Human beings are naturally curious creatures. Since the dawn of human civilization, perhaps longer than civilization itself, humans have asked profound fundamental questions about our existence, the world which we occupy, and what our place is in it. Among these, there is one question we have asked that has taken us to places once unimaginable—what is out there? One way or another, that question has been explored by almost every human culture known, albeit with various responses. Ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians and the Greeks, recognized the significance of the question, and commissioned their astrologers and priests to address it, to eventually integrate its importance in their respective cultural fabrics. Modern civilizations are indebted to these civilizations’ earnest and devout dedication in acquiring the rudimentary knowledge necessary which has contributed to the modern scientific understanding of addressing ‘what is out there.’
Today, astronomy is the academic pursuit of studying the universe and everything it is made of, such as stars and galaxies. But one does not have to be a professional astronomer or take long courses in astronomy to participate in appreciating the grandeur of the heavens. Anyone can be part of the quest to know what is out there by performing the simple gesture of looking up at the night sky—the same act our early human ancestors once did. There are also specialized instruments, such as the telescope, that can be used to explore the wonders of the universe.
Guyana has an advantage which most of the so-called developed world does not—dark skies everywhere. How many of us have camped away from the city in some remote location to observe the night sky in all its beauty? I am sure many of us have, and would further testify just how captivating the display of twinkling starlight on a cosmic canvas really is. Thanks to being mostly free from light pollution, anyone can escape the congestion of city life to enjoy peace and solitude in nature while piquing our curiosity over profound, and yet meaningful, cosmological, and existential questions.
Astronomy has great potential in Guyana. Luckily, there are two movements in Guyana that seek to promote astronomy in public life. At the University of Guyana, there is an established Astronomical Society aiming to attract campus students to become part of a truly rewarding and life enriching endeavour in astronomy. Meanwhile, there is a non-profit foundation sharing this vision, called the Amateur Astronomers Association of Guyana (AAAG), expected to launch during the third quarter of 2018. AAAG can be reached online at https://aaagy.org and via Facebook.
The cosmos offers an untapped territory of creative exploration. Through painting and photography, we can engage in the art of the universe while making our own discoveries, not only to further astronomical curiosity, but also to help articulate, and even redefine who we are as Guyanese. In truth, we share an incredible country situated near the Earth’s equator with exclusive access to both northern and southern celestial objects of the night sky, and so we should take every opportunity to expand our horizons to encompass a cosmic one. Let us aspire to become a nation of future discoverers, and to emphasize the importance of curiosity. Like our imagination, the quest to know the universe is virtually limitless. Such a quest transcends human relations while compelling us to re-examine the way we see the significance of ourselves and of others.
Ferlin F Pedro