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Alejandra Lopez

Phys 1040
Astronomy Conversation

For my astronomy class, there is a requirement to have a conversation with friends

or family about the universe and outer space. I was quite excited for this assignment just

with the conversation itself and being able to talk to my friends and geek out for a bit. With

my work and school schedule, I’m very limited in time so I had to have my conversations

with individual people, who where my mom and best friend Vanessa. The reason I choose

these two individuals was to see if there is a difference in interest in astronomy and outer

space between someone from Generation X (1965-1979) and Generation Y (1980- 2000).

The conversation with my mom took place on February 8th in her room, after each

having a drink and getting ready to sleep. I began with thanking her in helping me out with

my assignment and followed along to ask her what she knew or remembered about outer

space to which she replied that there were 9 planets. As she said this, I told her the sad news

about Pluto being reclassified into a dwarf planet which by definition has 3 requirements: it

must orbit the sun and no other object, it must be spherical in shape but does not have the

energy or makings of a star, and it must have cleared its neighborhood of any other orbiting

bodies, meaning it’s not moving with a collection of other objects in space [1]. As for “true”

planets, we were left with the other 8 that fit in one of two classifications, Terrestrial and

Jovian planets, which depended on where in our solar system their creation took place.

Those planets created closes to the sun are composed of mainly rock and metal, Terrestrial,

and the planets furthest away are mainly hydrogen and helium and hydrogen compounds

[2].
Having gotten some insight of my mom’s understanding of our solar system at this

time, I wanted to see her thoughts in regard to the Big Bang Theory. Surprisingly when I

brought it up, she asked “What’s that?”. I began trying to explain the theory of how everything

in our universe came to be from a small point of matter, size of an atom that exploded to

make what is today. To better illustrate what I explained, I had her view “The Cosmic

Calendar” with Neil deGrasse Tyson to show from the point of creation to where we are today

[3]. Midway through the video, she asked how it is that stars die. I explained that stars die

when their geological activity seizes in the core where when active, fusion of hydrogen to

helium occurs. Once fusion stops, the outer layers collapse to a supernova to then leave

behind a neutron star. Depending on the size of the star, it could become a black hole after

death [4]. Everything in our galaxy and universe gets reused and recycled for the creation of

new stars, planets and gas clouds, after all, we are all created from star stuff and are not so

different in the materials that make us up. After this comment, it turned into a conversation

about Universe v. God as a higher power.

Towards the end of the conversation, I was curious in asking my mom if she had every

experienced a lunar or solar eclipse, especially with a solar eclipse having had occurred

about 2 years ago which she was able to experience since she had managed to buy some

viewing glasses some days before. At the end of my conversation with my mom, I felt like it

was quite educational both for myself and for her, and I found out that although I assumed

everyone knew the theory of how the universe was created was just an assumption, since a

person closest to me had never heard of it before.

For my conversation with my friend Vanessa, we went to a McDonalds near my house

to discuss about astronomy on March 21st. The conversation did not go at all as I had planned,
especially after my conversation with my mom. To start off, I showed my friend the Cosmic

Calendar video, which she said was very interesting and also helped us further on in the

conversation with talking points. I began the conversation by asking what she knew or was

curious about outer space. One of the things that most fascinated her are horoscopes and

astrology, seeing how the movements of celestial bodies influence human lives. As we talked,

we determined that the astronomy is the more scientific study of outer space, motions and

positions while astrology is more of an attempt to study how people behave during certain

celestial times in the sky [5]. Although astrology is not an exact science, it does make many

of us thing about the possible energy and things that are out there, and how we are so small

in comparison to the vast space the universe takes.

We then started to talk about anything that fascinated her in regard to outer space, to

which she replied that the things that most fascinated her were conspiracies a small group

of people believe. She talked to me about how some people believe the moon landing in 1969

was a forgery due to the fact of the shadow being casted by the flag that was stuck onto the

surface of the moon. Although I had heard the theory of the moon landing being fake, I did

not know that at least one of the indications to this theory was due a shadow. From there,

we began to talk about the possibility of aliens or any other life out there, which we both

greatly believe there is some other form of life outside our own, whether in the form of

vegetation or microscopic life. Although it has not been found as of yet, the chances of life

out there is very possible. We continued to talk about the declassification of Pluto as a planet

in our solar system and how it was now a dwarf planet since the small orbital object is till

within reach of the Keiper Belt, preventing it from being considered a “true planet” [1].
Over all, I really enjoyed having both conversations and liked how both were very

different from one another. The conversation with my mom was very educational and helped

me make sure I knew what I was talking about when she had questions in regard to

something. The conversation with Vanessa seemed to be all over the place, mainly talk about

theory, conspiracy and speculation of what could be out there rather than actual science.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed both conversations, the one I most appreciated was the

conversation I had with my friend Vanessa. Although I planned an outline of topics to touch

upon with both people, our conversation continued to bounce around in different topics and

had us engaged the entire time. Although all the conversation was not all scientific, the spark

of Vanessa’s curiosity helped maintain the conversation interesting and going much longer

than the education conversation with my mom.

References:
[1] Mike Wall, “Welcome Back, Pluto? Planethood Debate Reignites” Space.com, 11 May
2018, https://www.space.com/40550-pluto-planet-debate-flares-up-again.html

[2] Jeffrey Bennett, “The Essential Cosmic Perspective: Eighth Edition”, 2018, Pgs. 151-
152.

[3] CarterJRFilms. “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - Cosmic Calendar - Video


Dailymotion.” Dailymotion, Dailymotion, 17 Feb. 2016, dai.ly/x3sjrbk.

[4] Dr. Alestair Gunn, “How do stars die?”, sciencefocus.com,


https://www.sciencefocus.com/space/how-do-stars-die/

[5] Maria Temming, “Astrology v. Astronomy: What’s the difference?”, Sky & Telescope:
The Essential Guide to Astronomy,
https://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-resources/whats-difference-
astrology-vs-astronomy/