WESTVILLE — Jeff Cooke has seen the most distant edges of space and time, but the Westville native and world renowned astronomer also understands the awe a biologist can feel when considering the organisms in a single drop of water.
â€œEverything has its own awe-inspiring beauty,â€� said Cooke, who on Oct. 31 made world news by reporting the discovery of a pair of ancient stellar explosions that rank as the most distant such events known. Because of their distance and the speed that light travels, it is estimated the â€œsuper-luminous supernovaeâ€� took place some 10 billion years ago.
This week Cooke, the son of Darla and the late Donald Cooke of St. Maryâ€™s Parish in Westville, was home on a break from his research at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. And while in the area, he spoke to students at Schlarman Academy in Danville on the topic of â€œour place in the universe.â€�
Students in grades 7 to 12 peppered Cooke with questions ranging from how long stars live to where black holes come from. And he tried to offer his young audience a sense of the universeâ€™s vast age and distances.
Those are thoughts Cooke has pondered since he was a student at the former St. Maryâ€™s School in Westville, where he was fascinated by a poster of the solar system in kindergarten and actually devised a theory of the solar system in fifth grade — much to the surprise of his science teacher. His parents furthered his interest by buying him a small telescope and a subscription to Astronomy magazine when he was 10.
â€œTo think I now have articles about my work in Astronomy magazine!â€� he told The Catholic Post in an interview prior to his presentation at Schlarman.
Cooke, who has a doctorate in physics, said that while he now explores the mysteries of creation with the worldâ€™s best telescopes, he doesnâ€™t necessarily feel closer to the Creator than more earthbound stargazers.
â€œThat we have the ability to understand (the universe), at least in our own small way using human reasoning, is an aspect of creation that is absolutely amazing,â€� said Cooke, who said at times he does step away from the mathematical and computational duties of his job to â€œappreciate the full picture.â€�
But everyone can feel the same awe when considering the wonder of Godâ€™s plan, Cooke explained.
â€œA baker can appreciate all the ingredients on a very detailed level; their origins, how they react to temperature and chemicals, and then the final products which are creative, nourishing, and are vital in the full cycle of life,â€� he said.
â€œGod created everything,â€� said Cooke. â€œThe details get uncovered as you explore.â€�
Article source: http://www.thecatholicpost.com/post/PostArticle.aspx?ID=2702Tags: Jeff Cooke, Schlarman Academy, solar system, Donald Cooke, swinburne university of technology, St. Maryâ€™s School <BR/>