Thursday, May 10, 2007

Looking Up Down Under


In 2008 I will be a visitor down under: for part of my sabbatical leave (February and March) I will be a visiting professor at the University of New South Wales Faculty of Law. (I am to be the Julius Stone Visiting Professor. More about the influential, interesting, and prolific Julius Stone later.)

I have many reasons for looking forward to this visit. Among my reasons is the presence of many interesting people down under -- for example, the mathematician, historian, and social commentator James Franklin at the University of New South Wales, Tim van Gelder in Melbourne, and many other people, people I hope to mention and discuss on these pages later.

But one of my reasons for looking forward to my visit down under is looking up -- looking up at the skies, that is. There are few places on earth with little "light pollution." Death Valley in California was once such a place. But many parts of Australia are an astronomer's paradise -- dry air and little man-made light.

It has been decades since I was an active amateur astronomer. But I hope to pick up this avocation again a little bit when I go to Australia. The opportunity to go to regions where the skies are truly dark, much the way they were thousands of years ago, is just too alluring to resist.

Now I have to buy some good astronomical binoculars (nothing more fancy). I am terribly behind the times. I loved my small refractor, crude and misshapen though it was. Now, for about the same amount of money, I will get a far better device, one that will partially remedy the ravages of time on my eyes.

N.B. I hope to visit Tasmania -- to look down at marsupials and other terrestrial wonders.

Gemini Observatory, US National Science Foundation, and the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy
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