I think this is a good question to ask.

There are possibly many aspects to this question. Astronomy and seeking knowledge has lead to the development of space probes, space science, development of technology, it provides and evidence based view of our universe and context to societal and cultural understandings, it provides intellectual interest and pursuit to many, particularly at amateur level, to suggest a few.

What would a full list include of the positive aspects of contribution? How has an interest in Astronomy, or an answer to an Astronomy question, made a positive difference in your life?

Seeking specific answers and examples, not discussion.

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  • $\begingroup$ By the way, one more point of advice, unless we create a community wiki answer that combines the positive scored answers, you probably shouldn't accept any single answer. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jul 27 '16 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I agree with the migration. It's not a question about Astronomy Stack Exchange; I don't think we should just shunt opinion-based/too broad questions to meta. It's not at all a bad question; I just don't see where it fits in. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 27 '16 at 20:56

Incomplete list of ways astronomy has helped humanity:

  • The study of astronomy in ancient times was necessary for predicting the seasons and aided in farming as calendars were (and still are) based on astronomical events. (source)
  • In ancient times (and still today) studying astronomy was greatly important for navigation. Sighting on stars or the Sun can tell you your position in the world. (source)
  • Studying astronomy has helped humanity answer some of it's most basic questions of our place in the universe. Examples include Galileo's evidence that we are not the center of the universe (source) or the Shapley-Curtis debate which ultimately proved humanity was even smaller than we thought. This fulfills certain philosophical needs that I believe everyone possesses.
  • Using spectroscopy, we first found the existence of Helium in the Sun before we knew about it from chemistry or discovered it on Earth (source). Helium has become immensely useful for a variety of technologies including various science technologies and medical devices (source).
  • Astronomy has helped us prove General Relativity, one of the important theories describing our universe. Practical uses of GR include GPS technology (source).
  • Astronomy may help us answer the question of whether we're alone in the universe. Obviously this is highly presumptive, but I would not be surprised to learn that within 30 years we will have some evidence of the existence of (microbial) life outside our solar system using the future missions TESS and JWST (source).
  • The entire realm of space physics, a sub-category of astronomy, has resulted in, arguably, the largest impact on humanity. Our ventures into space have resulted in an explosion of technology that needed to be developed to overcome hurdles of space travel which then found applications in our every day life. NASA even publishes a magazine called Spinoff which documents these many technologies.
  • In the same vein as the last point, humanity's space race and technological feats related to space have inspired generations of students to become scientists and engineers. Don't have a source for this directly, but I'd be surprised if no one was inspired by the space race.
  • In many ways, concepts in astronomy guided work in particle physics. The need to conserve energy in fusion reactions in the Sun ultimately led to the proposal for the existence of the neutrino (source). Furthermore, neutrino oscillations were a proposed solution to the Solar Neutrino Problem.
  • Astronomy helped to predict the existence of dark matter. This is somewhat presumptive as well, but if we can prove dark matter exists, and understand it in more depth, there's no telling what technologies may result from that. There's not so much a source for this as this is just a hopeful statement.
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  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if a valid answer could include, Astronomy helped inspire Star Trek and its fun. Star Trek itself challenging traditional societal divides and inspiring many into science and engineering careers, adding to technological development and prosperity. $\endgroup$ – Cam_Aust Jul 27 '16 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Cam_Aust Eh, that leans a little too speculative to me. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jul 27 '16 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ I'd stress what astronomy was the only calendar source in ancient times! $\endgroup$ – Free Consulting Jul 28 '16 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ Also two examples that I think you might want to add to the list: 1. Observing Venus revealed a huge amount of green house gases (mainly CO2). Studying its atmosphere and weather helped us form models on how the CO2 raising levels will affect earths atmosphere and weather. 2. It helped confriming and better understanding electromagnetism and its relation to light (electro magnetic waves) because there are objects that have some very extreme electro magnetic properties out there (like neutron stars) $\endgroup$ – RononDex Aug 3 '16 at 12:12

Historically in the last late 20th century, Astronomy requiring access to observations and study from both hemispheres, was one avenue of tentative international collaboration between politically opposed and competing nation states, helping melt some of the intense political divides of the times. Astronomy provided a relatively safe and first trust step in greater cooperation and collaboration.

Article(s) relating to this view:

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  • $\begingroup$ Just one answer, one I hope others may not think about. I am hoping for several good answers. $\endgroup$ – Cam_Aust Jul 27 '16 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, and I would add that it still serves this purpose today. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jul 27 '16 at 14:08

Amateur astronomy provides a relatively low level and easy access for ordinary people to learn, explore, participate, and possibly contribute to an area of science and the development of human knowledge.

Amateur contributions include:

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