't give you chapter and verse of all the major events of those two decades in either the space race or in my own life-race.  I will mention, though, that those 20 years were a period of the exploration and the defining, the emerging and the consolidating of my raison d'etre, my modus operandi, my modus vivendi, my cosmology, my personal mythology, my religious and philosophical position, a position I still hold as I go through my 70s.2-Ron Price with thanks to 1Wikipedia, and 2Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 23/12/'14.

Part 3:

The Space Race had its origins
in the missile-based arms race
that occurred following WWII,
when both the Soviet Union &
the United States captured the
advanced German technology
and personnel....In those years
I went from the age of 1 to 10:
my personal life-race was on!!
 
The Space Race has also left a
legacy of communications, and
weather satellites, a continuing
human space presence on that
International Space Station.  It
has also sparked many spending
increases on education & research
development which led to a host of
beneficial spin-off technologies in
the years of my life: 1973 to 2014,
as my own life continued its spin....

Ron Price
23/12/'14.   

A TRILLIONTH OF A SECOND


The Universe is all of spacetime and everything that exists therein, including all planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space, the smallest subatomic particles, and all matter and energy. Similar terms include: the cosmos, the world, reality, and nature. For an extended and more detailed description of the universe beginning, as that description does, with the following paragraph, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe    The observable universe is about 46 billion light years in radius. Scientific observation of the Universe has led to inferences of its earlier stages. These observations suggest that the Universe has been governed by the same physical laws and constants throughout most of its extent and history. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that describes the early development of the Universe, which is calculated to have begun 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago. Observations ofsupernovae have shown that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. When the universe was a trillionth of a second old it was no bigger then the distance of between earth and sun as in: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=662706747111249&set=a.662706743777916.1073741825.151108858271043&type=1&theater

THE EXPANDING UNIVERSE

The accelerating universe is the observation that the Universe appears to be expanding at an increasing rate. In formal terms, this means that the cosmic scale factor(a(t)) has a positive second derivative, so that the velocity at which a distant galaxy is receding from us should be continuously increasing with time. The Supernova Cosmology Project and High-Z Supernova Search Team first discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant ("High-Z") supernovae in 1998. Other evidence for the expansion of the Universe has since been found through observation of baryon acoustic oscillations, and the clustering of galaxies. The most widely accepted explanation for the accelerating expansion is the existence of dark energy, a substance with negative pressure which is spread homogeneouslythroughout the Universe. For more on this quite complex idea go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerating_universe

THE SHAPE OF THE UNIVERSE

The shape of the Universe is the local and global geometry of the universe, in terms of both curvature and topology though, strictly speaking, the concept goes beyond both. When physicists describe the Universe as being flat or nearly flat, they're talking geometry: how space and time are warped according to general relativity. When they talk about whether it is open or closed, they're referring to its topology.Although the shape of the Universe is still a matter of debate in physical cosmology, the recent Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) measurements allow the statement that "We now know that the universe is flat with only a 0.4% margin of error", according to NASA scientists. Theorists have been trying to construct a formal mathematical model of the shape of the Universe. In formal terms, this is a 3-manifold model corresponding to the spatial section (in comoving coordinates) of the 4-dimensional space-time of the Universe. The model most theorists currently use is the so-called Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker (FLRW) model. According to cosmologists, on this model the observational data best fit with the conclusion that the shape of the Universe is infinite and flat, but the data are also consistent with other possible shapes, such as the so-called Poincaré dodecahedral space and the Picard horn. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shape_of_the_universe

HOW SMALL IS THE UNIVERSE?

A series of science documentaries, hosted by John Hannah, was published by the BBC and broadcasted as part of BBC Horizon series in 2012. I watched one of the series, a doco on 13/1/'14 at 8:30 p.m. on SBSONE TV.  It was called: How Small Is the Universe? This doco plunges down the biggest rabbit-hole in history in search of the smallest thing in the universe. It is a journey where things don't just become smaller, but they also become a whole lot weirder. Scientists hope to catch a glimpse of miniature black holes, multiple dimensions and even parallel universes. As they start to explore this wonderland, where nothing is quite what it seems, they may have to rewrite the fundamental laws of time and space.

Elementary particles are particles with no measurable internal structure; that is, they are not composed of other particles. They are the fundamental objects of quantum field theory. Many families and sub-families of elementary particles exist. Elementary particles are classified according to their spin. Fermions have half-integer spin while bosons have integer spin. All the particles of the Standard Model have been experimentally observed, recently including the Higgs boson. For a list of the different types of particles found, or believed to exist, in the whole of the universe, see the individual pages at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_particles

For a series of related docos: (i) Richard Hammond Builds a Planet, (ii) How Big is the Universe? (iii) Wonders of the Universe, (iv) Hubble: A Look into the Universe, (v) The Expanding Universe, (vi) The Elegant Universe, (vii) A Tour of the Universe, and (viii) Extreme Universe...go to: http://docuwiki.net/index.php?title=How_Small_is_the_Universe%3F#Related_Documentaries

THE OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE

The observable universe consists of the galaxies and other matter that can, in principle, be observed from Earth in the present day because light (or other signals) from those objects has had time to reach the Earth since the beginning of the cosmological expansion. Assuming the universe is isotropic, the distance to the edge of the observable universe is roughly the same in every direction. That is, the observable universe is a spherical volume (a ball) centered on the observer, regardless of the shape of the universe as a whole. Every location in the universe has its own observable universe, which may or may not overlap with the one centered on Earth. 

Isotropy is a concept, an idea, that means there is uniformity in all orientations. Precise definitions depend on the subject area. Exceptions, or inequalities, are frequently indicated by the prefix an, hence anisotropy. Anisotropy is also used to describe situations where properties vary systematically, dependent on direction. Isotropic radiation has the same intensity regardless of the direction of measurement, and an isotropic field exerts the same action regardless of how the test particle is oriented.

'You'll never get your head around how big the universe is,' warns astronomer Pete Edwards of the University of Durham in this film about measuring astronomical distances. 'There are as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on the Earth.' So how far is a light year? And supposing our galaxy were the size of a grain of sand, how big would the universe be? Go to this link for a visual, a video, of this subject: http://www.theguardian.com/science/video/2013/feb/11/how-big-universe-sand-video  For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe

CATALYST: 29/8/'13.

Section 1:

In this weekly TV program about science on ABC! TV, Dr Graham Phillips discusses the studies of scientists, mainly theoretical physicists and astronomers, looking far into the heavens or deeply down into the forces of nature. "They see something deeply mysterious", says Phillips. He goes on to say at the outset of the program: "If some of the laws that govern our cosmos were only slightly different, intelligent life simply couldn't exist. It appears that the universe has been fine-tuned so that intelligent beings like you and me can be here."  


Professor Leonard Susskind, among a number of theoretical physicists, astronomers, and students of advanced science, is quoted as saying: "There's all sorts of fine-tunings that have to be matched in order for us to be here." Leonard Susskind(1940- ) is the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University, and Director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics. His research interests include string theory, quantum field theory, quantum statistical mechanics and quantum cosmology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an associate member of the faculty of Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and a distinguished professor of the Korea Institute for Advanced Study.

Section 2:

Dr Sean Carroll says, at a later point in this program, that: "These fine-tunings are an
 absolutely huge issue for modern physics and astronomy."  Dr Carroll is a theoretical physicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California.  He has written a couple of popular-level books: From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time, and The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World.  He also wrote a graduate textbook, Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity, and recorded lectures for the Teaching Company on (i) Dark Matter and (ii) Dark Energy and the Mysteries of Time.

Professor Paul Davies, who also appears frequently, says: 'It looks like some superintellect has monkeyed with physics."  Paul Davies(1946- ) is an English physicist, writer and broadcaster, currently a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He is also currently affiliated with the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University in California. He has held previous academic appointments at the University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Adelaide and Macquarie University. His research interests are in the fields of cosmology, quantum field theory, and astrobiology. He has proposed that a one-way trip to Mars could be a viable option.

For the narration to this program which discusses everything from black holes to the God particle, the Higgs boson, to some really bizarre ideas, like the possibility of twin mes living in parallel worlds, go to this link:http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3836881.htm

SWALLOWED BY A BLACK HOLE

In the southern hemisphere's summer of 2014-2015, the black hole at the centre of our Milky Way has been getting ready to feast. A gas cloud three times the size of our planet strayed within the gravitational reach of this our nearest supermassive black hole.  Across the globe, telescopes were being trained on the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, some 27,000 light years from Earth. Astronomers were living in the expectation of observing this unique spectacle in the cosmos. For cosmic detectives across the Earth, it was a unique opportunity. For the first time in the history of science, they hoped to observe in action the awesome spectacle of a feeding supermassive black hole. I watched a program on SBS TV on 9/2/'15 at 7:30 p.m. entitled: Swallowed By A Black Hole. It helped to have some knowledge of both quasars and black holes to really appreciate this program.

QUASARS

Quasars, or quasi-stellar radio sources, are the most energetic & distant members of a class of objects called active galactic nuclei (AGN). Quasars are extremely luminous and were first identified as being high redshift sources of electromagnetic energy, including radio waves and visible light, that appeared to be similar to stars, rather than extended sources similar to galaxies. Their luminosity can be 100 times greater than that of the Milky Way. A quasar is a compact region in the center of a massive galaxy surrounding a central supermassive black hole. Its size is 10–10,000 times the Schwarzschild radius of the black hole. The energy emitted by a quasar derives from mass falling onto the accretion disc around the black hole.  it can be shown that quasars are between 600 million, &  28.85 billion light-years away. Because of the great distances to the farthest quasars and the finite velocity of light, we see them and their surrounding space as they existed in the very early universe. For more on quasars and AGN, as well as explanations of the many complex terms, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quasar 

BLACK HOLES

The idea of a body so massive that even light could not escape was first put forward by John Michell in a letter written to Henry Cavendish in 1783 of the Royal Society. Black holes are mathematically defined regions of spacetime exhibiting such a strong gravitational pull that no particle or electromagnetic radiation can escape from it.  Black holes, defined and described as regions of space from which nothing can escape, was first published by David Finkelstein in 1958, and black holes became mainstream subjects of research.

After a black hole has formed, it can continue to grow by absorbing mass from its surroundings. By absorbing other stars and merging with other black holes, supermassive black holes of millions of solar masses may form. There is general consensus that supermassive black holes exist in the centers of most galaxies. The core of the Milky Way contains a supermassive black hole of about 4.3 million solar masses.

The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole. For more on black holes go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_hole This subject really requires some knowledge of physics, astrophysics, astronomy and mathematics. The layman and amateur like myself can only grasp the content to a limited extent.

AND YET MORE VIDEOS ON ASTRONOMY


The best free cultural & educational media on the web is entitled Open Culture. It contains 125 Great Science Videos: From Astronomy to Physics & Psychology. You can access it at: http://www.openculture.com/science_videos I recommend to interested readers that they do some Googling on the subject of astronomy since there are now dozens of videos and 100s of essays and articles.

HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE


Spectacular on-location footage, evidence from geologists in the field, and clear, dramatic graphics combine in this stunning 13-part series from History to show how immensely powerful, and at times violent, forces of geology have formed our planet.From the Great Lakes to Iceland, the San Andreas Fault to Krakatoa, How the Earth Was Made travels the globe to reveal the physical processes that have shaped some of the most well-known locations and geological phenomena in the world. With rocks as their clues and volcanoes, ice sheets, and colliding continents as their suspects, scientists launch a forensic investigation that will help viewers visualize how the earth has evolved and formed over millions of years. I have placed this item in the earth sciences section of my website, and have referred to it here because of the significant component of astronomy in this 13 part series. Go to this link for more:http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/how-the-earth-was-made-season-1/

DISCOVERIES OF THREE EPOCHS

One way to visualize the relative sizes in the solar system is to imagine a model in which it is reduced in size by a factor of a billion. Then the Earth is about 1.3 cm in diameter(the size of a grape). The Moon orbits a foot away. The Sun is 1.5 meters in diameter(the size of a man) and 150 meters from the Earth.(a city block) Jupiter is 15 cm in diameter(grapefruit) and 5 blocks away from the Sun. Saturn(an orange) is 10 blocks away; Uranus and Neptune(lemons) are 20 and 30 blocks away. A human being on this scale is the size of an atom; the nearest star is 9000 km away -Obtained from Internet, 02/03/96.

On 4 October 1957 Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite was safely in orbit, circulating the Earth every 96 minutes. I had just started my last year of primary school, grade 8, in southern Ontartio. Five Orbiter spacecraft mapped the moon between August 1966 and December 1967.  I finished my BA that year, began teachers' college and my preparation to pioneer to the Canadian Arctic and teach grade 3 on Baffin island to Inuit children. On 20 July 1969 the first man walked on the moon. Two years and two months later my wife and I left Canada for Australia. I remember sitting in my lounge-room in Whyalla South Australia in the evening in the last months of 1971.  It felt like being on the moon due to the distance I was from home, from southern Ontario where I had grown-up and entered adulthood. -Ron Price, 4 February 1996 to 28 August 2011.

Wilder than your wildest imagination,
simply the most incredible reality
in existence: our immense universe
in all its labyrinthian complexity.

Wilder than your wildest imagination,
simply the most incredible reality
in existence: one’s own life, its days,
its years in their labyrinthian complexity.

1957 to 1997: forty years on
in the great journey into space
with missions to the furthest reaches
of the solar system: Pioneers10 and 11.
Astronomy taking off at last.

Voyagers taking us to Jupiter,
Uranus and Neptune.
Light has gone around
the planet and we have gone
around the solar system.

The radio galaxy 3C65
in the constellation of Andromeda
lies some 8 billion light years
away, some say, in a universe
that expands forever,
dramatically less than a
second after its birth.

Just last week astronomers
discovered 1500 galaxies
whose light started its journey
toward Earth five billion years ago.

There are hurricanes
three times the size of Earth,
two-and-a-half billion miles away
on Jupiter-itself a sea
of liquid metallic hydrogen,
home of thousands of mysteries,
storms and chaos.
Home of the ten hour day,
home of four moons.
A place you could fit in all the planets.
Collector of comets,
protector of our planet.

Pioneering into the solar system,
into my psycho-spiritual system
into the global society
with each on our own trip….

Ron Price
4 February 1996

VOYAGER

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is a 722 kg, or 1,590 lb, space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and interstellar medium. Operating for 35 years, 9 months, and 28 days as of 3 July 2013, the spacecraft receives routine commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network.  It is the farthest man-made object from Earth and is currently traveling in a previously unknown region of space. It is still unclear whether this region is part of interstellar space or an area within the Solar System.

Voyager 1 seems to be on an eternal farewell tour, but it never actually leaves. Voyager 1 is very much still with us, but it’s been on the road for 37 years: 1977 to 2014, putting a few clicks on the odometer, some 20 billion++ km, so far.  
It’s been a long time since Voyager 1 actually had a planet to look at—since 1980, when it reconnoitered Saturn.  Then it whipped up above the plane of the solar system and began heading into the void. Its companion ship, Voyager 2, flew on the flat until it passed Neptune in 1989; then it too headed into the true deep waters of space. It was at that point that the title of the Voyager program was changed from "The Voyager Outer Planets Mission" to "The Voyager Interstellar Mission".  One thing was certain, both spacecraft would eventually leave the solar system and indeed head into the realm of the stars, but what was unclear was when. The answer now in the northern summer of 2014 is: not just yet, but Voyager 1 is getting very, very close, as a recent paper in Science has just revealed. For more on the Voyager story go to:http://science.time.com/2013/06/28/voyager-i-on-the-solar-systems-exit-ramp/


STEPHEN HAWKING

I gobbled-up Stephen Hawking’s Into the Universe, which premiered in the UK and the USA in May 2010, and in Australia on SBSONE TV in May 2011.  It was a cold night and I was keeping warm in my lounge-room in Tasmania. -Ron Price with thanks to SBSONE TV, 24 and 31 May and 7 and 14 June, 2011, 8:30-9:30 p.m., “Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking.” Go to the following links for my comment, my prose-poem on the experience and on astrophysics: http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/116403-Stephen-Hawking-On-TV



CARL SAGAN

Called "America's most effective salesman of science" by Time magazine, astronomer Carl Sagan spent much of his career translating technical scientific explanations to make them easily digestible by the general public. Described as a natural teacher, he educated not only through classroom lectures but also through interviews and on television shows. His 13-part TV series, "Cosmos," has been seen by over 600 million people in more than 60 countries. The show was so popular it returned to television in 2005. For more on this program which is also featured at U-tube, go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmos:_A_Personal_Voyage

INCOMPREHENSIBLE POEMS IN ANTHOLOGIES

In yet another attempt to place my poetry into some overall framework, system or order---the following comment is made.
  My poetry shifts, moves, wanders, locates itself in many gatherings, terrains of discourse, and fluid divisions of subject matter. One type of categorization or typology of my poetry might be arranged as follows: (a) the social sciences: (I) history and religion, (II) the self and other, (III) psychology and sociology; (b) the physical and biological sciences: (I) nature and landscape, (II) themes from astronomy, astrophysics, chemistry, geology, etc. and (c) the humanities: (I) language, reading and writing, (II) voice, genre, performance, dialogue, personae and (III) philosophy, aesthetics, meaning, purpose. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 3 April 1996.

So much of the poetry—and philosophy--I read
completely mystifies me. I hope to God my stuff
can fall on the eyes of readers & slip into brains
without some gargantuan metaphysical exercise,
without readers throwing their hands up saying
after several lines: I don’t understand any of this.

I find, though, no matter how hard I try, I get readers
who simply can’t fathom my words.......You can’t win
them all is all I can say...It is like an anthology of 1100
pages, like the one I picked up tonight.*....There were
dozens of poems I had no idea what these poets were
saying, stuff from the ‘60s to the ‘90s......Perhaps one
day the Baha’is will have anthologies of poetry/poets
that great numbers of readers can’t understand either.

I hope my poetry is not there. I mean what is the point
of writing stuff that people just don’t understand, and
I wonder if Baha’u’llah cared? And the Guardian, surely
he could have simplied his language?.........You write to
please yourself and hope to God there will be someone
out there who shares your sensibility, don't you, eh???

3 April 1996 to 28 August 2011

* From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990, editor, Douglas Messerli, Sun and Moon Press, Los Angeles, 1994, 1136 pages, one of several anthologies appearing during the third and fourth epochs: 1963-1996.


COSMIC AGE OF LIGHT

The cosmic dark age, perhaps as long as 10 to 12 billion or more years, is one of the great mysteries of astronomy. -John Mather, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Most of our 15 billion year journey
has been completely dark and we
still know little how galaxies were
formed, how stars were generated.

It all seemed to happen in that cosmic
dark age of some 10 to 12 billion YA(1)
We may just discover/learn this in that
Next Generation Space Telescope(2)
to be launched in 2007 , the origins
of the universe, of stars & galaxies
and the entry, at last, of masses into
history’s cosmic light Force(3) as it
spreads its unifying powers and as
it transforms the globe in ways that
are unobtrusive, and quite sublime,
and quite celestial, revolutionising
the soul of humankind so utterly!!(4)

Ron Price
20 February 1998 to 28 August 2011

(1) YA=years ago
(2) The Hubble spacecraft’s successor.
(3) By 2010 all the buildings and the major embellishments to the Baha’i World Centre were completed. The process of entry-by-troops was well-advanced and an eventual and inevitable mass conversion would revolutionize the fortunes of the Cause I had been assoicated with for nearly 60 years in the following decades, if not centuries. Force=some international global system with soveignity to overcome the present anarchy that exists in the system of state sovereignity.

(4) the initial impetus for this poem came from reading “Let There Be Light”, New Scientist, 7 February 1998, pp.26-30.

Some of my internet posts below on astronomy:

http://www.myastrospace.com/forums/showthread-WONDERS-OF-THE-SOLAR-SYSTEM-Who-Is-Brian-Cox
(this thread has some criticism of what I have written)

http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/search/SearchResults

http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/showthread

http://www.myastrospace.com/forums/showthread

WONDERS OF:THE UNIVERSE, THE SOLAR SYSTEM AND LIFE ITSELF

Part 1:

Wonders of the Universe is a 2011 television series produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel, and Science Channel. The series was hosted by physicist Professor Brian Cox. Wonders of the Universe was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two nearly four years ago, beginning in March 2011. The series comprises 4 episodes, each of which focuses on an aspect of the universe, and it features a 'wonder' relevant to the theme. It follows on from Cox's 2010 series for the BBC, Wonders of the Solar System, a system 13.7 billion years old. and 93 billion light-years across. It contains over 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars. This infinite, vast,,complex package has been the subject of human fascination and scientific exploration for thousands of years. The wonders of the Universe might seem alien. This series, as all of the series which Cox presents, can be Googled and I leave it to readers with the interest.

Wonders of Life is a five-part television documentary series also presented by this physicist Professor. The series was produced by the BBC and Chinese state television network CCTV-9; it was aired from 27 January 2013 on BBC Two. The first episode was entitled: "What is Life?" Professor Cox journied to Southeast Asia to see how life began on Earth, and how the flow of energy created and supports life. The second episode had the title "Expanding Universe". In this program Cox travelled to the U.S. to showcase how the laws of science allowed our senses to arise. For more details on the five episodes go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonders_of_Life_(TV_series)

Part 2:

Cox kept giving his now extensive audience much more in 2014.  Human Universe is a British television series broadcast on BBC Two, presented by the same Professor Cox. There are five episodes. The first was entitled: "Apeman - Spaceman" and was first broadcast on 07 Oct 2014. I saw the program in Tasmania on 14 January 2015. Brian charted our story from apes to the birth of civilization and ultimately to the stars. Beginning in Ethiopia, Professor Cox shows how the universe played a key role in our ascent from apeman to spaceman by driving the expansion of our brains. But big brains alone did not get us to space. To reveal what did, Brian heads out of Africa, to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, where he unpicks the next part of our story, the birth of civilization, and then on to Kazakhstan, where he witnesses the return of astronauts from space and explains what took us from civilization to the stars.

In episode two of this series Human Universe, Cox tackles the big question: Why are human beings on Earth?  Why are we here? Brian reveals how the wonderful complexity of nature and human life is simply the consequence of chance events constrained by constants involving the laws of physics that govern our universe. But this leads him to a deeper question: why does our universe seem to have been set up with just the right rules to create us? In a dizzying conclusion Brian unpacks this question, revealing the very latest scientific understanding of how the universe came to be this way, and in doing so offers a radical new answer to why we are here. In the process he discusses what existed before the Big Bang. For more details on all five episodses go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Universe

STEPHEN HAWKING

The International Year of Astronomy was a year-long celebration of that field of science. It took place in 2009 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope by Galileo and the publication in of Johannes Kepler's Astronomia Nova in the 17th century. By 2009 I had been collecting resources for the study of astronomy for four years. I had only come to any degree of what you might call a serious and systematic study of astronomy after my retirement in the years 1999 to 2005 from a working life of FT, PT and casual-volunteer work: 1955 to 2005.

So it was that yesterday evening that I gobbled-up Stephen Hawking’s Into the Universe, which premiered in the UK and the USA just over a year ago, and now on SBSONE TV. It was a cold night and I was keeping warm in my lounge-room here in Tasmania. I’d had had a long day; I had not had my daily sleep and after half an hour of this one hour program I was fast asleep. But I read about it the next day and here I am writing about it and about Stephen Hawking.-Ron Price with thanks to SBSONE TV, 24 and 31 May and 7 and 14 June, 8:30-9:30 p.m., “Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking.”

Now in the evening of my life
& on my sleep-inducing meds
I dropped-off to sleep as that
program was not even ½ over.

But still, Stephen.....I was able to
google the subject and this often
makes up for the loss of a visual
stimulation/I missed the computer
generated imagery of the universe
& the symphonic orchestral music.

You’ve been going strong since ’62,
Stephen, the year you got your B.A.
and the year I started my travelling
& pioneering in the Canadian Baha’i
community in that town of Dundas
Ontario in that Golden Horseshoe!!

I’ve got to hand it to you, Stephen,
with your motor-neuron disease-&
how you keep going especially since
those books you wrote beginning with
A Brief History of Time in ’89(1) when
the Arc Project was just getting a start
in the port city of Haifa Israel.(2)…You
were not even able to feed yourself at
the time when I began my career in ’74
in that tertiary education sector in the
Antipodes, Downunder, and you could
not even talk when I moved to Western
Australia in the remote Pilbara in 1985!!
How do you do it Stephen?  Really, how
on earth do you do it? Really incredible!

(1) Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, Bantam Dell Pub. Co, 1988. It has sold 10 million copies.
(2) In the letter of 30 April 1987 from the Universal House of Justice, while Hawking was writing his book on the subject of time, it was announced to the international Baha’i community that “the way was now open for the Bahá'í world to erect the remaining buildings of its Administrative Centre” at this climacteric of human history.

Ron Price
8 June 2011 to 31 August 2011


A VAST HISTORIC PROCESS

As the Mt. Carmel Project was completed in the 1990s and the first years of the 3rd millennium, a Project symbolic of the structure of God's Kingdom, astronomy was enabling human beings to see ten billion light years to the edge of the universe. A light year is six million million, or six trillion miles. The distance to the edge of the universe is, then, six quintillion miles(British measure of distance). -Ron Price with thanks to The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 151, The Science Show, ABC Radio National, Saturday, 11 July 1999; Nostratollah Rassekh, "Of Time, Space and Man", World Order, Summer 1974, pp.37-49.

We're mapping the universe
in these fleeting years, this
seminal period, since Hubble,
seeing more than we've ever
seen before, of our history, &
knowing our past where noone
has known before, breaking new
ground at this dynamic stage of
our evolution, and brightening our
expectations, our wondrous and
salutary prospects, an irresistable
vision, movement, to unity, peace
and awesome exploration.....Such
breathtaking advances in science
and technology, as storm & stress
batter our social fabric, leaving us
alternatively dazzled and dazed......
conscious of a vast historic process
that will unite the children of men in
one world-embracing Order: this may
help us make our mark, our trace, at
this great climacteric of our history.

11 July 1998 to 31 August 2011


THE GRAND DESIGN UNFOLDS

In the late 1980s CD technology began to penetrate western consumer markets. By the time I finished three years of presenting a Baha’i radio program One Planet One People for the Launceston Baha’i community in 2005, I had access to over 50 CDs made by Baha’i artists around the world in the previous twenty years. The cassette tape, which had dominated the music market along with the LP and 45 rpm record, during all of my adult life, 1965 to 1985, still had a place. When I handed over the resources to the next radio program presenter in March 2005 there were 60 cassette tapes and no LP records in the resource kit. The two decades 1985 to 2005 had been busy years in media technology.

Like some grand design unfolding, the technology for the home, for leisure and business was advancing and its use by the Baha’i community continued apace. The DVD-video became mainstream in 1999, although in our household only my son Daniel bought DVDs. The internet resources had increased significantly since I first had access to them in the early 1990s. The home computer advanced by leaps and bounds in the two decades, 1991 to 2011. I have enjoyed three computers each an improvement on the last. In 2005 virtually all my reading came from the internet and little from books.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, March 4th, 2005.

In August of ’62, as I was
getting ready to make my
first pioneering move, the
first Galactic Network was
discussed at famous MIT.

The idea back then was a
globally interconnected
set of computers like the
internet we have today.

The story of science and technology
in these my pioneering years is immense.

While I’ve been pioneering
the world has been pioneering
and the grand design of God’s
Holy Cause unfolded on the
foundation of the Kingdom,
the framework raised in the
first epoch of a Divine Plan
and the first two epochs of
the Baha’i Formative Age.(1)

(1) the first epoch of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Divine Plan was 1937-1963. The first two epochs of the Formative Age were: 1921-1944 and 1944 to 1963.

Ron Price
March 4th 2005 to 10 May 2011


"Hermes Trismegistus and Apollonius of Tyana in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh," by Keven Brown

The following is a small part of an essay published in Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on a Bahá’í Theology, ed. Jack McLean and in Studies in the Bábí and Bahá’í Religions, vol. 8 (Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1997), pp. 153-187. For more of Jack's essays and articles go to:
http://sites.google.com/site/mcleantitles/


Introduction

The name Hermes Trismegistus is commonly associated with occult sciences, such as theurgy, alchemy, and astrology, which partly originated in the technical Hermetic literature circulating in the Roman empire from as early as the second century B.C.E. Our modern expression “hermetically sealed” derives from the name Hermes. Apollonius of Tyana, the Pythagorian philosopher of the first century C.E., is less well known. Greek and Latin sources do not connect these two figures doctrinally, but in the Arabic Hermetic literature, some of which was translated from pagan Syrian sources in the time of Caliph Ma’mún (813 - 833), Apollonius (in Arabic Balínús) is often associated with Hermes. There he is depicted as the discoverer and representative of Hermes’ teachings on the secrets of creation that had been lost to the generations before him. It is this later picture of Hermes and Apollonius that is most relevant to this study, for it is the tradition that is adopted by Bahá'u'lláh in his writings. In his Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom), for example, Bahá'u'lláh states: “It was this man of wisdom [Balínús] who became informed of the mysteries of creation and discerned the subtleties which lie enshrined in the Hermetic writings.”[1]

According to the Eastern, Islamic tradition of Hermes Trismegistus, Hermes was a divine philosopher or Prophet who lived before the time of the Greek philosophers, and he was the first person to whom God instructed the secrets of wisdom and divine and natural sciences. Muslims equate Hermes to the Prophet Idrís, whom the Jews know as Enoch. In the Qur’án, it is written: “Commemorate Idrís in the Book; for he was a man of truth, a Prophet; and we uplifted him to a place on high” (Q. 19:57-58). Hermes is also called the "father of the philosophers" in the Muslim Hermetic tradition, because he was believed to be the most ancient of those who propagated wisdom and sciences. In accord with this tradition, Bahá'u'lláh writes in his Lawh Basít al-Haqíqat (Tablet on the Uncompounded Reality)
.(1) Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas,(Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1978) p. 148.

For the rest of this essay and its reference to astronomy google the following: Hermes Trismegistus and Apollonius of Tyana in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, by Keven Brown.

INCREDIBLE JOURNEY

By the time I watched the spectacular, the epic, voyage across the cosmos Journey to the Edge of the Universe on Southern Cross TV it had been available on the internet for eight months. The International Year of Astronomy(IYA) had only been one year ago in 2009. The IYA was a year-long celebration of astronomy that was declared by the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations. It was a global scheme laid out by the International Astronomical Union, and endorsed by UNESCO, the UN body responsible for educational, scientific, and cultural matters. The IYA took place in 2009 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope by Galileo and the publication of Johannes Kepler's Astronomia Nova in the 17th century.

By 2009 I had been collecting resources on astronomy in a file in my study for only four years. I had only come to any degree of systematic study of astronomy in the years after my retirement from FT, PT and casual-volunteer work at several stages in the years 1999 to 2005. I have had a fascination with the subject of astronomy since: (i) the start of the space age in the late 1950s and early 1960s and (ii) my becoming affiliated with the Bahá'í Faith back in the 1950s during my adolescence in Canada.

It is difficult not to be interested in this amazing subject being, as I have been, in the first generation to see the movement of man into space in the last five decades. But I have never followed-up that interest in any serious way other than: (a) to attend several of those planetariums that dot the landscape of the cities of the world, (b) to browse through a few books on the subject, (c) to talk with others as discoveries tumbled into my world and theirs, and (d) to listen and watch the occasional special on astronomy in the electronic media.

On 27 December 2010, just yesterday, that enthralling National Geographic documentary: Journey to the Edge of the Universe, as I say above, was televised. In this first decade of my retirement there has been an increasing range of educational stimuli that have turned me toward astronomy. The previous television blockbuster on astronomy was entitled Cosmos. It was produced in 1978 and 1979 on a budget of $8.3 million that included promotion. I saw Cosmos some time in the 1980s while living and teaching in the north of Australia. Cosmos's format was based on previous BBC documentaries such as Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man, and David Attenborough's Life on Earth.

Journey to the Edge of the Universe was a one-hour televideo production using computer-generated imagery technology and building on images taken from the Hubble telescope.-Ron Price with thanks to several internet sites especially Wikipedia, 28 December 2010.

More stars in the universe than
all the grains of sand on all the
beaches! This doco was poetry
and soap-opera all rolled into 1!

Millions of light years in the blink
of an eye and our lives going by in
less than the blink-of-an-eye…that
message to a star-cluster sent in the
‘70s will take 25,000 years to arrive!

Yes, these stars directly affect our lives
in mysterious & not-so-mysterious ways.
The closest galaxy 100s of 1000s of those
light-years away. And nearly all of these(1)
pieces of information acquired in the years
of my lifetime: yes absolutely incredible!!!

(1) One light-year is equal to 10 trillion kms or 6 trillion miles.

Ron Price
28 December 2010
For: The Astronomy Forum