For the Utatan Personal Project. Enjoy!
We moderns tend to take the night sky for granted. We know it is there while we sit comfortably at home going about our daily lives but we don't pay it much attention. And if we did, our towns and cities create vast domes of artificial light such that the splendor of the stars and planets is often washed out and we are puzzled at what the ancients found so interesting about it. We forget that for them, reading the sky was a matter of survival.
Perhaps our modern life has made reading the celestial heavens unnecessary. We have calendars and computer clocks to keep track of time. We don't grow our food, but let the farmers take care of that. We need not amuse ourselves with the telling of stories to explain the stars; we merely turn on the television and watch the Hollywood stars amuse us.
Even after Columbus sailed into the Americas, Europe still believed the Earth the centre of the Universe. In 1543 a Polish Catholic cleric named Nicolaus Copernicus made the daring proposal that the motion of the planets could be explained just as easily with the Sun in the centre and the Earth and other planets revolving around it.
Over the next century the Church could not suppress the evidence that Galileo, Kepler, and Newton used to topple the geocentrists. Indeed, there is some poetic justice that it took an apple to seal the fate of the old geocentric picture of the Universe.
This revolution in cosmology freed the European mind from the shackles of Medievalism. That we can throw satellites into Earth orbit, land space craft precisely on Mars and measure the age of the Universe is the legacy of the Copernican Revolution.
The one constant theme in all mythologies is the sky. Perhaps there is an innate human longing to understand who we are, where we came from. It seems obvious that those questions spring from our looking out at the stars, because ultimately our origins can be understood only by looking back into the Cosmos.