Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Astronomy and Asilomar

Fascination With the Stars

I’ve loved astronomy for ever. I thought I’d have great views of the night sky in California. Instead we had rain! One night I did see Orion, but clouds covered most of the sky.

Maria Mitchell Observatory where I practiced astronomy.

Maria Mitchell Observatory where I practiced astronomy.

I fell in love with the stars and planets during 6th grade in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I remember the chart of the planets which covered the left wall of the science classroom.

We rotated between teachers and rooms. Our geography teacher got me outlining. Science got me hooked on the stars and planets. The only other part of the school I remember is the gym where we did square dancing!

Because of my interest in astronomy, I took advanced algebra and chemistry in my junior year of high school. As a senior I took solid geometry, trigonometry, and physics. I loved my slide rule!

Freshman math at Mount Holyoke made me doubt my ability to be an astronomer. But I did spend a summer on Nantucket at the Maria Mitchell Observatory. With two other women, we photographed and studied variable stars.

Eventually I decided to major in German language which led me to Nigeria as a Peace Corps volunteer. But I haven’t given up my fascination with astronomy.

So I was excited to read the news about the seven planets orbiting a dwarf star about 40 light-years away.

“Astronomers always knew other stars must have planets, but until a couple of decades ago, they had not been able to spot them. Now they have confirmed more than 3,400, according to the Open Exoplanet Catalog,” the article says.

I remember maybe two years ago when the number of known exoplanets was under 2,000. It’s so amazing what the astronomers can do with today’s powerful telescopes.

Monterey Pine with its clusters of 3. A strange looking tree!

Monterey Pine with its clusters of 3. A strange looking tree!

The search for life on other planets is a hot field today. Kenneth Chang, author of the article, says, “Because the planets are so close to a cool star, their surfaces could be at the right temperatures to have water flow, considered one of the essential ingredients for life.”

The Pacific, Monterey Pine, and People: More from Asilomar

Finally on the last day at Asilomar the rain and the wind stopped. Even though the temperature was still in the mid-50’s, I ventured to the beach with Sherry. At least 20 people were on the beach, a few even in the water. Brr!

She pointed out the Monterey Pine.

Sherry at beach, me in choir, new friends

Sherry at beach, me in choir, roommate’s friends Florence and Sherry. My roommate was sick on last morning.

Next time I’ll tell you about the Right Relations Team and what I said in our final report, on the advice of Iyabo and with Sherry’s encouragement!

Palomar and Asilomar

I thought of Mount Palomar in Southern California and its 200-inch telescope while I was at Asilomar last week.

The names are similar. So what do they mean?

Asilomar means a refuge by the sea, according to the Asilomar Visitor Guide Issue 13.

Encyclopedia Free Dictionary online tells me, “The word palomar is a Spanish term dating from the time of Spanish California that means pigeon house (in the same sense as henhouse).” Nothing to do with the sea.

Still, I was reminded of seeing Mount Palomar during Peace Corps training.

I wrote about that trip in an early draft of my memoir. When the memoir wa

I asked Krisztina Pap from Romania to take my pic in choir

I asked Krisztina Pap to take my pic in choir. She was one of 13 women from Romania at the conference.

s too long, I removed the brief story. But I’ll share it with you now.

It was the night before our departure for Nigeria. A group of us Peace Corps volunteers had gone to the Peppermint Lounge to dance the Twist.

“I’m too excited to sleep,” I said to the others as we left the nightclub at 1 a.m. “Have you ever ridden the Staten Island Ferry?”

The other two declined and headed back to the hotel, but Bob was ready to go on.

“Isn’t it far?” he said.

“Follow me.” I waved my hand like a tour leader. With my limited knowledge of New York, gained from the trip with my Father five years earlier and a few visits during college, I was able to lead him to a subway stop that took us downtown. “We’ll see the Statue of Liberty from the Ferry.”

“This reminds me of our trip to Tijuana,” Bob said once the subway doors closed behind us.

“Why? This is New York, not Mexico. And we had a rented car, not the subway.”

“No, I don’t mean the circumstances or setting.” He shook his head and said, “It’s the way you make spur of the moment decisions and get others to go along. We thought we were going straight from our training at UCLA to the Mexican border. You saw the Mount Palomar sign and made us drive up a mountain to see it. And then we were all glad we did.”

Are you a thoughtful planner, or a ‘spur-of-the-moment person? Or a combination?

President Buhari Still on Medical Leave

Voice of America reports that Buhari has extended his medical leave. Since January 19 he has been in London.

“He was originally scheduled to return February 5, but his office said that doctors advised him to stay in London to await the results of medical tests,” VOA says. That’s 17 days ago.

Of course speculation about his condition is rampant in Nigeria. But the president’s office says not to worry!

He did leave the vice president in charge, unlike President Yar A’dua in 2009. He was ill but did not say so. He was away for months. He had not turned over power to his vice president. He finally died without ever returning to Nigeria. That’s when Goodluck Jonathan became President.

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

One Comment

  1. So you changed your picture from beads to kola nuts! Like your astronomy stories. Judy