My parents told me that, as a toddler, I pointed to objects in the sky while uttering incoherent baby-talk. I suppose this means my interest in astronomy literally dates back right to the crib!
In 1958, when I was five years old, my parents took me to hear a lecture by Willy Ley, a prominent space scientist. Ley's talk on astronomy and space science was geared toward children. I was utterly enthralled. I had already learned to read so I could find out more about dinosaurs (another early interest of mine), so I checked out all the books on astronomy I could from the local library. Most were beyond me, of course. That didn't prevent me from grabbing the nearest adult and asking the meaning of difficult passages.
Shortly thereafter my parents bought me a small 4 1/2" reflector telescope. I spent hours outside watching the moon, planets, stars, and other celestial phenomena. One of my aunts gave me a "Spitz Junior" planetarium as a birthday present. I used to put together little lectures on astronomy using my planetarium for all the other kids in the neighborhood and for my classes at school.
I attended Catholic grade schools during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Science did not receive the same degree of attention as mathematics, reading, writing, and religion, but science wasn't ignored either. Sister Agnes Calmeyn, Sister Hermandine, Sister Bernard, and Sister Marie Christine all encouraged my interest in science. These dear women exhibited great patience in dealing with me. Apparently I spent most of my early years in grade school day-dreaming about astronomy and dinosaurs. Years later these Sisters told me they would sometimes call upon to answer a question in math or history or some other subject. Instead of answering the question, I'd deliver a lecture on the latest dinosaur or rocket launch I'd heard about.
In the sixth grade, I enrolled in a program called the "Astro-Science Workshop." Classes were held each Saturday morning during the school year at the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago. J. Allen Hynek (yes, Mr. UFO) and the inimitable Letitia Lestina directed the program. Only three of the students (including myself) were in grade school. The others were all high school juniors and seniors. We three youngsters attended all the lectures and field trips, but we did not undertake the lab work which required mathematical training we did not possess. The Astro-Science Workshop enabled me to meet many of the leading midwestern astronomers as well as international scientists like Bart Bok.
I also had the opportunity to handle some of the instruments in the Planetarium's collection which were not on display for lack of room. I also was given access to the Planetarium's library of rare books. I found it awe-inspiring to handle instruments and books on astronomy which were centuries old. I felt a kinship with the sky-watchers of earlier times who had fashioned the instruments and written the books.
Later on, a few alumni from the Astro-Science Workshop joined Letitia Lestina in producing an annual Christmas Lecture at the Chicago campus of Northwestern University. These lectures were modelled on the famous Christmas Lectures at Cambridge University in England. The alumni group continued to present these lectures until Miss Lestina's death. The lectures allowed high school students, college students, and the general public to listen to and interact with outstanding scientists and educators in a relatively intimate setting. Guest lecturers over the years included Sir John Eccles, George Beadle, Charles Huggins, Philip Morrison, Vernon Mountcastle, Peter Oxnard, and many others. I was particularly impressed by Eccles with whom I had the pleasure of lunching one afternoon. He demonstrated that one could be both a good scientist and a good Christian without compromising either (Eccles was Catholic, as am I).
I entered a number of science fairs in grade school. All of my projects concerned astronomy except for my very first in fourth grade, which concerned sea shells. I usually did fairly well. As a seventh grader I reached the Illinois state science fair and received a first prize.
During my senior year in high school, I once again enrolled in the Astro-Science Workshop. This time I was a full participant. Fellow IT staff member Albert Lunde also enrolled that same year. As far as I know, I was the only person who ever attended the Astro-Science Workshop twice. I used my newly-acquired computer programming skills to solve some of the more difficult homework problems.
I applied what I had learned about celestial mechanics by authoring the first version of an n-body orbital simulator which I called "orbits." I also wrote a primitive program to model stellar interiors. I entered this combination of programs into my school's science fair as a senior. This was the first science fair I had entered since the seventh grade. I reached the district level where I was placed in the "computer" category. Unfortunately, the judge for this category was openly hostile to those of us who used computers to do any scientific modelling. He was only interested in business applications. As a result, the winner turned out to be someone who had written a program to compute income taxes! Other losers that year in the computer category included Albert Lunde, whose wonderful program to play checkers demonstrated considerable mathematical sophistication as well as programming skill; and a fellow who had built his own computer from scratch, which demonstrated considerable ingenuity and engineering skill.
My sense of justice was restored when I found out that Mr. Income Tax received the lowest possible grade at the Chicago City science fair. None of the judges at the City fair could figure out why his project had been sent on from the district level.
This blow to my self-esteem did not lessen my interested in either astronomy or computers. I seriously thought about majoring in astronomy in college. I ended up being seduced by mathematics and computers instead. During my college years, I rewrote "orbits" in PL/1 and added some major improvements. I discontinued work on "orbits" after I was graduated in 1974. By that time I was much more interested in broader applications of numerical analysis, and especially statistical computing. I spent most of my time in graduate school and professional life working in the area of statistical computing up until 1990.
I remain interested in all aspects of astronomy and space science. I am particularly intrigued by the idea that astronomically induced catastrophism may have played an important role in the rise and development of human civilization. You'll find lots of other links to resources about impact events on my catastrophism page.
Aurora Page by Tomek offers a detailed discussion of auroras. Includes short bibliography and links to related sites.
Red Sprites and Blue Jets by Matt Heavner discusses these upper atmospheric optical phenomena associated with thunderstorms.
Subsun by Marc Hertlein discusses sun pillars and the subsun effect in particular. Also offers a short bibliography of books about atmospheric halo phenomena.
What are cloudbows? discusses "white rainbows"
Comets, Asteroids, and Meteors
Bill Bottke's Asteroid Research Home Page describes his research into crater chains, oblique impacts, rubble pile asteroids, and more.
Comet Observation Home Page by Charles S. Morris at NASA offers information on current comets, including pictures of Hale-Bopp.
International Meteor Organization was founded in 1988 to respond to the ever growing need for cooperation among amateur astronomers performing meteor-related work.
Meteorite and Impacts Advisory Committee to the Canadian Space Agency "is a volunteer group of geologists and astronomers which serves as the coordinating body for meteorite and impact reporting and research in Canada."
Meteorite Central offers information on collecting meteorites, classified ads for buying/selling meteorites, and links to other meteoritic sites.
Meteorite! Magazine is published quarterly by Pallasite Press in New Zealand. Meteorite! covers scientific research into meteoritics, new falls and finds, asteroids, craters, tektites, historical events, new discoveries, and more.
Meteors and Meteorites by Phil Bagnall describes his meteor collection and offers interesting articles on anomalous phenomena, meteor show calendars, links to other sites about meteors, and more.
MIAC - Introduction to meteorites is a set of slide images and text discussing the history of meteorite observations.
Out of the Deepfreeze and into the Fire by Brian martin offers an introduction to comets, asteroids, and meteors, with links to related sites.
Small Bodies by the Jet Propulsion Lab offers photos and information about the asteroid Ida and its moon Dactyl, about the comet fragments of Shoemaker-Levy 9, Comet Halley, and several meteorites.
Small Comets discusses the "small comets" theory of Louis Frank. He suggests that, every few seconds, a house-sized "snowball" approaches Earth and deposits a large cloud of water vapor in the Earth's upper atmosphere.
UK and Eire Meteorite page by Eric Hutton includes historical information on meteorite falls in these areas from the 14th century to the present.
Commercial Vendors (astronomical equipment, etc.)
Solar System Live is an interactive orrery you can use to view the entire Solar System, or just the inner planets (up to the orbit of Mars).
Views Of The Solar System by Calvin J. Hamilton presents a multimedia adventure "unfolding the splendor of the Sun, planets, moons, comets, asteroids, and more."
History of Astronomy
Aboriginal Star Knowledge Menu discusses Lakota constellations, related observational astronomy, stone medicine wheel solstice "computers" (like Stonehenge), and teacher resources for daytime and naked-eye astronomy.
Archaeoastronomy Pages by James Q. Jacobs offers resources useful in the history of astronomy, including periodicity formulas, time formulas, astronomical constants, cosmographic values, geodesy and archaegeodysy information, Andean cosmology, the Kronk Hill petroglyph site, the Aryabjatiya Aryabhata, photo galleries from Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Teotihuacan, Machu Picchu, and Tiwanaku.
Astronomiae Historia/History of Astronomy offers an excellent set of pages about the history of astronomy and the history of science. Includes general information, links to observatories, persons involved in the history of astronomy, archives and libraries, museums, research institutes and departments, publications, meetings, societies, and much more.
Basketmaker Spatial Identity: by William D. Hyder discusses cosmological features in the rock art of the Basketmaker people in the southwestern United States.
Center for Archaeoastronomy at the University of Maryland was founded in 1978 to advance research, education, and public awareness of archaeoastronomy. The Center publishes the journal Archaeoastronomy.
Chaco: 1054 Supernova Petrograph by Dan Greening discusses the possibility that an Anasazi rock carving in Chaco Canyon, Arizona represent the supernova of 1054 AD that formed the Crab Nebula.
Guide to the History of Astrology by Lester J. Ness offers an online version of his dissertation Astrology and Judaism in Late Antiquity, a resource guide to the history of Astrology, and a work-in-progress translation of Bouché-Leclercq's famous Greek Astrology.
Homer's Astronomy offers a short essay on the astronomical background of Homer's Illiad and Odyssey.
In Search of the First Astronomers from the Houston Museum of Natural Science offers a study text and questions in archaeastronomy.
Musical Theory and Ancient Cosmology presents a hypertext version of an article by Ernest G. McClain. The article originally appeared in the February, 1994 issue of The World and I. McClain suggests that the numbers used both in music and cosmology of the ancients goes back to Sumerian times, predating the Pythagorean school by millenia.
Nineteenth Century Astronomy Book Home Page is dedicated to the identification, research, and acquisition of 19th century astronomy books.
Galileo - Countdown to Jupiter offers images and movies taken by the Galileo spacecraft in the vicinity of Jupiter.
Magellan Mission to Venus describes the results of this probe which lasted from May of 1989 to October of 1994.
Mars Exploration Program offers information on NASA's upcoming unmanned Martian probes, including the Pathfinder, Global Surveyor, and MFEX Rover.
Mars Pathfinder Project offers information on the mission to Mars to be launched in the Fall of 1996.
Public Access to NASA's Planetary Data offers information about NASA's Planetary Data System project.
High-Energy, Antimatter Telescope (HEAT) discusses this NASA-supported program of high-altitude balloon-borne experiments to study antimatter in the primary cosmic radiation.
Lindheimer Demolition offers some photos and comments about the demolition of the Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center at Northwestern University.
National Solar Observatory / Sacramento Peak, Solar, Physics, Astronomy is located in Sunspot, New Mexico, USA.
Galactic Supernova Remnants by David A. Green of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge, U.K.
GalacticSky Charts by Mike C. Harvey displays sky charts for the current month for the Northern and Southern hemisphere for latitudes 10, 20, 30, 45, and 60.
Adler Planetarium in Chicago was the first planetarium in the Western hemisphere. It opened on May 12, 1930.
Venus Revealed offers excerpts from the book of that name by planetologist David Grinspoon.
Venus Technical Literature offers selected readings in Venus geology and geophysics by Susan B. Yewell of the Magellan Data Management and Archive Team.
Societies and Clubs
Astronomical Society of Australia was formed in 1966 as the organization of professional astronomers in Australia.
Atlanta Astronomy Club started in 1947 and offers a variety of activities including telescope making and public and school programs.
The First Millennial Foundation seeks to colonize our galaxy.
Jordanian Astronomical Society (JAS) was founded in 1987. The society seeks to popularize astronomy, to increase the professionalism of astronomy in the Arab world, and to assemble Arab astronomers in Jordan and elsewhere in order to develop their astronomical hobby.
Mount Wilson Observatory Association is a group of volunteers which supports the Mount Wilson Institute's mission by leading Observatory tours, assisting with scientific work, participating in mountain "star parties", and more.
The Planetary Society is devoted to the exploration of the solar system and the search for extraterrestrial life. It has over 100,000 members in 100 countries.
San Antonio Astronomical Association was founded in 1974 and is one of the largest not-for-profit amateur astronomical organizations in the Unites States.
SETI Institute Home Page offers "information about scientific research in the general field of life in the universe with an emphasis on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence."
Warren Astronomical Society in Warren, Michigan is a not-profit organization of amateur astronomers.
Software for Astronomy
Space Travel and Artificial Satellites
European Space Agency "is an international organization composed of 14 Member States which aims to 'provide for and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and operational space applications systems.'"
INTELSAT is the world's largest commercial satellite communications services provider.
University Departments, Research Institute, Classes, Course Notes
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Last modified by pib on March 21, 2000.