Torch:U.S. LXV Winter 2014-2015 - Page 13


FEATURE · Torch: U.S. · Winter 2015-2016

When there are no clouds in the sky or there’s nearly no light pollution, go outside and look up. The tiny lights in the sky are countless and millions of light years away.

Delegates at this year’s NJCL convention might have gone to Joey Chatelain’s colloquium, Classical Astronomy: A Stellar Legacy. But for those who missed it, a brief summary: “This Colloquium focused on the discoveries and impact of classical astronomers from Pythagoras to Ptolemy, as well as the origins of the names for the various planets and moons. We also explored the influence of the classics on modern astronomy, especially in the realm of planetary and stellar nomenclature that we use today.”

“The connections between [astronomy and classics] are significant since many of the names and much of the vocabulary used for modern astronomical purposes is derived from the classics. Much of this is tradition, as the heavens were analyzed and described in detail by classical philosophers and their works were used as the foundation of modern astronomy. But that tradition also illuminates the rich history of astronomy as a field of study, and how the knowledge and findings of ancient peoples has led to our current understanding of the universe.”

“[A]stronomy has always felt like a way of looking into both the past and the future for me ,attempting to understand where we came from and where we are going.”

So, how can a JCLer learn more about astronomy and connect it to their love for the classics? Chatelain suggested many ways. Get involved with the local planetarium or observatory and do a presentation relating the names of the astronomical bodies to myths. Follow updates on space missions. Be interested in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math.

Another way, Chatelain tells us, are “contests to name certain features or moons of planets such as the one that named Pluto's newly discovered moons Styx and Kerberos.” Aastha Gupta, Louisiana JCL president, participated in one such contest in 2006 with her third grade class among 2,200 students in 32 states.

Students were challenged to name the Node 2, an International Space Station module. Gupta’s class was one of six classes who won the contest with the name Harmony. Gupta helped build a model of the node and create a poster with a picture of the node, the node’s name, and reason for naming it. She also attended a field trip with her class to watch the launch of the module in Cape Canaveral, Florida. “I used to want to be an astronaut. My role model was Kalpana Chawla,” Gupta said. Gupta also once “painted the moon” for a quilt her class created for their local observatory.

There are many ways to reach the stars. So, go out and get involved.

Below: A picture of Saturn from behind. Saturn was also the Roman god of Capitol, wealth, agriculture, liberation, and time. Saturnalia, a festival named after him, is celebrated in December.

Left: A video of a LEGO version of the Antikythera mechanism, a device used to predict the occurrences of eclipses

Right: Aastha Gupta and her third grade class waiting for the launch of "Harmony" in Cape Canaveral, Florida