Bryn Athyn College Alumni Magazine Fall/Winter 2017-18 - Page 15

After Bryn Athyn’s team spotted Sputnik’s explosion, Russia initially denied the crash, saying it “must have been a meteorite.” Kenneth Rose said, “This was, and remains, the only satellite ever seen falling.” Satellite Sputnik II had left its orbit and plunged to earth, and that “a moonwatch team from Bryn Athens [sic], Pennsylvania reported at 8:45 p.m. spotting an object in the sky ‘trailing a tail of tiny particles.’” After Bryn Athyn’s team spot- ted Sputnik’s explosion, the Bar- bados Islands reported that a fiery object had been sighted blowing up in the sky. Even though Russia initially denied the crash, saying it “must have been a meteorite,” the country later acknowledged the truth of their satellite’s death plunge. Kenneth Rose explained that the Bryn Athyn team had seen Sputnik II as it began to burn from friction with the lower atmo- sphere. This information helped the Moonwatch Headquarters in Cambridge learn how the dog- carrying rocket had disintegrated over the Caribbean Sea. Kenneth said, “This was, and remains, the only satellite ever seen falling.” Recognition In February of 1958, US Presi- dent Dwight Eisenhower pub- licly thanked the Moonwatch- ers around the country for their important work. That same year, the National Academy of Scienc- es awarded a certificate to Bryn Athyn Moonwatchers in “recog- nition of outstanding visual ob- servations of IGY artificial earth satellites.” The certifi- cate ended with, “By these observations, members of this moonwatch team have made a significant scientif- ic contribution to the IGY Earth Satellite Program.” For Wertha, the many late hours spent looking for satellites was all worth it. In a speech delivered to Academy of the New Church faculty she said, “I wanted to do something practical for the IGY. I felt this was the best way to help.” Wertha Is Honored The IGY ended on the final day of 1958. Hours later, on Janu- ary 1, 1959 Wertha passed away. In a letter of sympathy to her husband, the Smithsonian As- trophysical Observatory stated, “Through her skill and inspiring leadership, both of which are evi- denced in the magnificent record of the Bryn Athyn Moonwatch Team, Mrs. Cole was able to con- tribute measurably to the success of the International Geophysical Year, specifically, in the collection of scientifically valuable artificial earth satellite observational data.” Members of the Moonwatch team credit Wertha for the im- mense success of the project. Ken- neth wrote, “Certainly no mate- rial gift can express our gratitude to her. Whatever words we might use, and even the thoughts behind them, are far overshadowed by the simple facts that demonstrate how the team owes to her its success, its inspiration, its very existence.” He added, “It was Mrs. Cole’s enthu- siasm for science and its potential use that led her to call us together two years ago. It took her interest and perception to realize that the people of Bryn Athyn could take such an active part in the work of the International Geophysical Year, and thus contribute to the success of the greatest peaceful project that ever brought the pop- ulation of our restless world into close cooperation.” In conclusion, he wrote, “The finest monument to her memory will be continued success in the work she began. And this goes farther than the observation of satellites. We must remember, as she always did, to keep looking beyond what is merely seen by the eye.” Special thanks to Greg Jackson (BA ’04) for use of archival material . B RY N AT H Y N A LU M N I M AG A Z I N E | 15