I went to the planetarium recently with my daughter’s grade 4 class. Knowing I was an amateur astronomer the teacher put me on the spot before we went in and asked me if I wanted to say something to the class.

This is a (slightly more pollished) version of what popped into my head to explain to a group of 9 year old’s why astronomy keeps me up at night.

My mother’s mother’s mother was Mary Holt. She passed when I was young…. But I used to call her Ga-Ga.

I think about Ga-Ga a lot, and what she saw in her life. When Ga-Ga was born, the telephone had just been invented, and the Wright brothers had yet to invent the aeroplane. When she was born the world was large. To get a photo or a person from Sydney to London they had to be put on a ship and endure 45 days at sea. If I had told Ga-Ga’s parents that one-day people would fly through the sky, they would have thought I was joking. If I had told them that we would take metal tubes and put 500 people in them and that these 200 tonne vehicles would fly through the sky at 800km per hour and take people from London to Sydney in 26 hours, they would have thought I was mad. If I pointed to the moon and told Mary’s dad that his daughter would watch men walking on the moon, he would never have believed me … and, as for nearly everyone having a magic mirror in their pocket that lets them see and talk to people on the other side of the world…. he’d have thought I’d stolen that from a fairy tale.

The 747, the Apollo missions and the smart phone are all appreciated in today’s context as important scientific and technological advances, but in the context of someone looking from 1900 they are unbelievable impossibilities.

In one lifetime, GaGa saw impossibilities from science fiction and fairy tales come to life.

Astronomy is about imagination, science, exploration and discovery.

I don’t have one particular field of astronomy that I find the most fascinating. Rather it is the exploration, the innovation and the discovery that inspires me. I sat transfixed with my daughter as we watched the Curiosity Rover’s seven minutes of terror. I was overjoyed when Ingenuity successfully made its first flight. I am constantly amazed as new astronomical discoveries are published like the first isolated black hole to be discovered in interstellar space.

What I love about Astronomy is exploring the big dark holes in our current understanding of how the Universe works, and the potential impossibilities that those tunnels may lead to. Could a better understanding of relativity and the nature of the fabric of the universe enable faster than light travel? What will a better understanding of black holes and dark energy yield? Will we discover life beyond our solar system? The more I study Astronomy, the more opportunities for amazing discoveries I find.

The promise of Astronomy is tomorrow’s everyday impossibilities.

It’s a privilege to be able to participate in that journey.