ISU SSP17 Looking Up with Astronomer Dr David Levy


Astronomer, Dr. David Levy, lectured to a packed hall at this year’s International Space University (ISU) Space Studies Program (SSP17) at the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Ireland.

David shared many of his personal stories.  As a young star-crazed boy growing up in Canada, a shooting star changed who David felt he was. He revealed how this chance encounter as a young boy whilst at summer camp in the Canadian wilderness changed his life for the better. 

“All I wanted to do was talk about astronomy.”  This experience became, what would be, the sole purpose and his chosen life-study.  

But, David’s lecture was much more than just that. For the next hour, David invited each one of us all on his epic life-long journey through his personal relationship with the cosmos.  He shared the images of his hand-written notes on the comets he studied and spoke about his personal heartbreak as he watched his father suffer from Alzheimer’s.  This personally affected David as a young man, but it was the comets that helped the both of them manage their personal anguish as a family.

levy2Finding comets for David was no fete.  “It took me a long time before I found my first comet.”  It actually took him 19 long years and David never gave up.  This was the one message that David really wanted to drive home.  “We reach for the stars and we do it here at the International Space University.”  His message was expressed in his realization that it takes much more than just a village to get to space.   “You wonder what a group of people can do when they get their heads together and say, we’re gonna send a guy to the moon” and with that sort of drive, “11 years is all it took for NASA to land people on the moon.”   
The story that David shared was his own personal love story with the cosmos.  It’s beautiful that he was able to personally share this intimate experience the way he did.  Through the use of actual video recordings to songs that directly meant something to him, David took us on his personal spaceship through time.

At the end, an SSP17 participant asked David if he would ever want to go into space.  David responded the best way he could, “of course!” but then he continued to explain in the most romantic possible way, “I am close as I need to space as I ever be.”  David shared how he feels alone in the cosmos every time he gazes through the looking glass of his telescopes and that’s enough for him.  

David received a formidable standing ovation from this year’s SSP17 lecture series attendees, in Cork, Ireland.

Dr. Levy is one of the most successful comet discoverers in history. He has discovered 21 comets, eight of them using his own backyard telescopes. Periodic comets that David Levy co-discovered include 118P/Shoemaker–Levy, 129P/Shoemaker–Levy, 135P/Shoemaker–Levy, 137P/Shoemaker–Levy, 138P/Shoemaker–Levy, 145P/Shoemaker–Levy, and 181P/Shoemaker–Levy. In addition, Levy is the sole discoverer of two periodic comets: 255P/Levy and P/1991 L3.