Saturday, March 01, 2008

Continuing need for astronomy education

Tearing my hair out

Astronomy is one of those fields with a lot of misinformation swirling around. Sometimes I'm forgiving of it, sometimes not. Two cases in point (and one other aggravation that is slightly-off topic, but I'm going to rant about anyway):

(1) I was listening to the radio today, and a commercial for Comcast came on. The commercial was lauding people with genius ideas (such as buying their product), and it referred to Galileo's proving that the "Sun is the center of our galaxy." WRONG!!! The Sun is not the center of our Galaxy. The center of our galaxy is actually a black hole a million times more massive than the sun (not a fun place to be) and about 25,000 light-years away. The Sun is the center of our Solar System (the sun, eight planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, and comets). This sort of mistake is the kind I get upset over, because it is so easy for the ad agency to actually check the facts -- two minutes with Google and Wikipedia would give the right answer. Shame on you!

(2) As I was getting some coffee at Kitt Peak this afternoon, I heard a visitor remark how horribly boring it would be to stare at the same star for his entire life. Well, this isn't what astronomers do. We look at many (if not millions) of stars, or even at other galaxies, which are conglomerations of tens of billions of stars. But this mistake is forgivable -- it is a person with a misunderstanding about what we astronomers do. And that's part of my reason for doing this blog, to try and clear up that understanding. Since my readership is slightly under 6.5 billion people, I obviously have some more work to do to reach everyone.

(3) As I was sleeping this morning, a bunch of teenagers walked past the astronomer's dorm (where there are signs saying "Quiet, Day Sleepers"), and started yelling. Too bad I'm not in Texas, as taking care of that situation would have constituted justifiable homicide. But, instead, I had to seethe on my pillow until the gang walked past, and then I went back to sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Professor Astronomy:

    Why did you make the following assertion,

    "The center of our galaxy is actually a black hole a million times more massive than the sun (not a fun place to be) and about 25,000 light-years away.",

    as fact, please?

    ReplyDelete