Freedom to do Astronomy

Stars and Veterans

Poppies for Armistice Day

My dad is a military veteran. He fought in the U.S. Army in the Korean War and was one of the lucky ones to come back alive. He was also the person who first got me started in astronomy, taking me out to look at the stars when I was probably just barely old enough to know what those lights in the sky were. He’s always been fascinated with space and astronomy and has a couple of telescopes and I don’t know how many books about the subjects. I can proudly say that if it wasn’t for him, as well as my mom’s push for me to get good grades (which I didn’t always do) and be a reader (which I DID do), my own interest in astronomy might never have bloomed.

Stars for Veterans Day
Stars for Veterans Day

So, this one’s for you, Daddy, on Veteran’s Day—for coming home and making sure that I got bit by the star bug, and for being such a star-hopper yourself!

Veteran’s Day is the U.S. variant on celebrations like Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other countries. It’s a time to thank the men and women who are in the armed services who have served their countries in times of peace AND war. Regardless of how you feel about war, soldiers (whether your own country’s or those of other countries), the day is there to remember their service and sacrifices. It’s a very human holiday and I can’t think of any country in the world that doesn’t owe at least some measure of thanks to those who served.

There’s an interesting connection between war and astronomy. In the really olden days, war planners consulted the stars for propitious times to do battle. Why, they even had Mars—their very own god of war. Later on, the development of the telescope (while not strictly a military invention) allowed ship captains to spy out their adversaries at sea, and land-bound armies to see their enemies coming long before battle.

Today’s astronomers (vet and non-vet alike) benefit from instruments that were developed for military use. These days, such things as adaptive optics and remote sensing are giving us unprecedented views of the cosmos. Those technologies were largely developed for military use (either during wartime or for “intelligence” purposes).

I kind of like to think that these technologies are transcending their warlike roots. At first they’re used by people who are awarded stars for bravery and valor. Now, they’re delivering the stars to everyone, a graceful and wonderful Veteran’s Day/Remembrance Day gift.

Daddy, Pete Petersen,  Grandpa Collins, Rollie, Tony and all the others who served — THANK YOU!

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