Wednesday, April 29, 2015

For the sake of the stars...

The last few days have been very eventful ones in the USA (my home country) and abroad. Multiple natural disasters affecting thousands of people, a fight for marriage equality in the US Supreme Court, the halting of building and serious reconsideration of a next-generation telescope to (try to) fully consider the long-ignored voices of Native Hawaiians, and the continuation of police brutality against Black citizens have dominated my thoughts and discussions with others. These events are reshaping life in America and around the world.

Thus I was torn on Monday, leaving my home to venture to Las Campanas for two nights with MIKE (Magellan Inamori Kyocera Echelle) on the Clay Magellan Telescope -- I felt like I needed to be present and engaged in the US (and maybe attend some protests), but these nights were assigned months ago, and could not be changed. I have been looking forward to them, too; observing is my favorite part of my job. When I tweeted to my friend, Hubble Fellow (at Carnegie DTM) Jackie Faherty, "Dang it, @jfaherty, why do we have to be out of the country?", she replied, "For the sake of the stars!" 

And so, this week, I am blogging from Las Campanas. As Sabrina wrote in her post below, "sitting on a mountaintop in a remote corner of the world collecting photons surrounded by a vast and peaceful darkness is what made me fall in love with astronomy. I also always enjoy gathering with other astronomers and engineers over dinner and hearing about all the different ways they are trying to understand the universe." Observing, for me, is a time to reflect and be thankful for the amazing opportunities that I have, and share in the experience with others (like on this blog). Thanks to modern technology, I can also "be present" mentally in the discussions online regarding the events and issues above. There's nothing like this view:
Go check out for a much bigger/better version!
, taken by my friend and fellow observer Yuri Beletsky, to make me want to expand our understanding of stars, planets, and our place among them in the universe, including amongst each other on *this* planet. 

Next post: What am I observing?

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