Finding Christian Community in the Planetary Sciences

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Images: Above: Figure 1. (Left) Planetary scientists view the geology of Pluto’s surface in 3D. Figure 2.(Center) Conference bulletin board made for a good place to advertise this new group. Figure 3. (Right) Conference Poster hall. End of Post: Figure 4. (Left) Conference bulletin board. Figure 5. (Right) Pluto, credit: NASA

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge. . . .

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6)

On Palm Sunday, March 20th, 2016, a group of 16 researchers gathered in a grass roots effort to connect as Christians at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in the Woodlands, Texas. This group spanned all levels from graduate students through senior researchers, at various institutions across the United States, including academic labs and NASA centers. Jesus has transformed our lives and this one fact brought us together from varying denominational backgrounds. “Jesus is good professional development!” shared one researcher about how her Christian faith encourages and enables her to be a better researcher, less critical of her peers.

Planetary Science is an interdisciplinary field that is enabled by disciplines within earth sciences (geology, geophysics, geochemistry, atmospheric dynamics), as well as astronomy and astrophysics. Similar groups meet regularly at conferences in those fields; however, this was the first time for planetary scientists.

Several, but not all, shared about experiencing loneliness, isolation, and discrimination as the only Christian in their professional institutions. Others shared experiencing discrimination and misunderstanding by fellow church members for being a scientist. Discussions about intersections of Christian faith and science ensued throughout the week including a daily time of prayer for the conference, for the needs in the world, and to praise God for science, the wonder of creation, and all the amazing things we are learning about planets.

This group is putting together an email list for future communications and to advertise future opportunities to meet including the opportunity to hear planetary scientist, Roger Wiens, speak at the upcoming the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) conference this July. Anyone interested in joining the Christians and the Planetary Sciences email list, please email ESN with “Planetary Sciences” in the subject line.

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Heidi Fuqua

Heidi Fuqua is a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley in the Earth & Planetary Science Department and Space Sciences Lab. She researches the interior of terrestrial planetary bodies through analyzing magnetic field data from satellites orbiting the Moon.

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One Comment

    Kelly commented on May 22, 2016 Reply

    Great post Heidi! Glad that the dinner was such a success 🙂

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