David Levy's Skyward for January 2022

Imagination and the Astronomical League.

“A Dragon Lives forever, but not so girls and boys.”

Three quarters of a century ago, during the Second World War, the famous Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley, along with Charles Federer, founding editor of Sky and Telescope Magazine, launched an association of astronomy clubs across the United States.  It is called the Astronomical League, and it thrives to this day with more than 100 astronomy clubs.  Unlike the national Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the League is designed to be a more loosely structured organization.  According to Carroll Lorg, its current president, one of its most critical and central goals is to inspire the next generation to enjoy the night sky. If that goal should fail, the possibility exists that there may be no Astronomy for future generations.

As part of this vital goal, the Junior Astronomical League, a new subset of the Astronomical League, is now meeting every second Sunday over zoom.  But there is something more.  My next book will be devoted to those young stargazers.  It actually began as a typewritten saga I wrote in 1958 when I was ten years old, and of all the 40 plus books I have written, this is Wendee’s favorite.   I am now completing a second edition of this book, in which a small group of children go on a stargazing adventure with Clipper, a magic beagle, and with Eureka, an enchanted reflector telescope.  They go past the Moon and planets, the stars, the distant superclusters of galaxies, and even the great voids in distant empty space.

In its final chapter, this book explores the theme articulated in the last verse of Peter, Paul, and Mary’s eminent song “Puff.”   ”A dragon lives forever, but not so girls and boys.”  The children, now grown, go to university.  When they complete their college education, the young woman, adept at math and physics, becomes an astronomer, but the young man goes on to become a lawyer.  He marries, has children who are now grown themselves, and unhappily gets a divorce.  To recover he decides to take a vacation trip to Arizona. Driving his rented car one evening, he pulls off the road, gets out of his car, and looks at the stars. As childhood memories flood back, a second car pulls off.  The young woman astronomer gets out of her car.  The two cannot believe they are reuniting, and they catch up for hours.  Then there is a break in their conversation.  As the couple looks up silently at the stars, the magic beagle, and the telescope, appear and take shape.  In that one ultimate celestial adventure, the  magic of the night has returned.


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