A Postcard from Emily Levesque
19th April, 2020
Emily Levesque, author of The Last Stargazers, shares an insight into life under lockdown where she lives in Seattle, Washington.
I live in Seattle, Washington. The first detected case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was here in Washington state, so we’ve been working from home for a full month at this point. I’m an astronomy professor at the University of Washington, and have been humbled and amazed by the incredible accomplishments of the scientists in our virology lab who have been leading the way in testing efforts. In the astronomy department my colleagues and I have been focusing our efforts on our students, quickly shifting all of our teaching work online and supporting our research students from afar.
Astronomy observatories all over the world have had to temporarily close up shop due to the pandemic. In The Last Stargazers I write about how technology has changed the way that astronomers work, allowing us to remotely operate telescopes from afar. However, even at remotely-run observatories staff members and employees must remain onsite, so for their safety most astronomical operations have ceased. Shuttering even one world-class observatory and letting the telescopes sit idle is extremely rare given how precious telescope time is in our profession; closing this many telescopes across the globe is utterly unprecedented. It truly emphasizes that we’re all engaged in nothing less than a planetary battle to defeat this virus.
I hope everyone reading this can stay safe, stay healthy, and find quiet moments to look up and stargaze from time to time during the dark nights ahead.