THE UNSUNG TRAILBLAZERS OF ASTROLOGY: A NIGHT WITH FRED WATSON
Where do we come from? It’s a simple question with many possibilities. Are we designs by a higher being, or have we arrived from another planet? Did we come from submarine origins, or were we generated from electrical sparks? Humans explore the world to answer these questions, while some of us look up towards the universe for answers, exploring terrestrial space to uncover where we come from and our place in the scheme of existence. Gathered on the Australian Museum rooftop with astronomer Fred Watson from the Australian Observatory, we talked about the stars, planets, and the unsung astronomical trailblazers that looked up to uncover what we now know about the largely unknown universe. Trailblazers such as Tycho Brahe challenged what was previously taught and discovered that comets travelled above the atmosphere and beyond our moon. Brahe went on to build the Uraniborg research institute, and an observatory in the Czech Republic where he spent the rest of his life reporting his findings. Another Trailblazer Thomas Digges started the wave of the popularization of science as the first to illustrate the English version of the Copernican system. Digges was the first to propose that the universe is infinite, and contradicted the view that the universe held no change among its fixed stars. Both explorers debated the belief of a limited universe finding evidence of its extent and the vastness
of our own knowledge.
The night became a collection of the past, present and possibilities of technology for the future of night gazing and discovery. We peered through telescopes aimed towards Orion’s Belt, Jupiter and the Moon, and held an iPad and phone screen to the sky for an automatic 360 degree view of the constellations. Phone apps such as Sky Map and SkySafari turned mobile phones into hand-held planetariums, while ipad apps such as Star Walk™ used images from the European Southern Observatory for a 360 degree view identifying over 20,000 planets, stars, satellites, constellations and galaxies. From a period where astronomical discovery was recorded from the naked eye, to the invention of the telescope, we are now at a time where we can view discoveries at the flick of a wrist from the mobiles phones we keep in our pockets. If we can do this now, imagine the possibilities of technological advancement for space exploration?
Great astronomers do not just sit in observatories staring at the great unknown. They hold evenings of discussion to share the excitement that exploration of the universe can conjure and what knowledge we can add to the understanding of ourselves. Great astronomers incite inspiration in the next generation, building the next wave of believers and astronomical achievers. It is on a Sydney night, on a balcony in the Australian Museum, within the experienced eyes and minds of great astronomers that a mind and heart can unravel the adventure within. On a simple night like this, the start of a passion can become the continuation of an age old practice and one step closer to understanding everything.
A Textured World was a guest of The Australian Museum.