Have you ever explored the stars with a real mission scientist as a guide? The Kootenay Storytelling Festival is offering the chance to do just that, with a unique evening of storytelling and star-gazing on September 21.
One of the festival storytellers, UBC Professor Jaymie Matthews, is an astrophysical “gossip columnist,” unveiling the hidden lifestyles of stars by eavesdropping on “the music of the spheres.”
“I like to think that I study the body language of stars,” he says. “You can learn a lot about a person from how she moves and acts. If she’s cold or nervous, she might quiver, for example. It turns out that many stars quiver as well, not because they’re cold, but because of sound waves bouncing around inside their interiors.”
Matthews describes his version of an interstellar iPod as Canada’s first space telescope, MOST (Microvariability & Oscillations of STars). MOST detects vibrations in the light of ringing stars too subtle to be seen by the largest telescopes on Earth. MOST also makes Professor Matthews an “astro-paparazzo” by helping him spy on planets around other stars that might be homes for alien celebrities. Celebrities? Maybe not beings like the fictional Vulcans, says Matthews, but even the discovery of extraterrestrial microbes on another world would qualify those microbes as newsmakers of the century.
As mission scientist leading the Canadian Space Agency’s MOST project, and a Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of British Columbia, Matthews and his team are trying to revise the biography of our Sun — past and future — by studying its neighbours in our galactic city, the Milky Way.
You may have caught one of his many media adventures on CBC TV and radio, The Knowledge Network, the Discovery Channel, Space: The Imagination Station – the list goes on.
Stars and star-gazing run close to the heart of this year’s Kootenay Storytelling Festival.
“Knowing that Jaymie would be joining us inspired a loose theme for this year’s festival,” says the Festival’s creative producer, Avia Moore. “I started thinking about how the sky is such a prevalent theme in stories of all cultures. And no wonder…the sky is an enchanting and powerful part of our world and our lives.”
The festival is featuring an evening event with Professor Matthews and Wayne Holmes, local astronomer and host of Taghum Hall’s Starry Nights. This is a special opportunity to experience the skies through Holmes’ telescopes with Mission Scientist Matthews as a guide. Holmes points out that, even more than the lights of Nelson, the light of the almost-full moon will affect what stargazers are able to see through the telescopes.
Saturday, September 21 at 9 p.m., the telescopes will be close to the entrance of the Lakeside Soccer fields, on field A1. The event is subject to good weather and clear skies and may be cancelled up to an hour before. Check the facebook page of the Kootenay Storytelling Festival for regular updates. By donation (suggested donation $8 adults, $5 kids under 12). Bring warm clothes and a blanket or lawn chair to sit on.
Jaymie Matthews will also be telling stories throughout the weekend. For the full Kootenay Storytelling Festival schedule, visit kootenaystory.org