Astronomy, Past and Future

Happy (belated) 400th birthday to the telescope! 2009 will mark the official International Year of Astronomy as the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s observations. However, the telescope itself was invented a bit before that. It’s invention may be attributed to Hans Lipperhey who applied for a patent on October 2, 1608. Also, happy 51st (belated) anniversary to Sputnik, which launched on October 4th, 1957.

So where does the future of science lie? With 13% of girls age 13-18, it seems! A recent poll from the UK caused some to lament that 31% of 1000 girls surveyed wanted to be models. But, as the Bad Astronomer points out, it’s great that such a large percentage at that age actually do want to be scientists! Could you imagine a world where 13% of the population actually were scientists? It might be a bit like Eureka. Unfortunately, in the real world, positions for scientists are a bit more scarce than that, and only a few of those girls will actually get opportunities to go on to science. However, a large number may decide that it just isn’t for them, or may go into a science-related field! I hope that none ever lose their love of it. And after all, 13% isn’t bad when models get reality tv shows and scientists, at least to my knowledge, do not. I have always said, however, that REU programs are ripe for reality tv. 10 undergrads from different institutions being thrown into a house/dorm together in a research environment? It could work.

For the record, I was 11 or 12 when I decided that I wanted to be an astronomer. I was about 5 when I decided I wanted to be a scientist. I had a mom who said “you can be whatever you want, I just want you to be happy,” and teachers who said, “oh yes, astronomy is an actual career path! Here are the classes you should take…” Thanks 🙂

Oh, and for some astronomy NOW, new pictures of Mercury from the MESSENGER flyby!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *