The Jacana Astronomy Site

Astronomical Quotations





Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.

- Plato.


The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons.

- Edwin Hubble.


The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.

- Albert Einstein.


I try to forget what happiness was, and when that don't work, I study the stars.

- Derek Walcott.


Astronomy is perhaps the science whose discoveries owe least to chance, in which human understanding appears in its whole magnitude, and through which man can best learn how small he is.

- Georg C. Lichtenberg.


Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy: the mad daughter of a wise mother.

- Voltaire.


The black hole teaches us that space can be crumpled like a piece of paper into an infinitesimal dot, that time can be extinguished like a blown-out flame, and that the laws of physics that we regard as “sacred,” as immutable, are anything but.

- John Wheeler.


Black holes are where God divided by zero.

- Steven Wright.


Astronomy's much more fun when you're not an astronomer.

- Brian May.


We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That


makes us something very special.

- Stephen Hawking.


I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I'm an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.

- Stephen Hawking.


The human brain now holds the key to our future. We have to recall the image of the planet from outer space.. a single entity in which air, water, and continents are interconnected. That is our home.

- David Suzuki.


All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.

- Galileo Galilei.


Nature uses as little as possible of anything.

- Johannes Keppler.


If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

- Carl Sagan.


We are star-stuff.

- Carl Sagan.


Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

- Carl Sagan.


We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think its forever.

- Carl Sagan.


Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

- Carl Sagan.


The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.

- Carl Sagan.


It's better to light a candle then to curse the darkness.

- Carl Sagan.


Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.

- Edwin Hubble.


You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe.

- Carl Sagan.


When Kepler found his long-cherished belief did not agree with the most precise observation, he accepted the uncomfortable fact. He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions; that is the heart of science.

- Carl Sagan.


Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

- Carl Sagan.


The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.

- Galileo Galilei.


It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English - up to fifty words used in correct context - no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.

- Carl Sagan.


I thought "The Martians have arrived!", but then I realised that I was looking at pollen slightly out of focus.

- Patrick Moore on looking through his telescope.


Every so often, I like to stick my head out the window, look up, and smile for a satellite picture.

- Steven Wright.


The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.

- Mark Russell.


Have you noticed that the astronomers and mathematicians are much the most cheerful people of the lot? I suppose that perpetually contemplating things on so vast a scale makes them feel either that it doesn't matter a hoot anyway, or that anything so large and elaborate must have some sense in it somewhere.

- Dorothy L. Sayers.


There is a coherent plan in the universe, though I don't know what it's a plan for.

- Fred Hoyle.


Imagination is more important than knowledge.

- Albert Einstein.


Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

- Albert Einstein.


Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

- Albert Einstein.


The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

- Albert Einstein.


I have looked further into space than any human being did before me.

— Sir William Herschel, having identified Uranus (1781), the first planet discovered since antiquity.


If the Lord Almighty had consulted me before embarking upon his creation, I should have recommended something simpler.

- Alfonso X, King of Leon and Castile, on having the Ptolemaic system of astronomy explained to him.


In science, probably ninety-nine percent of the knowable has to be discovered. We know only a few streaks about astronomy. We are only beginning to imagine the force and composition of the atom. Physics has not yet found any indivisible matter.

— Lincoln Steffens.


We should do astronomy because it is beautiful and because it is fun. We should do it because people want to know. We want to know our place in the universe and how things happen.

— John Bahcall.


The pursuit of the good and evil are now linked in astronomy as in almost all science…. The fate of human civilization will depend on whether the rockets of the future carry the astronomer’s telescope or a hydrogen bomb.

- Bernard Lovell.


When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with such applause in the lecture room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

- Walt Whitman.


The universe: a device contrived for the perpetual astonishment of astronomers.

- Arthur C. Clarke.


There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.

- Richard P. Feynman.


Evidently, God not only plays dice but plays blind-folded, and, at times, throws them where you can’t see them.

- Stephen W. Hawking, on Black Holes.


We find them smaller and fainter, in constantly increasing numbers, and we know that we are reaching into space, farther and farther, until, with the faintest nebulae that can be detected with the greatest telescopes, we arrive at the frontier of the known universe.

- Edwin Hubble.


For all our conceits about being the center of the universe, we live in a routine planet of a humdrum star stuck away in an obscure corner … on an unexceptional galaxy which is one of about 100 billion galaxies. … That is the fundamental fact of the universe we inhabit, and it is very good for us to understand that.

- Carl Sagan.


A time will come when men will stretch out their eyes. They should see planets like our Earth.

- Christopher Wren


Lie on your back and look at the stars.

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr. - Life's Little Instruction Book


The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature, the players on the other side is hidden from us.

- Thomas Henry Huxley.


Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

- Arthur C. Clarke


Finally we shall place the Sun himself at the center of the Universe. All this is suggested by the system of procession of events and the harmony of the whole Universe, if only we face the facts, as they say, "with eyes wide open."

- Nicholas Copernicus


In my youth I regarded the universe as an open book, printed in the language of equations, whereas now it appears to me as a text written in invisible ink, of which in our rare moments of grace we are able to decipher a small segment.

- Arthur Koestler.


To command the professors of astronomy to confute their own observations is to enjoin an impossibility, for it is to command them to not see what they do see, and not to understand what they do understand, and to find what they do not discover.

- Galileo Galile.


The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination, but the combination is locked up in the safe.

- Peter de Vries.


Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player.

- Albert Einstein


If there is nothing wrong with me, maybe there's something wrong with the universe.

- Dr. Beverly Crusher - Star Trek.


When the Sun shrinks to a dull red dwarf, it will not be dying. It will just be starting to live and everything that has gone before will merely be a prelude to its real history.

- Arthur C. Clarke.


We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

- Tombstone epitaph of two amateur astronomers.


Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.

- Ptolemy,c.150 AD.


Magnificent desolation.

- Buzz Aldrin's description of the Moon.


We live in a changing universe, and few things are changing faster than our conception of it.

- Timothy Ferris - The Whole Shebang.


The long haired star.

- The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes Haley's Comet (1066).


The meek shall inherit the Earth. And the rest of us will go to the stars.

- Omni Magazine.


Telescopes are in some ways like time machines. They reveal galaxies so far away that their light has taken billions of years to reach us. We in astronomy have an advantage in studying the universe, in that we can actually see the past. We owe our existence to stars, because they make the atoms of which we are formed. So if you are romantic you can say we are literally starstuff. If you're less romantic you can say we're the nuclear waste from the fuel that makes stars shine. We've made so many advances in our understanding. A few centuries ago, the pioneer navigators learnt the size and shape of our Earth, and the layout of the continents. We are now just learning the dimensions and ingredients of our entire cosmos, and can at last make some sense of our cosmic habitat.

- Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain.


The large-scale homogeneity of the universe makes it very difficult to believe that the structure of the universe is determined by anything so peripheral as some complicated molecular structure on a minor planet orbiting a very average star in the outer suburbs of a fairly typical galaxy.

- Steven Hawking.


Chances are, when we meet intelligent life forms in outer space, they're going to be descended from predators.

- Michio Kaku.


The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning.

- Paul Theodore Hellyer, former Canadian Defence Minister.


For many planet hunters, though, the ultimate goal is still greater (or actually, smaller) prey: terrestrial planets, like Earth, circling a star like the Sun. Astronomers already know that three such planets orbit at least one pulsar. But planet hunters will not rest until they are in sight of a small blue world, warm and wet, in whose azure skies and upon whose wind-whipped oceans shines a bright yellow star like our own.

- Ken Croswell, "Planet Quest"


Calculations of the probability of other inhabited planets in our Galaxy are rather meaningless at this stage of our knowledge of the origin of life. But in the framework of the cosmological principle we should assume that there is at least one inhabited planet per galaxy.

- Michael Rowan-Robinson – Cosmology.


The destruction of this planet would have no significance on a cosmic scale: to an observer in the Andromeda nebula, the sign of our extinction would be no more than a match flaring for a second in the heavens: and if that match does blaze in the darkness there will be none to mourn a race that used a power that could have lit a beacon in the stars to light its funeral pyre. The choice is ours.

- Stanley Kubrick.


This is the way the world ends - Not with a bang but a whimper.

- T. S. Eliot - The Hollow Men.


We have your satellite. If you want it back send 20 billion in Martian money. No funny business or you will never see it again.

- Seen on a wall at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs.


The Space Shuttle is the most effective device known to man for destroying dollar bills.

- US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.


From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. It wasn't a miracle, we just decided to go.

- Jim Lovell, Apollo 13.


The earth is simply too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.

- Arthur C. Clarke.


Cosmology does, I think, affect the way that we perceive humanity's role in nature. One thing we've learnt from astronomy is that the future lying ahead is more prolonged than the past. Even our sun is less than halfway through its life.

- Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain.


The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet. Sooner or later, disasters such as an asteroid collision or nuclear war could wipe us all out. But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe. There isn't anywhere like the Earth in the solar system, so we would have to go to another star. If we used chemical fuel rockets like the Apollo mission to the moon, the journey to the nearest star would take 50,000 years. This is obviously far too long to be practical, so science fiction has developed the idea of warp drive, which takes you instantly to your destination. Unfortunately, this would violate the scientific law which says that nothing can travel faster than light. However, we can still within the law, by using matter/antimatter annihilation, at least reach just below the speed of light. With that, it would be possible to reach the next star in about six years, though it wouldn't seem so long for those on board."

- Stephen Hawking, accepting the Royal Society's Copley Medal (2006).


When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

- Arthur C. Clarke's First Law.


But the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

- Clarke's Second Law.


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

- Clarke's Third Law.


I wonder why. I wonder why. I wonder why I wonder. I wonder why I wonder why I wonder.

- Richard Feynman.


Wormholes were first introduced to the public over a century ago in a book written by an Oxford mathematician. Perhaps realizing that adults might frown on the idea of multiply connected spaces, he wrote the book under a pseudonym and wrote it for children. His name was Charles Dodgson, his pseudonym was Lewis Carroll, and the book was Through The Looking Glass.

- Michio Kaku – Visions: How science will revolutionize the 21st century.