Bryn Athyn College Alumni Magazine Fall/Winter 2017-18 - Page 12

Moonwatch Team Wertha Pendleton Cole College Professor Team Leader Charlie Cole Dean of the College Helped establish the station Edward Allen Physics and Math Professor Helped establish the station Morna Hyatt College Professor / Girls School Teacher Deputy leader, Wertha’s assistant Mary Alice Carswell Librarian Secretary Lyris Hyatt English teacher Operated the tape recorder and kept track of timing Kenneth Rose Mathematician, and math teacher In charge of calculations, using “spherical geometry” Keneth Simons Engineer for RCA Tracked satellites by radio, working from his home on Sycamore Road, a mile away from Benade Hall Cynthia Walker Girls School student as a Freshman and Sophomore Student Spotter 12 | F A L L / W I N T E R 2 0 1 7 - 1 8 Keneth Simons brought a wealth of knowledge to the Moonwatch team, having worked as an engineer for RCA, the communications firm that created the first national radio network (NBC). of women at Bryn Athyn College, Wertha had the knowledge, passion, and lead- ership to bring the small town of Bryn Athyn into the worldwide conversation, making international headlines for her team’s contribution to astronomy at this pivotal time. A Bold Plan In the fall of 1956, while attending a dis- cussion with her astronomy colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, Wertha heard exciting news. The U.S. planned to launch its first satellite, and the Smith- sonian Astrophysical Observatory want- ed volunteer stations to help track this launch. This bold idea sprung from the preparations for a historic, global, scien- tific collaboration called the Internation- al Geophysical Year (IGY) which would span from June 1957 to December 1958. As part of the IGY, “Project Moonwatch” would engage students, teachers, and community members alike in a unified effort to watch the skies. Bryn Athyn Moonwatch Team Forms Wertha felt that Bryn Athyn would be the perfect place to establish a moonwatch station. To start, she gathered talented community members including teachers and students from Bryn Athyn College and the ANC Secondary Schools. One of these students, 15-year-old Cynthia Hyatt Walker (AA ’62), who con- tributed much of the historical research for this article, said, “Mrs. Cole inspired us right from the start. We could actu- ally do something in a tangible way. It was challenging and fun to work along- side faculty and friends—and walking up Alden road at 4 a.m. added to the excite- ment!” Another member of the commit- tee, Kenneth Rose said, “Mrs. Cole’s at- titude seemed somewhat visionary,” and “her enthusiasm proved contagious.” The group soon became officially regis- tered as one of the nation’s 130 Moon- watch teams. Throughout the spring of 1957, the Bryn Athyn “Moonwatchers,” as they came to be known, would train for an hour at a time after sunset, develop- ing tracking techniques, and as Kenneth added, “learning how cold it becomes when one has to sit still.” The team sat on the roof of the Academy’s Benade Hall and peered through telescopes. Spotting birds, airplanes, or even rocks thrown into the air helped them practice their calculations. They prac- ticed shouting “ho” when something came into view, then “center,” and “out” as it left.