A novelty pair of dog tags made for me at a carnival
in the late '80's reads: "Lisa Marie Frattare -
Astronomer - Psychologist - Jim's Girl." In the
subsequent 10 years' time, I can add: "(Jim's) wife
- mom - astronomical observer - Hubble Heritage
Team Image Processor." It's good to know my life's
accomplishments can still all fit on one dog tag!
My earliest memories of astronomy are precious:
the "Goodnight Moon" book; having mom rinse my hair
saying "Look up at the stars..." so I wouldn't get
soap in my eyes; someone pointing to an early evening
planet saying it was "The Star of Bethlehem." I
loved staying up late, having the shades open at
night to watch stars and the moon traverse my bedroom
window. One of my most vivid memories of the cosmos
was not at night but during the day, with the shade
pulled down in my room. Tiny pinprick holes in the
shade made up little constellations, and I remember
contemplating that perhaps real stars were pinpricks
on what would evolve into a celestial sphere shade.
Who put them there, and why?
I was taught very little formal astronomy in school
before college. Only a few memories linger: a science
fair project here, a "Powers of 10" poster there.
In college I was a psychology major, mostly because
a high-school guidance counselor asked what class
I enjoyed the most. (Astronomy was only taught for
about 3 weeks in my physics class, and physics itself
was definitely not my favorite.)
But I took astronomy as an elective, and I absolutely
fell in love with it. Stepping out on the roof overlooking
Lake Ontario for my first astronomy lab class in
Oswego, NY, seeing first the sunset over the lake,
and then the crescent moon and several planets lined
up across the sky, I felt I had never seen such
a beautiful sight. My soul wept for never before
having seen or experienced this beautiful display
before my eyes- until now. And that was all it took.
At age 18, I knew my calling.
I studied astronomy in college for 11 years, at
State, Arizona State University, and Wesleyan University.
Today I am just having too much fun working for
the Hubble Space Telescope to pursue any more schooling
at the moment (plus trying to pay back alot of student
loans), but getting a Ph.D. remains on my proverbial
"to-do" list. As well as the astronaut program.
I must say I love observing
the most: Kitt Peak, Cerro Tololo in Chile, and
Flagstaff, Arizona are now at the top of the my
list for precious astronomical memories. I was lucky
to have recently observed at Keck in Waimea, Hawaii.
However, I didn't actually go to the top of the
mountian, so I am taking it on other's words that
the one of the most powerful telescopes in the world
was hooked up to my computer in the remote observing
room at the base of the mountain.
I do get to fit in some science
every now and then: discovery of this luminous
blue variable here and another mysterious variable
star there. I also am very active on the issue
in Astronomy. Working on the Hubble Heritage
Team, I satisfy other needs---to find beauty in
science, to share it with others, to help others
be inspired, and enable them to see something wonderful
that they never saw before.
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