Women Astronomers

girl-looking-through-a-telescope-pietro-rotariThis painting of a young woman looking through a telescope is by Pietro Rotari, an Italian painter of the Baroque period.  He was born in Verona.  His career took him from place and he died in 1762 at the age of 55 in St Petersburg where he had traveled to paint for the Russian court.

He painted mostly women–some famous and his work was noted for its realism and beauty.  His art is showcased on this site.  This one struck me, though, because it is of a woman who is expressing and interest in science, specifically, astronomy.  During Rotari’s lifetime, there were notable women astronomers such as Maria Margaretha Kirch, a German who believed that she deserved an education equivalent to that given to young boys in her time.

At an early age, she showed an interest in astronomy and seized the opportunity to study with Christoph Arnold, a self-taught astronomer who worked as a farmer in Sommerfeld, near Leipzig.  She became his unofficial apprentice and later his assistant, living with him and his family.  She married the famous German astronomer and mathematician, Gottfried Kirch.

Maria was the first woman to discover a comet yet the Academy which she had made dedicated two decades of her life making it one of the foremost centres of astronomy, abandoned her after her husband died.  The academy turned down her request for her son to be appointed astronomer and that she be only his assistant. The institute was reluctant to set a precedent and feared ridicule from other institutions.  Maria spent 18 months petitioning the royal court for the position but received a final rejection in 1712.  Bitterly disappointed, she wrote in the preface to one of her publications that a woman could become “as skilled as a man at observing and understanding the skies”.

However, despite the disappointments she encountered in her career, her publications drew the recognition she deserved.  They included her observations on the Aurora Borealis (1707), a pamphlet on the conjunction of the sun with Saturn and Venus (1709), and a pamphlet in which she predicted a new comet (1711).

Nicole-Reine Lepaute was a French astronomer and Mathematician.  Her father was a valet for Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans, the wife of Louis I of Spain.  Nicole was described as precocious and intelligent, being mostly self taught who stayed up all night “devouring” books and read every book in the library.  She married Jean-André Lepaute, a royal clockmaker in the Luxembourg Palace.

At her suggestion and together with Jean-André, constructed a clock with an astronomical function.  The clock was presented to the French Academy of Science in 1753, where it was inspected and approved by Jérôme Lalande, the same man who once said of Nicole, that even as a child “she had too much spirit not to be curious”  She later worked on a book with him and her husband although she didn’t receive authorship.

Lalande recommended that she and along with mathematician, French mathematician, astronomer, and geophysicist,  Alexis Clairault calculate both the predicted return of Halley’s Comet and the attraction of Jupiter and Saturn of the Halley’s comet.  In November 1758, the team presented their conclusion that the comet would arrive on 13 April 1759.  The actual arrival of the comet was 13 March 1759.  Not bad for a prediction and as a result of their calculations, that was the first time scientists had successfully predicted when the comet would cross the point of the comet orbit closest to the Sun.

Sadly, Clairault didn’t recognize Nicole did not recognize her work at all in his work which greatly upset Lalande.  He considered her the “most distinguished female French astronomer ever.”  He acknowledged her help in an article.  Good for him.

Nicole was again a part of Lalande’s team.  This time she worked with him to calculate the ephemeris of the transit of Venus.  While it is not recorded what her contribution to this project was, in 1761, she she was acknowledged by being inducted as an honorary member of the distinguished Scientific Academy of Béziers.   The pair collaborated for fifteen years on the Academy of Science’s annual guides for astronomers and navigators by developing ephemerides: tables that predict the location of the stars on each day of the year.

After her death, Lalande wrote about her contributions to astronomy. In 1762, Lepaute calculated the exact time of a solar eclipse which occurred on 1 April 1764 and wrote an article in which she gave a map of the eclipse’s extent in 15-minute intervals across Europe and predicted the time and percentage each are in Europe would experience.  And for the years 1774-1784, she calculated the ephemeris of the Sun, the Moon and the planets.

Both Maria Margaretha Kirch and Nicole-Reine Lepaute contributed greatly to science and has made it possible for women of all ages, color, nationalities to follow in their footsteps.  Today, we want to take this time to recognize them for their groundbreaking work and give them the credit they deserve.

 

Sources:  The Woman Gallery; Wikipedia; Epigenesys; Encyclopedia; AstroChix

The Storms

looking-up-wistfully

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1

Some trials are like thunderstorms—ephemeral—they come suddenly and then are gone within a short time.  Other trials linger until we wonder if we will ever come out of them.  During those times, what do we do?  Do we let ourselves be overcome or do we cry out to the Lord for help.  He promised, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).

Whether the storms we face in life are ephemeral or lasting, we have the assurance that they will pass and that we are not going through them alone.

And when we turn to the Lord and trust in Him as we go through these storms, in return He will impart His peace which is unlike anything we will ever experience.  It guards our hearts and our minds as they rest in Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for Saturday’s prompt, Peace; Sunday’s prompt, Help and today’s prompt, Ephemeral.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway

A New Experience

roger-bultot-synagogue

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

My family and I drive past it every day on our way to drop our son to school. It’s a beautiful old building in a quiet neighborhood. I’ve often wondered what it looks like inside.

I recently learned that the word synagogue comes from the Greek word for gathering together. It can be a house of prayer, of learning or a meeting place.  It’s a place where people of shared faith feel at home.

I have a Jewish friend. I wonder if she wouldn’t mind me tagging along one Saturday. I want to experience what their worship service is like.

100 Words

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  BBC

A Time to Die

A time to be born, and a time to die – Ecclesiastes 3:2

woman-grieving-loss

Death is inevitable yet when it comes, it’s a blow.  On Wednesday, I lost my father.  Although we were expecting him to pass away, it was still a shock.  We had hoped that he would hang on a little longer so that my son and I could visit him.  He’s never met his grandson.  He has photos of him and they have spoken but meeting face to face would have been wonderful.  I am thankful that they got to know each other, though.  My son is his first grandchild.  He was recently blessed with another–my brother’s daughter.  I don’t think he got to see her but he knew of her and was very pleased.

Death is our enemy.  It robs us of our loved ones.  It brings pain and sorrow.  It leaves an emptiness that was once filled with our loved ones.  It is like an intruder that breaks into our lives and takes away everything we hold dear.  It is that part of life we don’t want to experience.  It is a reality we don’t want to face.  Yet, it comes.

Death doesn’t have the final say, though.  It isn’t the end.  It will be swallowed up in victory.  And one day, we will ask, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  And we have this assurance:“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (2 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 21:4, KJV).

There is a time to die.  My father lived a long life.  And it was his time to die on the day before Valentine’s Day.  I miss him terribly but I know that I will see him again when the Lord comes.  Until then, I will cherish the memories I have of him.

 

Life’s Surprises and Unspeakable Joy

It’s lunch break at school and as I was walking down the hallway heading towards the cafeteria, Colton texted me.  He wanted me to have dinner at his place tonight.  Excited, I texted him back.   Things were really heating up between us.

Last night after we left the ice rink, we went back to his place and as soon as we went inside, we were all over each other, kissing and pulling off each other’s clothes.  We ended up making love on the rug in front of the fireplace.  Afterwards, we ordered take in Thai food and ate it while watching a movie.  Then, he took me home.

I guess it was inevitable that I should fall madly in love with Colton.  Actually, I think I fell for him since the first time we met which was at a party celebrating Lance’s 18th birthday.  Colton was there with Heather, his then girlfriend, a very pretty blonde.  The moment I saw him, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  Several times, he caught me staring at him and smiled.  Then, just before the cutting of the cake, when I was coming out of the bathroom, he was coming down the hallway.  He walked over and stood right in front of me, towering over me.  I looked up at him, thinking that he was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen in my life.  My heart was beating like crazy.  We were totally alone.  Everyone was in the dining-room, gathered around the table.

“So, are you Lance’s girlfriend?” he asked.

I shook my head at once.  “No, we’re just friends.”

He smiled. “Good. I’m glad to hear that. If you’re not busy tomorrow afternoon, I’d like to take you bowling and then for a bite to eat afterwards.”

I was so blown away by the fact that he was asking me out that I didn’t even think of asking him about his girlfriend.  I found out a couple days after that he had broken up with her.

“I’m not busy tomorrow,” I assured him breathlessly.  “And I’d love to go bowling.”  Actually, I have never been bowling but have heard lots of positive things about it.  And it’s on several lists of perfect first date ideas.

“Where do you live?”

I told him.

“I’ll pick you up at five-thirty.”

“Okay.”

“See you tomorrow.”  And then he was gone.  I stayed there for several minutes, leaning against the door, trying to settle my nerves.  I couldn’t believe that Lance’s brother had just asked me out.  The rest of the evening was a blur for me.  I couldn’t sleep that night because I was too excited.  Colton showed up at exactly five-thirty, looking sexy in his white shirt and jeans.  I saw the way he looked at me and I felt tingly all over.  I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail and was wearing a red top with jeans.  We talked a lot on the way to the bowling alley and had so much fun.

Afterwards, we went to an Italian eatery and enjoyed mouth watering pasta dishes.  He didn’t take me home right after.  We went for a drive along the coast, stopped to admire the view of the Bay for a little while and then he took me home.  Outside on the porch, he asked me out on another date which I promptly accepted.

On Monday when I saw Lance at school, I was bursting with excitement.  We were standing by the lockers when I told him about Colton.  He didn’t seem to mind at all, although I couldn’t see why he should.  That was what we were talking about when those girls saw us and went berserk.

After Lance and I parted company, they ascended on me like a swarm of bees and made all sorts of crude and racist remarks which I ignored.  I didn’t get into anything with them.  I was above that.  Instead, I walked away with my head held high.  One of them said that there was no way that Lance would be into me because I was an ugly girl with glasses.  Hmmph.  Well, there was no way that he would be into her because she was hateful.

I didn’t let their remarks ruin my day.  I had a date with Colton that evening and was looking forward to it.  It was on our fourth date that we made love for the first time.  After we went to a concert in the park, we went back to his place.  He made hamburgers which we ate on the terrace while we watched the sun set.  Then, after finishing our Red and Blue Berry Lemonade Slushes, we went inside.

Without saying anything, he took my hand and led me to his bedroom. After closing the door, he began to kiss me.  I put my arms around his neck and kissed him back.  The kisses soon became very intense and the next thing I knew, we were naked, our clothes strewn on the floor.  He backed me over to the bed, pushed me down gently and then got on top of me.  His mouth covered mine the same instant he took me.  I cried out because of the pain but it soon went away and all I could feel then was intense and mind-blowing pleasure.  I will never forget my first experience.

Last week Saturday my parents went out of town to spend the weekend with my sister and her family.  I called Colton and invited him to come over.  He came over in the evening.  We had the dinner which my mother made earlier that day.  There was enough to feed an army.  We went for a drive, stopped for some ice-cream and then went back to the house.  We spent the evening watching television.  It was after mid-night when we went to bed.  We were in my room.  After we brushed, we slipped under the sheets and made love.  We fell asleep in each other’s arms.

The next morning, he was still sleeping when I woke up.  I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek but he didn’t stir.  He was a deep sleeper.  I got up and drew back the curtains for the sunlight to stream in.  I turned to look at him.  He looked so adorable and sexy, laying there on his left side with his hand resting on my side of the bed.  Unable to resist, I bent over and kissed him on his shoulder before   I went into the bathroom and took a quick shower.  I left a clean, folded towel for him to use on top of the wash basin before getting dressed and heading down to the kitchen to make breakfast.  We spent the day together and then he left late afternoon, a couple of hours before my parents got home.  It was the best weekend I had ever had.

As I sit down now at the table to have my lunch, I can’t help but reflect on our relationship.  We have been dating for half a year now.  For me it’s very serious because I’m so in love with him but I’m not sure if he feels the same way.  I know that he wants me.  I can see it on his face when he looks at me.  Just thinking about how much he wants me makes me tremble and feel warm all over.  I wish we were together right this very minute but I will just have to wait until later.

Thankfully, the day went by quickly and at a quarter to six, I was standing outside of his apartment and ringing the bell.  When he opened the door, my eyes eagerly drank every inch of him.  He looked incredible in the black shirt and jeans.  His hair was slightly damp as if he had just taken a shower.  One of my fantasies is to make love with him in the shower.  It was feeling a bit hot in the hallway all of a sudden.

“Hello,” he said with a smile before he reached down and kissed me hard on the mouth.  When he drew back, his face was slightly flushed.  “Come in.”

I stepped inside, my head spinning from that kiss.   A tantalizing smell assailed my nostrils.  “Something smells really great,” I exclaimed as I followed him through the foyer and into the living-room.

“It’s Crispy Lemon Pepper Chicken.  It’s one of my favorite dishes.”

“Do you need any help?”

“No, thanks.  Just relax in the living-room until everything is ready.”

While he was busy in the kitchen, I turned on the stereo and found a station where they played R&B.  Five minutes later, he was setting things down on the table in the dining-room.  He lit two candles.  He called me to have a seat at the table while he went and got our drinks which were Sparkling Pear Punch.  He sat down and smiling, he said, “Dig in.”

“This is delicious!  How did you learn how to cook like this? Did your mother teach you?  My mother taught me—is still teaching me.”

“No, I learned after I moved out and was living on my own.”

“Lance wasn’t kidding when he said that you’re a phenomenal cook.  He even said that you’re as good as or maybe even better than your mother.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Did you ever make dinner for your ex-girlfriend?”

“No.”

That made me feel really special and I smiled as I raised the glass to take a sip of the punch.

“Have you told your parents about me?”

“Yes, they’re dying to meet you.”

“I bet they are.  Do they know that there’s a considerable age difference between us?”

“Well, they know that you’re not a student.”

“Do they know that I’m white?”

“Yes and they don’t have a problem with that.”

“I’m relieved to hear that.  Jaleesa, there’s something I need to ask you after we finish having our dinner.”

“Okay.”  I wondered what it could be.  I didn’t have to wait very long to find out.  As soon as dinner was over and we were relaxing in the living-room, he turned to me, his expression very serious.

“We’ve been dating for a while now.  In a few months, it will be a year.”

I nodded, my heart beginning to beat faster as I had no idea where this was leading.  I hoped that it wasn’t a preamble for a breakup speech.

“I think it’s time for a change, Jaleesa.”  He reached into his back pocket and took out a small box.  I watched as he got down on his knee beside me.  My eyes popped open and my hand flew up to my mouth as he opened the box and revealed an exquisite diamond ring.  “I’m a bit nervous,” he admitted as he looked up at me.  “I-I’ve never done this before.”

I was almost beside myself with shock and excitement.  Tears were making him a big blur.  And the fact that he was nervous about proposing for the first time was very endearing.

“I love you, Jaleesa.  I fell in love with you the first time we met.  I noticed you the moment you walked into the living-room on the day we were celebrating Lance’s birthday.  Even though I was there with Heather, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  And the first opportunity I got, I had to ask you out but before I did, I had to make sure that you weren’t Lance’s girlfriend.  Soon after you and I got together, I broke up with Heather.  I bought this ring weeks ago and have been dying to propose to you but couldn’t find the courage until now.  And even now, I’m nervous as hell.  Jaleesa, what I’m trying to say—to ask is, will you marry me?”

“Yes!” I was blubbering now and after he slid the finger on my finger, I held his face between my hands and kissed him.  He fell back on the carpet, pulling me down on top of him.  We ended up making love in front of the sofa and celebrated our engagement with non-alcoholic wine afterwards.

Yes, life was full of surprises and unspeakable joy.

The Trees/Caught #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

I stood gazing up at the tree.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen.  It was twisted with a gaping hole through which the sun streamed through and its limbs looked like tentacles.  Of course, it got my imagination running wild.  I imagined that it was an alien tree planted among normal trees.  It fascinated and repulsed me at the same time.  At any moment, I expected it to come alive like the trees in Lord of the Rings.

I sat down in the grass beside it and opened my notebook.  It never occurred to me to write a story about a tree but this one begged to be my next subject.  I pondered for a long moment, wondering what could one possibly say about a tree?  Then, I began to write.  The words began to pour out, filling an entire page.

Suddenly, I became very drowsy.  My eyes felt so heavy.  I fought to keep them open but I couldn’t…

I had no idea how long I had dozed off for but when I opened my eyes, it was getting dark.  The sun was setting.  It’s bright orange glow blazed across the sky and engulfing the trees in its fiery splendor.   The trees.  With a start I realized that they weren’t regular trees anymore and they were talking among themselves.  Shaking with fear, I tried to figure out how I could slip away unnoticed.

I closed my notebook and began to creep away, hoping to put as much distance between them and me as possible.  Then, I felt something on my leg and I turned around.  The alien tree was bending towards me and I could see that it had a face where the hole used to be.  It didn’t look like an Ent.  What was it? 

As if it read my mind, it said in a low, deep voice, “I am Gargantwart.  The Ents, I and others like myself protect humans from the tree trolls which invade the forest as soon as night falls.  Quick, climb onto my branch and I will take you to the edge of the forest where you will be safe.  No time to delay.  The sun will soon depart and darkness will come.”

I had two choices, make a dash for it and risk running into the tree trolls or climb on this monstrous tree and have it take me to safety.  The sound of what sounded like thunder, the shaking of the ground and the other trees, yelling, “Hurry, they are coming,” made my mind up for me and in one leap, I was in the tree and clinging for dear life to its branches.

When it stood up, I had to close my eyes because I’m acrophobic.  I felt the breeze on my face, heard the swooshing sound of the wind in the leaves and the sensation of moving through the forest.  It was a weird experience–one that no one would believe.  Then, we stopped moving.  And I felt myself being lowered.

When I opened my eyes I realized that I was lying on the sofa in the living-room and my brother was staring at me.  Startled, I sat up.  The television was on and the closing credits for Lord of the Rings were rolling.  Dazed, I looked around me, trying to figure out what had happened.  My opened notebook lay beside me and written in it were paragraphs of my story.

“You slept through the rest of the movie,” my brother informed me.

I stared at him.  “Movie?”

“Yes, sleepyhead.  We were supposed to be watching Lord of the Rings but, you fell asleep right when they were showing the Ents, the coolest part of the movie.”  He shook his head.  “Sisters, I’ll never understand them.”

I sat there, thinking, this had all been a fanciful dream.  Smiling, I picked up my pen and began to write.

This is written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Caught for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Masterpiece Generator

Nisha/Wave #writephoto

sea-mist

Photo courtesy of Sue Vincent

Her sister, Nisha was dead and she felt nothing.  As she stared at the sea her mind traveled back to what happened to her ten years ago.  She was 13 at the time.  She left her home with Nisha and her husband, thinking that they were going to Delhi but instead, they ended up in a remote village.  She was sold into marriage to a man old enough to be her father.

Hatred toward her sister and her brother-in-law welled inside her.  They had betrayed her.  She trusted them and they betrayed her.  They made her believe that they were going to Delhi but instead they took her to a village where strange men were coming into the room where she was kept and looking at her as if she were a piece of merchandise and offering money.  All the while Nisha stood outside, knowing what what was going to happen to her and not having a change of heart.  She kept hoping that her sister would rush in and try to stop what was happening but she didn’t.  Fortune meant more to Nisha than her sister did.

She managed to escape and was rescued by an anti-trafficking charity.  She was sent back to her parents.  She was among the lucky girls.  Many of them are lost to their families and trapped in a world of sex and domestic slavery.  Several days later, word got back to the family that police busted a human trafficking ring.  Nisha and her husband were part of the ring responsible for selling girls to men in the same village where they had taken her.

Now ten years later, she was working for the charity which rescued her.  She was determined to fight people like Nisha and her husband and all the evil forces to protect other girls from going through the horrors she did.  Nisha was dead now but there were others like her out there who preyed on young girls for profit.  She was going to fight them.  And more traffickers were going to end up in prison like her brother-in-law.  She hoped he was rotting in there.

One thing she learned from this whole experience was that the face of evil didn’t have to belong to a stranger–it could very well belong to someone very close to you.  She felt no sorrow over Nisha’s death–only peace.  It was one less evil person to fight against.

To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil – Sue Monk Kidd

Do not accept an evil you can change – E. Lockhart, We Were Liars

This was inspired by a true story of a teenager who was sold into marriage by her sister and brother-in-law.  It was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Waves at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

 

Sources:  The Guardian; Washington Post