The Milky Way: It’s not rocket science

Starry Sackville takes us on a tour through our universe

The Milky Way wasn’t visible on my way to Dr. Catherine Lovekin’s first Starry Sackville presentation of the season. The rain had subsided though, as Gore-Tex-clad space enthusiasts filled an intimate classroom in the Dunn Building last Friday evening.

Lovekin, an astronomy professor at Mount Allison, presented on stars, galaxies and the universe, paying special attention to the Milky Way Galaxy. As an amateur when it comes to astronomy, attending a lecture on space can be intimidating. But during her talk, Lovekin challenged the notion that astronomy is a daunting field that only experts can understand.

The first Starry Sackville presentationof the year, led by Dr. Catherine Lovekin,taught audience members about astronomy, our galaxy, and beyond. Ashli Green/Argosy

Lovekin first put audience members who may not excel in chemistry at ease by stating that the only elements astronomists need in-depth knowledge of are hydrogen and helium. She also explained that astronomists use a method called parallax, which involves holding their thumb up to their eye, to measure distances in space.

Siena Davis, a fourth-year biology student, found Lovekin’s talk particularly insightful. “I enjoyed the way she explained abstract concepts in concrete ways, as it was very useful in grasping the subject matter,” said Davis, who attended the lecture for both course credit and an interest in the Milky Way. “I’m a bio student, and it’s nice to learn about things out of my comfort zone.”

Daniel Macgregor, a fourth-year history major, used Starry Sackville as a tool for improving his comprehension of the subject. “I am in an astronomy course and I wanted to get to know the material better. Also, I wanted to get to know more about the galaxy we inhabit,” Macgregor said. “It was a great way to spend a Friday night.”

When asked what she hoped audience members gained from the presentation, Lovekin said, “I hope they gain an appreciation for how awesome space is.… It’s important to understand our place in the world and how insignificant we are.” She believes it’s beneficial for everyone to have at least a general understanding of astronomy, because “Space shows us how precious and fragile life and Earth are.”

Learning about space is not as intimidating and abstract as one may think, and Lovekin’s Starry Sackville series is a great place to start. Stay tuned for a new topic next time, and keep your fingers crossed that the stars will be visible at the second presentation in November.

Jane Rempel
Jane Rempel is a fourth-year English major and drama minor from the Vancouver, BC area. She has three friends and one cat.