WHY I AM FASCINATED BY ASTRONOMY:
In just a few hundred years, mankind's understanding of the cosmos has changed dramatically......based on mathematics, experimentation and observation [through constantly improving technology.....the telescope, radio telescopes, spectrometers, lasers, radiation detectors, etc etc.]
From the belief that the universe was contained in an area smaller that the solar system [stars were attached to a transparent sphere a ways beyond the orbit of Saturn......the last known planet] to the realization that the stars were 'suns' like our own scattered through space to infinity, to the understanding that we were part of a immense system of stars [the Milky Way] in a universe consisiting of untold numbers of other immense systems of stars [galaxies] , to the fact that the universe is expanding, to the knowledge that there are [like clusters of stars] clusters of galaxies, that form even larger super clusters of galaxies, and then to even larger interconnected "webs" of super clusters.
That the universe is expanding lead us to believe we might produce telescopes powerful enough to see galaxies at the "edge" of the universe [the first galaxies that formed] only to now come to the realization that expansion may have been preceeded by a period of ultra rapid "inflation". * We can see galaxies that are "billions" of light years distant
Inflation models infer that the "observable universe" [even with our advanced telescopes] may only be a tiny fraction of the real universe........that in fact even our entire universe may be but a bubble on an infinite number of universes....to which there may be no end [as we understand the meaning of the word]. The distances to what we can see are beyond comprehension. Miles or kilometers have no meaning......even light years [a incredible number of miles] begin to lose their meaning.......and then to realize that these distances can be multiplied by billions.......or trillions, or more.
Looking out into space with a simple back yard telescope, you are looking back in time........ to a time before the dawn of mankind. [Looking at M51, the Whirpool galaxy, you are seeing it as it was 37 MILLION years ago] Makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
And it all started with an early, primitive man looking up at the night sky and wondering what it all was. And, that ultimately gave rise to myth, superstition, religion and science......and the need to find the meaning of it all. The philosophical implications are staggering.