Week 4: In the Sun

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Friday, July 12, 2013


Fiona Muir

I finally understand what everyone else has been saying all along – the weeks seem shorter and shorter the longer I’m here! This week at work has been spent figuring out what we’re actually going to do with all the information we’ve collected and how we can help teachers to create lessons focused on women in physics. It turns out that (luckily!) for one week in 1900, everyone working at the Harvard Observatory was asked to keep a diary of what they were working on and give some information about life at the Observatory. I was able to find scans of the diary of one of the female “computers” who worked on cataloging stars and performing calculations for the Observatory Director and I’ve been typing it up, ready to see if we can use it in our project.

The highlight of this week was definitely our trip out to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where Alec and Darren are spending the summer.  After a bit of a queuing and passport checking for me to get my special, Department of Homeland Security approved, non-American citizen visitor’s badge saying that the organization I was representing was “United Kingdom,” I was feeling the pressure to be a good representative. The tour made everything worthwhile. Even though we only saw a tiny part of everything that goes on at Goddard, there was still an incredibly huge amount of stuff on display. Everywhere you looked there was equipment that was about to go in to space, machines that had already been in to space and, excitingly, the James Webb Space Telescope, hopefully launching in to space in a few years. It was amazing to see all the time, effort and enthusiasm that go in to…actual rocket science.

On Thursday night, Katherine and I went out to the Wolf Trap Center in north Virginia to see She & Him play and it was the nicest venue I think I’ve ever been in. It’s somewhere between inside and outside and thanks to the seats we had, we were able to see all the surrounding forests and the sunset while still managing to stay under cover. This turned out to be more necessary than we thought as the thunder and lightning started and my phone began to pick up flash flood warnings for the area! Luckily, the show went on and we had a great time and (almost) made it back without getting caught in the rain.

Next week we’ve got the tour of NIST on Friday to look forward to and I’m just starting work on a section about women and minorities in NASA so I’ll definitely be keeping busy!

Fiona Muir