Everybody should be an astronomer

My friend Robert Reeves, of San Antonio, sent me a scan of the latest article he wrote for the ‘Comfort News‘, a local newspaper in the San Antonio area (Comfort is a small town nearby). He sent me the scan, as I have a mention! The gist of Bob’s article is that the world would be a much better place if we were all amateur astronomers which is something I totally agree with. If everyone had a telescope and spent a few clear nights each month looking at all the goodies up in the sky, like Bob, I believe that we’d all be better off. For one thing, amateur astronomy takes you away from all the petty nonsense of everyday lives, away from the moron who cut you up at the traffic lights that morning, away from that unexpected large bill that you have no idea how you are going to pay, away from that large overdraft and away from the feeling that the entire world has already completed 99% of its journey to hell (if you listen to the news bulletins).

Amateur astronomers are, by and large, some of the finest people I have had the pleasure of knowing. It is the only community I have ever fit into and felt comfortable in. Not just because they are just like me, more than any other people I’ve met, but because they are genuinely good people. That most likely stems from an interest in the universe at large and the realisation that the universe doesn’t revolve around human concerns.
As Bob points out in his article (scan posted below), amateur astronomers are more disdainful than most of petty national politics, travel restrictions and the politics (UK/EU sales taxes!) that make astronomy equipment either expensive or hard to obtain. Put another way, us amateur astronomers have a lower bullshit tolerance level than the rest of the public! I also wish that any amateur astronomer who desires to could just up and move to a drier, darker and clearer climate, such as the Southwestern United States, or Western Australia, with none of the hoops you currently have to jump through with existing visa and red tape nonsense. If you want to up and leave you can just go, without all this border crap.

Amateur astronomers of all nationalities – British, American, Australian, Chinese, Japanese, Finnish, French, German, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, etc – ¬†as is seen at astronomy conventions, such as NEAF, London Astrofest and TSP, get on well with each other with no animosity based on partisan politics so wouldn’t it be good if our governments and non-astronomer general public could feel likewise? Not just nationalities but religions, too. I have personally seen Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc, of all sects and denominations, all getting on famously when discussing the sky – ironic really when you consider that a shared love of a starry night sky has succeeded where their various religions have failed!
I am a sports fan and I have heard it said that sport, like warfare, brings out the worst in people, which is not too far from the truth, if fans’ attitudes to the opposition is anything to go by (the Euro 2012 football – sorry Americans I mean soccer! – championships are imminent and, as a football fan, I am looking forward – with no expectations! – to watching England’s matches but I am not looking forward to the xenophobic crap that will undoubtedly appear in the gutter press and on football forums). I like to think that, if sport really does bring out the worst in people, then astronomy brings out the best. Of course, not everyone is an out-and-out good guy and even in astronomy, petty squabbles erupt from time to time with some spectacular fallings-out, but they are the exception to the rule and I have only ever met one or two genuinely unpleasant people. Another reason is that amateur astronomers, by and large, are generally more intelligent than most.

It’s a pipe-dream of course, but everyone should be an astronomer and we, the environment and civilisation would be a lot better for it. And there’d be no light pollution!

Here’s Bob’s article, click for largest (and readable!) size: