Episode 10: Joe DalSanto – The Firsts in Astronomy

After beginning to read about astronomy, Joseph DalSanto wanted to observe the night sky himself. So, he purchased a telescope as a freshman in high school and, during the past 40 years, has developed an in-depth knowledge and familiarity with the night sky due to hundreds of evening observations.  

“I’ve used and built numerous telescopes and observed thousands of objects from my home observatories as well as from locations in such places as Florida, New Mexico, Indiana, Wisconsin and California,” he said.

DalSanto first worked as an IT support professional for Hewlett Packard, where he worked on onsite and remote system hardware support for 15 years and then moved into IT project management. In this role, he helped lead HP’s early system web support.

But it was his love of the sky that eventually led DalSanto to the classroom. He began making presentations to astronomy clubs and groups and was invited to perform public outreach and oversee the observatory at Waubonsee Community College. His growing love for teaching led to the pursuit of a master’s degree in astronomy, and he began teaching credit classes part-time at Waubonsee.

When a full-time astronomy position opened up at College of DuPage in 2012, he left HP to pursue his passion. He teaches two rigorous courses on planetary astronomy and stars and galaxies as well as honors versions of each.

“I set high standards for my students, but I want them to enjoy learning about our amazing universe,” DalSanto said. “I put tremendous planning and effort into my courses and I want them to walk out with not just knowledge but also appreciation for what we know and how we know it through the process of science.

“I’ve been told repeatedly that my passion for astronomy shows. I want to share that passion and so I take great interest in my students’ success. I’m especially proud of the quality of the research projects done by my honors students, with several going on to pursue careers in astronomy.”  

DalSanto continues his deep appreciation for the universe and wants others to experience it.

“I have never lost my love for standing under a truly clear, dark sky and experiencing the universe first hand personally,” he said. “I am thrilled with new discoveries but also in how we discover things and how new knowledge either fits into what we know or forces us to adjust what we know.

“We can have an exciting future exploring the solar system and universe, and one of my favorite quotes captures this: ‘The human adventure is just beginning.’”

In this episode, Beth and Joe discuss:

  • Some of the major firsts in astronomy.
  • How astronomy changed between Ptolemy and Copernicus.
  • The invention of the telescope and its rise to popularity.
  • How women played a role in the early days of astronomy.
  • Studying the universe at different wave lengths.

Key Takeaways:

  • William Herschel’s son John was the one to catalog the Southern night sky.
  • How parallax allows us to find an estimate of the distance of the stars.
  • All of science, especially in this field, is a global effort, not just small groups in one country or another.
  • How seemingly small discoveries and basic research can lead to massive growths in science.

“I really think with Herschel, and probably with most early astronomers, it was just their love of astronomy, their curiosity. They wanted to understand our universe, and that continues today.” — Joe DalSanto

Connect with Joe DalSanto:

http://www.cod.edu/spotlights/faculty/dalsanto.aspx

About Beth Mund:

Beth’s love for space started as a Space Camp attendee at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where she would return years later as an instructor.  After grad school, Beth worked as a journalist, a technical writer for Motorola, and then went on to serve as a Public Affairs Officer for the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In addition, Beth worked to support the International Space Station program as a communication specialist. In Chicago, Beth worked as an corporate communication advisor to Fortune 50 companies including Allstate and United Airlines. She’s worked as a college instructor, a political advisor, and public relations manager for her hometown city. Beth recently founded Stellar Communications, LLC and travels the country as a keynote speaker- inspiring audiences with her lessons learned from our nation’s space program.  She’s the host of the Casual Space Podcast, and a self-proclaimed space geek.

Connect with Beth Mund:

Email: bethisbeth@me.com &  askbeth@casualspacepodcast.com
Website: bethmund.com
Facebook: @BethMund
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Show notes by show producer/podcastologist: Chelsea Taylor-Sturkie

Audio production by Turnkey Podcast Productions. You’re the expert. Your podcast will prove it.