Astronomie Québec n°2-2 jui/aoû 2013
Astronomie Québec n°2-2 jui/aoû 2013
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  • Parution : n°2-2 de jui/aoû 2013

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  • Editeur : Pierre Paquette

  • Format : (216 x 279) mm

  • Nombre de pages : 44

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Gabriel Brammer, ambassadeur photo de l’ESO, a capturé cette image le 5 mars 2013, à l’Observatoire de Paranal (Chili). On y voit la comète C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) à droite, et la comète C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) au centre. La « troisième comète » est une étoile filante. Crédit : ESO/G. Brammer DL : I hope so ! PP : Speaking of strange… I’m sure you’ve seen strange things in the sky. What was the moment that caught your emotions the most ? DL : I would say it’s when I find a new comet. I feel as though I’ve been catapulted into space, to see this new object that I’ve never seen before, and in some cases, that nobody has ever seen before ! It’s certainly an exciting thing, especially when it’s bright enough. For example, I don’t know if you’ve seen comet Lemmon in the morning sky recently, but it looks like a bright globular cluster ; I saw it just a few days ago. It’s beautiful ! And I really enjoyed looking at it. It’s about 7th magnitude right now, and very exciting to see ! That’s kind of the thing that takes my breathe away ! givenup years ago. And when I discovered my most recent visual comet in 2006, I went back to bed, and I asked Wendee : « Should I giveup now ? » and Wendee looked at me and said : « Are you enjoying it ? » and I said : « Yes » « Is it really exciting to be out there under the stars, looking for comets ? » and I said : « Yes », then she said : « Then keep going ! The morning that you getup and it’s no longer fun any more, that’s when you stop ! ». PP : You must enjoy what you do, and do what you enjoy ! DL : Yeah ! The other thing that I enjoy the most is connecting astronomy to literature. I’ll tell you an interesting story about that… I was on an airplane, and I was reading an article that somebody had written about two of the comets that I had discovered, a number of years ago. I was reading that, and it was boring ! It actually was the most boring thing I had read in a long time ; it almost put me to sleep ! So I have to tell you that my two favourite writers who’ve written things about comets that I like the most, are Leslie Peltier, and he wrote : « I have watched a dozen comets, hitherto unknown, slowly creep across the sky as each one signed its sweeping flourish in the guest book of the sun. » That’s just one sentence describing what comets meant to him ! And here’s another writer you might have heard of, who’s describing what comets meant to him : that’s William Shakespeare, my favourite amateur astronomer ! And he wrote : « Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night ! Comets, importing change of times and states, brandish your crystal tresses in the sky… » And these are the things that I enjoy reading, the people that have caught the magic of the night sky, whether it’s comets, meteors, just lookingup, anything ! If they can capture it poetically like that, then they’ve succeeded in my book. PP : I can imagine that laying your eyes on something that nobody has ever seen before is indeed something very… you must feel privileged ! DL : It’s something magical, and something that — I don’t ever expect to find another comet, but I still enjoy the search ; that’s the important thing ! I enjoy the search very much. PP : It’s half the fun ! DL : I think it’s 90 percent of the fun ! And if I were just out there to discover new comets, I would have « Si j’étais seulement là pour découvrir des comètes, j’aurais abandonné depuis longtemps ! » PP : Indeed… Well, I just find magical that you remember those writings by heart ! DL : I do remember them, except that I have to be honest with you, I have my little book with me, and they’re both written there, so I’m quoting from the book ! I remembered them, but not by heart… PP : You mentioned that Shakespeare was your favourite amateur astronomer. Who would be your favourite professional astronomer ? DL : Ooh ! Now that is a question that’s very difficult to answer… I would say,um… Gene Shoemaker… Although he was not a professional astronomer… Bart Bok ! There you go ! Bart J. Bok was my favourite professional astronomer. And he was my favourite because he loved — he was passionate about — the Milky Way ! And he love to talk about it to anybody who would listen. 20 Astronomie-Québec Juillet–aout 2013
'# ; + +.. *.. happen some day ! If I ever stop visual observing, then I’ve stopped. But I haven’t yet. PP : Do you foresee that day ? DL : Not yet, I’m still enjoying it a lot, but it might happen. You know, I’ve been doing this for over 50 years. PP : But I’m wondering… if the man ever stops doing astronomy, can astronomy get out of the man ? DL : It’s possible that the Harper government could pass a law that makes it forbidden to lookup at the night sky, or the Obama government would say : « Thou shalt not lookup at the night sky any more ! » But I would just break the law and continue to do it ! (laughs) PP : Well, if one of them does it, I move, I change country ! Image de globules de Bok dans la nébuleuse « Pacman » (IC 281), par le Télescope spatial Hubble, en octobre 2005. Crédit : NASA, ESA, et The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Remerciements : P.McCullough (STScI). PP : Have you had the chance to meet him ? DL : I wrote his biography, yes, I met him, I knew him very well ! PP : His work about the Milky Way was very detailed. Every astronomer has heard of the Bok Globules. DL : The globules, yes. And I’ve written a lot about those globules that he first identified as to what they are ; it’s very fascinating that he has done that. But he is definitely my favourite professional astronomer. Clyde Tombaugh, who was not a professional astronomer — but they paid him, so I guess you’d have to call him that — is also my favourite. PP : Great names, that wrote history ! And you wrote history yourself with all those comets that you found ! DL : Well, maybe a little bit, yeah… PP : What do you predict the future of visual comet discovery to be ? DL : Visually… that’s a very good question. I think that briefly, that the number of comet discoveries is going to continue drop ; right now, it’s one every three or four years. It will probably continue to drop so that it’s one every five to ten years… but I don’t think that there will ever be a last visual comet discovery : there’llalways be a couple that are found that way, but they will be extremely rare. It’s one of the reasons that I, myself, am now observing using a large telescope with a CCD attached to it, as wellas my visual survey. But the day that I stop looking through a telescope, my friend, is the day that I stop being an amateur astronomer. And that could DL : OK, we’ll move to a country where they’ll never pass such a law… But I don’t think that they will do it, neither country. PP : Hopefully… DL : Neither man is thinking of doing that. PP : Well, somehow I would not be surprised that Harper does it… DL : Oh ! I would be… I would be surprised. The funny thing is, that as much — I have to tell you ; I know that’s way off-topic — but as much as I am a liberal democrat living in the United States, and I admire [Barack] Obama very much, I also like [Stephen] Harper. I think that he’s doing what he thinks is best for Canada, and I think he’s doing a good job, basically. He’s having a rough time, right now, and a lot of good people want to replace him, but I think he’s a good man. PP : I think that deep inside, every politician wants to do what they think is best… DL : Yeah, I think so, and especially Harper, I think. He’s a good man who wants to do his best. You know, I’m sure I would vote Liberal if I were back in Canada now, but there is one other thing that I can say, that if there were another referendum on Quebec’s status within Canada, and if I were voting, if I was standing in line to vote, of course I would vote to stay within Canada ; however, je suis Québécois ! I was born in Quebec, I grewup in Quebec, and no matter what happens, I’m stilla part of Quebec ! PP : I think those words will make a lot of people happy to hear ! Juillet–aout 2013 astronomie-quebec.com 21



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