JOB POSTING: Paid Summer Intern
Crossroads at Big Creek announces a paid summer internship for a young person preparing for a career in an environmental field. Hours: 12:30-3:30 Tuesdays through Saturdays from June 13-August 18. $10/hour. Duties include: receptionist/interpreter, some light housekeeping, weeding, and recording bird and butterfly observations. Interested students should call 746-5895 to discuss the position or send a letter and/or resume to Crossroads, Box 608, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 54235 by April 17.
Last year, Crossroads at Big Creek received funds from the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium to introduce astronomy to “learners of all ages.” So we’ve offered programs for the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, pre-school students from Sunset School, elementary school field trips, a continuing education class for teachers through the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and last week, we presented a class called “Astronomy for Grandparents” through Learning in Retirement.
The grants ends at the end of March, so our finale will be a number of “Family Programs” focusing on astronomy. In spite of the “family” name, all participants of all ages (with or without relatives) are welcome.
Pertaining to space, the term “all ages” is truly apt. Somewhere out there, new stars are being born out of clouds of dust. Somewhere out there, other stars are aging into collapse or going “supernova” or if a dying star is really, really massive, maybe even imploding and forming a black hole.
Let’s just say, when we gaze into a clear night sky, we are seeing stars of all ages. Some are relatively young (in star years); some stars are nearing their ends (though their matter will remain) and most stars are somewhere in between. The apparent brightness of a star to an observer on Earth doesn’t give a clue to its age.
That’s why I always sort of grin to myself when the media exuberantly announces that an exoplanet (a planet that orbits another star) might have life because it is in the “habitable zone” —just right distance from its star to have liquid water.
The formation of a star and its exoplanets takes a long time, and even after planets form, they are tempestuous places: molten rock constantly bombarded with comets, asteroids, and rogue planets. And heat from within causes volcanic eruptions. No continents, no water, extreme heat. A young planet is not suitable for life even if it is in the habitable zone.
Scientists speculate that the Earth had been a planet for about a billion years before bacteria began to live here and maybe another billion before multicellular life appeared. And the development of life was not uneventful or steady—there were world-wide ice ages, poisonous volcanic gases, collision with asteroids which caused a number of mass extinctions. Consequently, it took almost four billion years for our Earth to host “life as we know it.”
Some astronomers like to reflect on a famous formula called the Drake Equation which is supposed to suggest the odds of finding intelligent life in the universe. Obviously, no one knows the answer. But one of the considerations is: how many exoplanets or moons are not only in a habitable zone, but also old enough to support life as we know it, or perhaps even some life form we can’t yet imagine.
To stars and their planets, age matters. At Crossroads, not so much. We will welcome learners of all ages at our upcoming free Family Programs.