Name: Catherine Qualtrough
Location: Charlotte, NC
Catherine Qualtrough remembers looking up at the Milky Way when she was a child walking to her grandparents’ house. The rural area where she grew up, near Hamilton, New Zealand, was untouched by light pollution at the time, so scoping a celestial view while on a stroll wasn’t an impossibility.
Catherine remembers the particular moment in her childhood where her love affair with astronomy and astrophysics began. There was a school project where she studied Halley’s Comet and its return to the skies. “I was so amazed that this giant glowing snowball was speeding through our solar system and had been for hundreds of years and that by merely looking up I could see this happening,” she recalls. For weeks she dragged her parents out of the house at 3AM to stare at the sky with binoculars. Her parents could tell that their daughter had found something she was passionate about, so they contacted a member of the local astronomical society. He invited ten-year-old Catherine to look through his homemade reflecting telescope. “Again, my parents were there shivering through the night while I stood on a box and got my first look at Saturn’s rings, Mars and Jupiter’s moons. I was sold. From then on I read Astronomy magazine every month and begged my parents incessantly for a telescope,” she says.