You will never forget the first time you look through a telescope. The world is suddenly bigger. You realize there is so much you don’t know, and you discover that some things that didn’t make sense before can actually be true. There are stars in the sky yes, but there are also galaxies, planets, and moons. Entire worlds that are no longer some abstract thing from a book, but something you can in way actually touch… at least with your eyes. The Moon is most certainly a giant sphere, and it most certainly has craters, now frozen lava seas, and mountain ranges. I am accused regularly of faking the view of Saturn because it’s so real, and looks like a picture… no my friend, it’s the other way around. The pictures look like Saturn, and THIS IS actually Saturn you are looking at right now with your own eyes.
My favorite moment of each Coffee & Cosmos event is when someone tells me they’ve never looked through a telescope before in their lives and I just showed them the Moon for the very first time! Of course, this happens every single time I setup.
There is a growing distrust in this country of science and of scientists. The core of this is a misunderstanding of what science is to begin with. It is not a collection of “facts”, but rather a methodology of finding out what’s true and what’s not. Science can often shed light on truths that are uncomfortable to some people. Social science also shows us that changing minds is simply not possible without first changing the heart. Counterintuitively, presenting “facts” is actually the single least effective way to change anyones mind about anything. What people have believed all their lives is not easily surrendered, and many have been taught that science is not to be trusted, and that much of what we know about the universe is made up in an effort to mislead them. This segment of our population is growing at an alarming rate.
Here is a chance to see it with your own eyes. Coming in contact with people also removes the stigma of science and with astronomy outreach we make both science and astronomy more approachable and more relatable to people who never would have imagined that what we do regularly is even possible.
The telescope is one of the most powerful tools for enlightenment ever invented. If you have one, consider sharing it. It’s more rewarding than you might imagine, and you just might make the world at least a tiny bit better than how you found it.