Irene Baron: www.irenebaron.com
How did I become an astronomy teacher? How did I successfully find the Christmas star?
That’s a story.
I was not originally a student of the sciences. In junior high school when everyone told me 9th grade science was a difficult subject, I didn’t take it. Instead I took culinary arts and sewing.
In high school, everyone said the only science that was “fun” was chemistry. Since we were required to have one science to graduate, I took chemistry. It was fun, especially the labs. Unfortunately, the ceiling’s fire scar that I caused remained above my assigned lab station until the school was demolished many years later for a new building. They never replaced the tile or painted over the black burn mark. So I was one of the few students to truly leave left my mark in high school.
The fire was totally caused by semantics. The chem lab book instructions were to measure out 10-mL of alcohol into a graduated cylinder. The instructions were given to pour 1-mL of the alcohol into another dish and set it aside. The next instructions were to set fire to it. Since there was no definition as to what “it” was, my “straight-A” lab partner and I thought “it” referred to the remaining 9-mL of alcohol. I set fire to the 9-mL of alcohol. The resulting flame silently whooshed upward in a huge column. When the flame hit the ceiling tile it spread out in colorful flames in 360-degrees for a distance of about 50-centimeters in all directions. The whole flaming site was almost a meter in diameter.
I must admit it was a spectacular event. The alcohol burned instantly and the fire was out within seconds. It didn’t spread to the ceiling tiles. The instructor came back into the room from the adjoining room and was left speechless. My lab partner and I were embarrassed after seeing everyone else lighting the 1-mL of alcohol. After that we consulted the teacher for the correct interpretation of the lab book instructions.
By the time I was 16-years old, teachers and the school Dean were calling my parents telling them I had not signed up for the college preparation classes. They insisted that with my ability I should be planning on attending college. I had previously signed up for the “work-study” program where you went to school half a day and worked half a day. I wanted to become a department store window designer and eventually a buyer. That was changed quickly as my parents had my schedule changed. Up to that time, I never dreamed I’d be allowed to go to college. WOW! That meant I could major in art and become a great artist.
My father said, “Absolutely NOT!”
My next favorite subjects were in physical education. I was a “girl athlete.” I took gymnastics lessons and performed for the school, was the second fastest female runner in the 8 & 9 grades, played baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, swimming, etc. I told my Father that since he wouldn’t allow me to study art, I would study physical education in college.
Again he said, “NO!”
I asked, “What else is there?”
He gave me a stern look and said, “Math or science.”
I looked at him dumbfounded knowing I would probably flunk out in math. I settled for the easier science.
That is how I began my science career. Believe it or not, I took more math and chemistry classes at Hiram College than any other subject with a general science major. One of the best classes I took was Astronomy given Professor Emeritus Clarke who was ranked as the 13th top mathematician in the world. Since he was so famous, his classroom was filled. Everyone wanted to experience his teaching in the last class he would ever give.
The subject of astronomy was a little more difficult than many had anticipated. Therefore the attendance dropped by more than half within two weeks. During that class we had to volunteer every week at the Stephens Memorial Observatory on campus and learn how to use the large refracting telescope. We had to observe stars, planets, and constellations often and know what phase the moon was in on any day. We had an excellent book and learned well. The photo to the left is by James Guilford, 2008.
On my Graduate Record Exams (GRE) my grade was in the 99th-percentile because of the astronomy. How many other science students in the country had excellent astronomy classes? Not many. Because I did and could answer the astronomy questions easily, my score was skewed upwards.
I didn’t know it at the time, but there was a reason I was pushed into a science career. There was a reason I learned about astronomy. There was a reason I studied art at the local art center 3-hours every week beginning at age 8 for 10-years and attended over 360-hours of ceramic classes with ceramist Henry Paulin, PhD from Ohio State University.
Dr. Paulin had me design a ceramic piece and duplicate the design in clay. We did everything required by the Rockefeller Foundation for a fellowship/scholarship for college. Dr. Paulin was sure I’d win a “full ride” fellowship as very few high school students worked in ceramics two hours daily all year to gain the experience I had. My former art studies prepared me for design, proportion, etc. to create an unusual but well designed and functional piece of ceramic art. Unfortunately, a learning-disabled student managed to climb up to the shelf where it was drying as green ware, picked it up, and dropped it. When I came in to the ceramics classroom later in the day, Dr. Paulin cried as he told me the piece had been destroyed. There was not enough time left to create and process another one through the drying time, firing, glazing, etc. I didn’t know it at the time, but there was a reason I wasn’t to go into the field of ceramics.
There was a reason I learned how to use computers. The reasons became apparent when I received the 68-NASA astronomy computer programs. They came out of the blue. I didn’t request them. Didn’t even know they existed. They were sent by JPL out of Houston, Texas. By the time I received them, I knew how to use them to extract/compute data.
As soon as I received the astronomy computer programs, the first research I began was to find the Christmas star. I had to use my science knowledge in using the scientific method. I had to use the mathematics to reason how to make the computer adjust backwards 2,000-years. I had to have the spatial observation and understanding from all the art classes to visualize how the heavens would appear at any given time according to the printouts.
There was a reason I was hired by Battelle Memorial Institute as an Information Specialist. They sent me to study in London with the World Engineers Joint Council. Through them classes were provided in: Information Systems Research, Coordinate Indexing, Operations, Procedural Steps, Information Systems, Syntactical Problems, Information Retrieval, Thesauri construction, Relationships of Knowledge/Information/Data, etc. This research was for use in information gathering for RACIC (Remote Area Conflict Information Center). We were taught how to take a book and condense it to 4-5 words so the book could be found in an information retrieval system using any of those words. This was a precursor to the current day word search used on the Internet programs such as Google, Bing, etc.
Learning all the different methods of researching information allowed me to increase my skill level in information systems and information retrieval systems. These gave me much background which helped later in researching Archaeoastronomy, ancient symbols, symbolism, astronomy of ancient times, etc.
There was a reason I did my research in Zanesville where the public librarians were extremely polite and accommodating to help locate books I needed from their interlibrary loan system. There were books they obtained for me that were so old, they may have been the last ones in existence. I used almost 100-books researching how the ancient astronomers would interpret what they saw in the skies. When I found a great book, I would glean the bibliography to find more titles to study. It was an exciting quest and adventure trying to locate the information I needed.
The computer research took 2-years working evenings and weekends. Using the programs, I surveyed about 15-years of skies from 2,000-years earlier. Since the astronomers of Christ’s time used dawn for their observations, every time I initiated a search the parameters were set for dawn. To be uniform, I put in the time of 6 o’clock in the morning at the correct latitude and longitude of Bethlehem of Judea. In astronomy, when those lines are extended into space, they become “declination” and “right ascension”.
My computer had a “print-it” button. Anything that showed up on the screen, once the print-it button was pushed, would be printed. I didn’t have to stick around and wait for the printing to take place for some of the computer calculations took hours. I would be doing something else in another part of the house and hear the printer begin printing the results of the last search. Some took over 12-hours and printed out the following day. I was using computer paper at that time that had all the pages attached to one another. The results sometimes printed out 50-60 sheets of results. Many of the printouts were illustrations as are found in the Christmas star book, Unraveling the Christmas Star Mystery. Others were data. I went through a lot of paper.
As described, there were many variables in my life that led up to my finding the Christmas star. I don’t consider the specific types of knowledge I acquired in my life “accidents.” I believe there were reasons I was guided to all the ventures so that I would be prepared to use the computers, find the data, be able to interpret the data correctly using historical facts, and put it in a written format.
Did I publish it right away? No. Never thought about it at the time. Instead, I corresponded with planetarium directors and astronomers to pass on my results. One was in Germany. He wanted a copy of my data which I sent to him. I saw that later he published a paper giving the same results and conclusion I had supplied him. It didn’t bother me, for I thought the information should be public anyway. I was miffed he didn’t cite me as his source.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I condensed the data and put it into a publishing format. It was published as a nonfiction book. I was pleased the book was awarded the First Place, Gold Medal in the Illumination Book Awards as the 2013 Exemplary Christian Education Book. That was an honor. To be author of the best Christian education book of the year…sweet!
The book, Unraveling the Christmas Star Mystery, is fact. It validates the Bible. It proves the written information relating of the birth of Christ in the Bible is correct. Persons who are not Christians should read the facts. When they do, they will most likely begin to question their own religion.
All the information was put together by a Christian. Had I not been a Christian, none of this would have happened. I was given what background I needed to find and understand the data.
Now I know the reasons why specific things happened in my life. I had been pointed in the right direction. This allowed the Christmas star problem to be researched. The findings were written down, illustrated, and published. Knowing novels in the USA have to be written for a 6th-grade reading level, this nonfiction book was written for understanding by readers age 12 and up.
The beginnings of this book brought me through many different learning avenues. I don’t think they were accidental. Everything that has happened to me was a gift. For them, I am thankful.
With permission, some quotes by David H. Judson in his book:
Are You Attackable? Embracing God During the Battles in Life.
" There are times when we need to go through trials to truly understand and gain experience for a future situation."
" You have a mission to complete, and God has entrusted you with the skills and abilities to complete the mission in His power. However, to stand in the gap, you must listen to God's call and you must have the courage to get started finding, developing, and using your talents to move forward in His plan."
David wrote a great book which I highly recommend. Many things he wrote "hit the nail on the head" in my thoughts and life.