Yale women astronomers share their stories in ‘The Sky is for Everyone’

Wed, 08/10/2022

The story of women in astronomy is not simply a tale of the planets they’ve discovered and the black holes they’ve mapped. It is a history filled with persistence and personal triumphs.

The Sky is for Everyone,” a new book published by Princeton University Press, tells a bit of that history.

In the book, more than three dozen leading women astronomers tell their personal stories of scientific success over the past 50-plus years. Among them are two revered Yale astrophysicists, C. Megan Urry and Priyamvada Natarajan. Urry is the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy and director of the Yale Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics. Natarajan is a professor of astronomy and physics, director of Yale’s Franke Program in Science and the Humanities, and incoming chair of the Department of Astronomy in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Natarajan and Urry spoke with Yale News about their involvement in “The Sky is for Everyone.”

What was your initial reaction to the invitation to write about your life and career?

Priyamvada Natarajan: I was intrigued by this project led by [co-editors] Virginia Trimble and David Weintraub to document the personal journeys of women astronomers. What was unusual about their request when they reached out to me was the ask — for an account of my trajectory, that went beyond just my intellectual contributions and professional history but also mapped my personal path. I was honored to be asked as I do not feel old enough yet to look back, examine, and reminisce. I always imagine that phase to be a couple of decades away.

C. Megan Urry: I was pleased to be asked and very interested to do it but had to decline because of too many other obligations. Then COVID slowed everything down, and the editors gave me another deadline that I was able to meet. Actually, I went way overboard. The piece was supposed to be 3,000 words. My first draft was 18,000 words, which I edited down to about 11,000. Then I asked David Weintraub, “What should I do?” He was so encouraging, as the best editors are. He took a stab at cutting it to about 3,500 words, and then I messed with that version, adding back a bit but cutting some other stuff. But that has really inspired me to write more, if I can find the time.

Read the full article by Jim Shelton on the YaleNews page via the link below:

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