Astronomy classes: making an impact

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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The scintillating, yet sobering, amateur video footage which surfaced a few weeks back of giant balls of light streak across the clear Russian sky made a few things all too clear to many observers.

For one thing, it pretty much showed that existence is fleeting. I mean this in a practical, non-philosophic kind of way too. Thinking about human life on a cosmic scale doesn’t really enter many people’s everyday thoughts, but falling meteors don’t care whether we think about them or not. They seem quite convinced of their place in our reality (as now do the 3,000 damaged buildings and 1,100 injured people in the city of Chelyabinsk).

Which leads me to another thing: our general ignorance in all matters of space. I’ll admit that my only frame of reference for knowing the difference between a meteor and a meteorite comes from a rather lovely Joanna Newsom lyric:

‘That the meteorite is a source of the light
And the meteor’s just what we see
And the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee

And the meteorite’s just what causes the light
And the meteor’s how it’s perceived
And the meteoroid’s a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee’

Surely though, we should put in the effort to know a bit more about it. With extremely affordable evening courses on offer from Astronomy Ireland, there are no excuses not to. These tend to run for approximately eight weeks and cover areas such as planets and stars, astronomy history, and telescopes and the night sky.

So the next time a ball of fire comes hurtling towards earth, be sure you know enough to be able to calmly look up and educate the person standing there gawping next to you about sonic booms and megaton impacts. They’re sure to be thankful for your input.

Frank Bolger

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