TieDyeAstronomer

Welcome to TieDyeAstronomer.com! My name is Lauren Herrington, and I’m the TieDyeAstronomer. I’m of high school age, and “unschooled”, but don’t let either of those facts fool you. I actually do know stuff; about observing, cosmology, and spectroscopy, and more. Optics and the human eye consume much of my thought time and research activity, and I’m learning more every day.

I’ve only been a part of the astronomical community for less than two years, and these months have been a whirlwind of mentoring and resources that has launched me further into astronomy than I ever thought would be possible. Before becoming involved in the Houston Astronomical Society in March 2017, I had been a solitary observer, observing on and off for around 3 years, starting with a borrowed department store telescope, and then upgrading to a brand new Orion XT8 that my grandma bought for me in November 2014. My observing sessions were typically planned out by consulting tonightssky.com and/or picking large-looking objects off of the pages of SkyAtlas 2000. That didn’t work very well; imagine a beginner trying for the North American Nebula, the California Nebula, and Collinder 39 from the suburbs with an 8″ f/5.9!  The activity of observing was immensely fulfilling, but the results — or lack thereof — was frustrating; there are only so many times you can attempt to find a galaxy or a globular under city skies before you get dejected. And that’s what happened to me. I tried and tried and tried…. and then I stopped trying to observe.

TieDyeAstronomer

I was cobbling together what I could about astronomy from the internet, and at the time I thought I was doing just fine with that. But then my mom got us into the Outreach and Education program of the Houston Astronomical Society and my observing life was rebooted! Several people I now consider my mentors noticed me at the very first HAS outreach event that we participated in. They overheard how I was discussing the sky with the outreach attendees and as soon as the crowd thinned out, they actually took time to talk to me! I was surprised, and excited. I had tried very hard to be active in local astronomy clubs, both in Dallas and Houston, but for years nobody would give me the time of day; I guess people don’t expect a young girl to be capable of being an astronomer.

Once they took notice of me, members of HAS welcomed me enthusiastically, gave me access to their dark site, introduced me to SkyTools, and encouraged and supported me all along the way. Having peers to talk to and observe with makes a HUGE difference. And with the information that SkyTools provides right at my fingertips I was suddenly able to find almost all objects that I looked for, instead of only 1 out of every 5, like when I was a solitary observer in my grandma’s back yard! So, with access to the dark site, and star parties like TSP, I suddenly had the ability to peer into the deepest reaches of space and time, far deeper than I ever imagined I could go.

I’m not sure yet where this astronomy path will take me. I love all three major facets of astronomy: amateur observing, teaching, and scientific research. I can’t imagine living without being able to observe, and whatever I wind up doing, I’ll continue to teach; whether that’s just at starparties or in a formal classroom setting. I will always strive to be the mentor I wished I had when first starting out. And I know that I will always, for the rest of my life, keep looking up.


This website is still under construction! Keep checking back for the latest additions.


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