Category Archives: Astro Wannabe

Dear Universe: Thanks, but…

Dear Universe,

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Albuquerque, NM recon trip, Sept 2017.

Thank you for covering my six, but I really needed that job. Yes, I know, it wasn’t a good fit. I did my research. It was a paycheck though, something I could really use to pay my delinquent bills.

I will admit to being confused and hope that there is clarity and a remedy out there for this astro wannabe. I would certainly appreciate some help.

Again, thank you and gobble, gobble.

DD

 

It’s Thanksgiving and I had a good cry this morning, the ugly sobbing kind that sent my youngest cat skittering down the hallway. I’m scared about my current situation. I’m failing at this whole life thing and I’m unsure what to do. I am still completely dumbfounded by Tuesday’s events.

My anxiety level is out to Pluto right now!

After searching for many, many moons, I started a new job on Tuesday morning. It was nothing special, and certainly not astro-related: office staff for a local business in the home building industry. It was income and considering my current financial situation, I was grateful for the opportunity.

Shortly after I arrived on site, the owner greeted me at the front desk and led me to accounting. The manager handed me paperwork to sign and then took me on a tour of the offices, introducing staff along the way. So far, so good.

Next came a tour of the warehouse with the owner explaining logistics and products. When we returned to the offices, he had me begin training on the ordering system. I was glad to be sitting with one person. My senses were on overload after meeting so many people, but I still felt good about everything, all in all.

I had been on the job for about an hour and a half when the owner came to me and said, “We’d like to see you in the conference room.” I followed him in where his wife, who worked there part-time, and the accounting manager were seated at the table.

The owner closed the door, turned to me and said, “We don’t have to give a reason, but this is not going to work. This is not a good fit for us.” BLAM! My anxiety went interstellar. He said some more about payment for the day and something else, I’m sure, but my head had exploded by then and I didn’t have full use of my ears, let alone any mental processing capacity.

I was a doe! I felt it, I saw it, I was it. Tunnel vision. Move legs. Get out of there.

I remember grabbing my coat, though I didn’t become fully conscious again until I was in my car. I took a few deep breaths to calm the throbbing pulse in my throat. What just happened? My brain was still a battlefield. All I could do was shake my head in disbelief and drive away.

But I really needed that job!

The last couple of days have been very ugly and, hence, the need for the ugly cry. But now, back to the real world. And what am I going to do?

The only vision I have for my life is my work here at WomanAstro.com. It’s never been about money, but it needs to be. That means I am going to step outside my box and ask for your help.

So, what am I going to do? Over the next few days I will set up sponsorships on this website and you can help. Please get in touch with me to talk about opportunities for you and/or your organization.

There are other ideas that have churned inside my head for far too long and deserve to see the world. I’m asking for your help to make them happen.

In the meantime, please visit this site often. Tell your friends and family, your neighbors and colleagues.

Thank you and wishing you the very best this holiday season.

DD

 

Engaging Girls: From Science Fiction to Science Fact

Is the leaky pipeline of women in science an opportunity knocking? I think so. And I’d like to offer a suggestion on what these women can do instead of giving up on science and allowing their hard-earned educations to go to waste. Write science fiction for girls!

During a recent trip to my local library, I ambled over to the children’s section in search of science fiction that would appeal to 10-year old girls. I asked the pregnant librarian sitting behind the help desk for some authors’ names currently popular with kids. She stood up, confessing she didn’t know any that were specifically targeted at girls.

The helpful librarian then escorted me down the aisles of books, pointing out sci-fi selections. I suspect her suggestions were rendered more from the “Science Fiction” decal on the book spine than from specific knowledge of what kids actually liked. At the end of our stroll, she referred me to a pamphlet listing science fiction children’s books compiled by the local library system. For good measure, I also picked up the pamphlet for fantasy books. Once on my own, I searched for titles using the sci-fi pamphlet.

The path to my affection for the wonders of the night sky began on the steps of science fiction when I was a young Army brat living in Germany. Before I could read, before my family owned a black-and-white television, and well before I had any inkling of what was beyond my small world, I fell in love with space during Saturday morning matinees.

To be honest, I don’t remember a single movie. What I do remember are Flash Gordon episodes shown before the feature attraction. I distinctly recall watching the heroic Flash with his fair damsel companion Dale Arden by his side, the brilliant Dr. Zarkov, and the evil Emperor Ming. Their exploits enthralled my young mind. But what I remember most vividly is the rocket ship flying through the sky, with strange crackling noises and spitting fire. These now-silly images formed my first thoughts of the possibility of visiting another planet.

A year after we returned stateside, and with a television now in our house, I fell in love with the weekly adventures of the Robinson family in Lost In Space. The show also was a favorite of my girlfriend across the street and it didn’t take long before our play of choice was re-enacting Lost In Space episodes. To this day, I remember our game playing always began with deciding who would be Judy. She was the pretty one and, back in the 60s, that’s what mattered to young girls.

The science fiction book bug really didn’t bite until I was out of high school and living on my own. I joined the Science Fiction Book Club and remember reading my first sci-fi novel, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I was infected. I wanted to read more stories about other worlds and, more importantly, I wanted to write science fiction. I then began reading books on how to write the genre. The single most important lesson learned from the many how-to books I read stated that, and I paraphrase, “to write science fiction, you need to know science fact.” I took that statement to heart and began a new chapter in my life.

When I returned home from the library with my four selections of children’s science fiction, I took a closer look at the pamphlets. Actually, I did what anyone interested in science would do. I analyzed them. For the sci-fi pamphlet which offered 29 suggestions, 17 books had boys as the protagonist, eight had a boy/girl combination, and only four had a girl as the main character. The pamphlet of fantasy books offered a more balanced gender distribution, though some of the characters were creatures, not humans: 12 girls; 11 boys; and 5 girl/boy combinations.

So, what does this mean? It means that there is an opportunity just waiting to be answered by women who have leaked out of the mainstream of science. It is my hope they will answer the knock, open that door, and take this opportunity. Our girls need you! And, yes, I’m working on a science fiction novel for kids which, I hope, will engage at least one girl to want to know more about science facts.

Exoplanet Pleasure

Kepler 11 exoplanetary system.Image courtesy of NASA/Kepler.

When I began my studies at the University of Arizona, I was under the impression that astronomy was the study of everything that the night sky had to offer. Though that is mostly true, it did not take me long to discover that planetary science was its own discipline and quickly became my favorite area of study. So, needless to say, all things exoplanets are especially interesting to me.

Today NASA announced the discovery of over 1,200 new potential exoplanet candidates. (Note: These are candidates and have yet to be confirmed.) This discovery is so incredible because of the number of potential exoplanets discovered by one telescope in such a short period of time in such a small field of view. The approximately 500 exoplanets discovered prior to Kepler took a span of nearly 20 years to find. Kepler found its astounding number of exoplanet candidates in less than two years.

Kepler telescope field of view. Courtesy NASA/TheSky.

Kepler was launched in March 2009 and is the 10th mission of NASA’s Discovery Missions. Kepler saw “first light” a month later when its dust cover was blown off with its optics pointed towards the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra. Its three-and-a-half-year mission objective is “to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems.” I certainly hope this is one mission that will be extended.

Artist rendition of Kepler 10b. Image courtesy of NASA.

An especially exciting element of the Kepler mission is that the data, released ahead of schedule, is available to citizen astronomers at PlanetHunters.org where anyone with a little time and patience can assist Kepler astronomers in confirming the potential candidates as true exoplanets. (You do not need to be an astronomer, or own a telescope, to participate.) Imagine how exhilarating it will feel when your “favorite” exoplanet is officially added to the Planetary Society’s Catalogue of Exoplanets.

In addition to watching the NASA news conference today, I read a number of articles in the media from links on Twitter (thank you to all my astro-tweeps), along with a little extra research of my own. Below you’ll find a list of those for your exoplanet pleasure.

NASA Kepler Mission Page from NASA.gov

Kepler Home Page from Ames Research Center

Kepler’s “First Light” Images from UniverseToday.com

Astronomy: Exoplanets on the cheap from Nature.com

NASA Finds Earth-size Planet Candidates in Habitable Zone, Six Planet System the official NASA press release with PowerPoint slides

Motherlode of potential planets found: more than 1200 alien worlds! from Discover.com/Bad Astronomy

Extrasolar planet from Wikipedia.com, a lot of what you need to know about exoplanets

Wide Angle: The Age of the Exoplanet from Discovery.com

Kepler announcement today: More than a thousand exoplanets including one 6-planet system from the Planetary Society Blog

NASA spots scores of potentially livable worlds from MSNBC.com

Kepler-11 NEW EXOPLANETARY SYSTEM DISCOVERED from YouTube.com, an artist’s video rendition for the new system

Interview with Dr. Debra Fischer, Planet-Hunter from WomanAstronomer.com, my interview with favorite planet hunter of them all

Clear skies & happy exoplanet hunting!
Debra L. Davis