The Other Half of History
At the Wednesday, May 6, 2015, gathering of the Rotary Club of South Bend, I was the guest speaker, at which I addressed local astronomy, mostly in the context of South Bend's sesquicentennial. Below is an amalgam of notes, links, and excerpts. Here's an edited audio recording of the talk.
Before I got underway, I projected this poem by Walt Whitman for people to read as they ate. Though printed later in Leaves of Grass, Whitman wrote it in 1865, the year South Bend was incorporated.
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
When I heard the learn’d astronomer
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
-Walt Whitman, 1865
(Rotarians opened meeting with Pledge of Allegiance.)
When founding fathers picked a symbol to represent the ideals of statehood, they chose stars.
Flanked on stage by U.S. and State of Indiana flags, both of which feature stars.
As South Bend celebrates its sesquicentennial, realize that 75 years of accumulated time—half of SB’s history—occurred between sunset and sunrise. I find value in understanding that half. This afternoon I’d like to honor South Bend's nighttime heritage by sharing what’s happening in our community, astronomically-speaking.
For starters, Michiana Astronomical Society Inc. (MAS) has been supporting amateur astronomy here for 40 years, and last year it became a 501(c)3 entity. Anticipating SB150, last year MAS painted the eastern crosswalk at Washington and Michigan streets. An elongated star chart painted on the bricks depicts South Bend’s First Midnight—how the sky appeared May 22, 1865.
One star in the northern sky has particular significance for South Bend. In the constellation Draco the Dragon is the star Eltanin, approximately 150 LY away. It’s a big dying orange giant that is “moving toward us, and will make a close pass at a distance of 28 light years 1.5 million years from now, when it will be the brightest star in the sky and will rival our current Sirius. “ (Kaler) When South Bend’s founders were penning the documents of incorporation, starlight left Eltanin, traveling outward at the speed of light--186,000 miles per second. After 150 years, that starlight is just now reaching our eyes in South Bend. Eltanin is South Bend’s birthday star. I have a star finder to pass out to help you find it. (See sidebar at First Midnight for two pages.)
How many people have seen the Milky Way? [Most raised hand]
How many have seen it from South Bend? [About three raised hand]
Get under a canopy of stars, discover your human side.
Through YMCA Camp Eberhart
Kids aged 9-13
Yarger family role in its history
Trained 5 local educators
Teach kids how telescopes work
Then give account to online network of research-grade telescopes
Appeal for astro art exhibit support
Scope Out South Bend
A treasure hunt with telescopes
Rotarians, we're seeking sites to display clues for treasure hunt
Please contact Dr. Kate Rueff (k.rueff "AT" sbenfocus.org) to offer site
Experience astronomy in new way
Telescope at eight local library branches
Mark your calendar
Total lunar eclipse Sept. 27, 2015, just after 9 PM
Completing the Scope Out South Bend program then
Transit of Mercury 2016, May 9
2017 Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017 which I expect to be the most observed celestial event in U.S. history
Over 80% eclipse here; total eclipse along the swath from Oregon to South Carolina
Sun Funnel team preparing for solar events
Designing prototype of Sun Funnel for commercial market
Other outlets for astronomy
Several planetariums in our region include public programming
Art Klinger retirement; wish him well
Segue back to night sky
Planetariums be the only place for lots of stars
My concern is where will we be in 50 years.
People will say, "I can't see Scheat!"
Star in Great Square of Pegasus
South Bend’s bicentennial star in 2065
It's light that left in 1865 is 3/4 of the way here.
In 50 years, will the stars be gone from our skies?
How will you be remembered?
Are we watching the slow extinction of stars?
It’s not just half of South Bend's history that has occurred at night
Half of human history
Your body has evolved to be an exquisite being that needs darkness
Melatonin only in the presence of darkness.
Shift work issues, breast cancer, etc. (see cited works at Dark Skies)
It’s not just that we’re losing stars
We’re losing darkness
Think of light pollution as second hand smoke
Newly lighted road with "decorative LED lights"
LED, the promise and the peril
Rich in blue spectrum; use judiciously
Light Up South Bend
Any new outdoor lighting projects, call me first
(shield, or full cutoff; turn down, LED 2.5X; not blue)
Body sensitive to blue lights
Parents are right in telling kids to turn off monitors and screens earlier
Get the f.lux app from www.justgetflux.com
Let’s have an epiphany together
Stars pervade our culture
Revisit star party May 15-17
Be bold, do something different
Get out in a field and spend a night dedicated to the stars
Observe and wonder
Hubble Telescope's discretionary time used for Deep Field
Be intentionally inclusive
Excitement of SB150 Young Astronomers
Youths develop research or program or investigation
Additional teams in Michiana forthcoming
Google Sky app
Naming a star
I'll do it for you
Instead, give $75.00 to a local planetarium