The Universe is a gigantic laboratory. There, infinite and random experiments take place, which results will probably never be completely understood by mankind... for we will not be here long enough. This fascinates me, as well as the vast legacy of knowledge that our ancestors were able to conquer and from whom we inherited. Others will inherit from us...
Our importance as Men has been fading away by the evolution of knowledge. Strange fate, so difficult to be accepted by many, in the course of time. In the beginning, we took some stones and placed them in a very specific order, framing them with the Sun or with the Moon. We were able then to predict the arrival of the coming season and to best manage our crops.
We draw the Universe at the light of our senses. It was difficult to set that Aristotelian Universe into motion. To our own misery, Aristotle was more influent than Aristarchus, thus causing a huge delay in the evolution of knowledge. Later on, it became necessary to keep Man, the creature elected by God, in the centre of the Universe. Aristotelian theories, as well as the "fated" Ptolemy's Almagest, revealed perfect for this purpose. Men ahead their time were slandered and some were even murdered. Giordano Bruno, having had the unfortunate idea to stand up to the thought that the majestic work of God could not be confined to just one world inhabited by intelligent beings, was sentenced to die by fire. Galileo, (go figure...), used an optical instrument that magnified distant images and discovered that there were some celestial bodies around Jupiter that moved. If so, why not the Earth? Copernicus was better fated and had protective godfathers who ensured his survival to the Heliocentric theory, which managed to deviate a little bit Man from the centre of the Universe.
The work of thorough measurements undertook by Ticho Brahe allowed Kepler to understand the movement of the planets around the Sun. Newton described the forces involved. At last, Earth was in a permanent fall into the Sun, so definitively loosing its majestic immobility.
Quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, as well as the development of laboratorial techniques such as spectroscopy and photometry, gave a new meaning to the way we understand our Universe. We realized that the Sun is only one among many stars joined to build our Galaxy. Harlow Shapley pushed the Sun to some forgotten corner of our Galaxy when he managed to calculate the co-ordinates of the Galactic centre. And Hubble struck the merciful cut when he discovered that wherever we looked there were galaxies and ours was nothing but one lost among many.
I have enjoyed looking at the sky since my childhood. I cherish the recollection of those many precious moments watching the nightfall that I and my maternal grandfather shared by the door-still of his house , near the field of the big sunflowers, in the surroundings of Grandola. Back then the sky was light-free, because the oil refinery in Sines was still a project on a piece of paper, and the responsible persons for public lightning had not yet discovered the inappropriately wasteful street lamps. I kept the habit to leisurely gaze the sky at nightfall, pleasantly adding up the stars that rush to twinkle over the still blue sky. I love the night sky with all the pleasure I can get from it. To this love I dedicate much of my time and resources.
Unfortunately, for many young people today, the beauty of the night sky is hidden-away by the bad and excessively bright public lightning, thus denying them the knowledge of the natural wonders of their own existence. We should all be culturally educated to look a little bit upper.