top of page
Astronomy in our Biology
Image by Madhav Rajesh

         All around us, astronomy plays a huge role in what we see and how we function. What we know about Earth usually has, in part, some relation to the topic of astronomy. For example, explorers use the stars as a way to navigate their journeys, tides are pulled by the gravitational force of the moon, and plants and animals need the sun for survival.

          In the far future, astronomy could allow us to search for life on the outer edges of space. There could be major discoveries or further understandings of what life is and how it is created. It also allows us to effectively locate where extraterrestrial life is most likely to be found. Understanding the astronomical conditions in which Earth is propagated allows us to infer what conditions are necessary in order for life to exist. Science fiction and its theories have helped us imagine what that future could be. An example is the concept of the Goldilocks zone, the zones in which a planet is a certain distance away from a star, allowing for there to be liquid water on the planet, an essential requirement for any life. Similarly, it was through the astronomical understanding of the properties of a star -- specifically our sun -- that allowed us to discover how photosynthesis within plants occurred, requiring sunlight as a condition. Understanding the stars has allowed not only humans but animals like frogs, seals, and moths to utilize the stars to navigate their path.

          Interestingly, our own bodies are made of elements created in the working process of stars, nuclear fusion. This process begins with the fusing of two hydrogen atoms, creating helium. This process is repeated for every new element created, reaching all the way to making iron on the periodic table. Those same elements make up most, if not all, of the human body.

          Additionally, the sun and the moon also signify to our bodies when it is time to be asleep and when it is time to be awake. When there is little to no light, your brain tells your pineal gland to stop creating melatonin, a hormone related to sleep. By stopping the production of the hormone, your body will slowly drift off to sleep; however, if enough light hits your retina, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, SCN for short, will call to your pineal gland to start producing melatonin once again. Putting aside all other factors, this cycle will continually loop in relation to when the moon or the sun is in the sky. Although we may not notice how much of an effect astronomy can have on our lives, science certainly has a strong pull on everyone’s lives.

Sources: National Research Council. 2001. Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium. 

Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

bottom of page