Wednesday, September 23, 2009

She's an Astronomer Forum

Starting quietly (for now) is the She's an Astronomer Forum, part of the IYA2009 Cornerstone project. The project aims to raise issues related to gender equity in astronomy; the forum is the place they provide for us all to discuss those issues.

7 Depressing Strategies

How do you make the best of a bad situation? Women in the US often cannot afford to even take of the federally mandated minimum 12 weeks leave after the birth of their children. This article from the US News Money section cites that US women offered the federal minimum take an average of 6 weeks off after the birth of their baby (to put this in perspective, most women are not given medical permission to exercise until at least 6 weeks after this major physical event), while those with paid leave take an average of 10.5 weeks.

Never-mind say authors Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio, we'll tell you how to cope with going back to work with a baby who cannot yet hold their head up - they review their book in the article. Interestingly most of their suggestions seem to be completely at odds with the statistics quoted above them. They suggest you aim to be completely out of the loop for "several weeks", but to keep in touch towards the end of your leave. They advise you spend time during your leave finding good childcare, commenting that this can often take up to 6 months.

Monday, September 14, 2009

We're not the only ones

Kim Clijsters, belgian tennis player and mother of one, won the US open yesterday. With an 18-month old, she's only the third mother to ever win a major tournament. Talk about another profession where balancing work and family life is difficult! We astronomers don't have to stay in super physical shape post-baby to stay competitive in our field, but finally submitting that paper can certainly feel as good and rewarding (and be as exhausting!) as winning a major sporting event. I hope I win my own "US open" soon...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Amazing Picture of the ISS

Thanks to The Bad Astronomer for posting some amazing pictures of the International Space Station taken by Ralf Vandebergh (from the ground using just a 10 inch telescope, and manual tracking). I just had to share. Mr. Vandenbergh must have an amazingly steady hand, and huge reserved of patience! The one I reproduce above also shows as an inset the Space Shuttle approaching the ISS.

When I was hosting star gazing parties fairly often (as a graduate student) I would enjoy nights when the ISS was going to be visibly passing overhead. (You can find such information for any given location on Heaven's Above). I was always amused to see the many skeptics, some of whom clearly had trouble believing I could know such a thing. We would go out onto the deck just a few minutes before the scheduled pass - usually after much persuading on my part. Then came the waiting, and the doubting (on their part, not mine). Finally the ISS would appear lit up by the Sun as a moving bring spot, arc over the sky and disappear (when it passed into the Earth's shadow). After that I always got a lot more respect.