When some people think of astronomy, they imagine telescopes, satellites, and observatories. This may lead some to believe that astronomy is a relatively recent scientific development. This could not be further from the truth.
The study of space and the sky is nearly as old as the world itself. We can see evidence that even the most ancient of cultures was clearly fascinated with the night sky and used what science they had available to try to understand it and form a basic precursor to our idea of astronomy. Some say that certain historical landmarks like Stonehenge and the pyramids were in fact used for reasons related to astronomy. The legendary myths that were created by the Greeks came out of a desire to make sense of the world around them. In those days, it was impossible to know that floating, gaseous orbs larger than the Earth were in fact the reason behind all of the little lights in the sky. While we may find it silly to imagine that the stars could be dead heroes and gods in the sky, the Greek people's creativity should at least be commended. Their myths and tales, like the stars, still live on even to this day.
Astronomy clearly has a long and storied history, but a full grasp of the world outside the world was not possible until the invention of the telescope and the later improvements made upon it. Galileo may not have been the first man to use a telescope, but he certainly was the first to show what was possible with such an instrument. Galileos telescope is surely a far cry from the incredible devices we employ today, but the spirit of curiosity and wonder he felt when observing celestial bodies in all of their glory still lives on today among lovers of astronomy.
As long as astronomy has been around, it is interesting to note that the majority of the information we now know about the stars and planets was discovered predominantly in the twentieth century. In fact, it was only in this past century that we even knew the Milky Way existed. Prior to the discovery, we as a planet had no idea that we were part of a galaxy. For that matter, we did not even know that galaxies existed!
Clearly, with technology advancing at such a rapid rate, it is exciting to see what we will learn next. There was a time when everybody thought that the Earth was flat. There was also a time when we thought we were the center of the Universe. The reason astronomers press on is because they can not wait to find out what we were wrong about next.