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Reconciling science and tradition with astrophysicist Eno Lori Russo-Neptune

Reconciling science and tradition with astrophysicist Eno Lori Russo-Neptune

An astrophysicist on the hunt. Indeed, the first scenes of the documentary are off the beaten track. However, Laurie Russo-Neptune developed her “scientific curiosity” in “The Jungle”. For in hunting as in astronomy it passes [ses] Days looks at all the little details, connects the different elements that you notice, and makes assumptions about what is going to happen or what happened,” she explains.

Today Lori Russo-Neptune works as astronomer-in-residence at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, one of the largest telescopes in the world. She is also the first indigenous woman in the country to earn a PhD in astrophysics.

Laurie Russo-Neptune fishes with her father, Pierre Neptune.

Photo: National Film Board of Canada

Over five episodes of about fifteen minutes each, director Patrick Bosse transports us from Quebec to Hawaii, across Lake Megantic, to tell us about the astrophysicist’s daily life, but also to learn about her discoveries and the obstacles she had to overcome.

The documentary, aimed primarily at young people, also invites us into the world’s search for identity. In adolescence, Laurie Rousseau-Neptune encounters Indigenous identity for the first time, when she moves to the community of Windaki, on the outskirts of Quebec. Before, I didn’t necessarily ask myself questions about my origins, and my father didn’t want to talk to me when I was very young, because he didn’t want me to feel different from other you say.

I want to share with young people what I’ve been through, so maybe they don’t feel so alone.confides in interviewing the person he hopes the documentary will reach young people who also question their origins.

The film also includes a more educational element to explain in particular the formation of stars or the universe, using animation. We realized that there was a lack of French-speaking resources in astronomy who were from QuebecPatrick Bossuet explains. By knitting the project we had the opportunity to spread a science series to young people, but also to a wider audience.

All Ainu were excellent astronomers

Laurie’s Russo-Neptune roots in Eno also influenced her way of conceiving science. After consulting the stories of the oral traditions of her community, she was able to learn about the Ino constellations and the spirits associated with them. I was also able to find out how the Innu keeps track of the seasons and weather thanks to the stars.

All Ainu were excellent astronomers. They knew the sky and celestial movements well and used them constantly. It really is pure craftsmanship.

But his indigenous roots and his profession as an astronomer sometimes clash. For example, the telescope you’re working on in Hawaii is mounted on a mountain, Mauna Kea, aka Valley of the Telescopes, where there are 13 in total. Why so much? Because this very high mountain, cut off from the big cities and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, delivers Perfect alignment for beautiful picturessays the 37-year-old scientist.

However, the indigenous Hawaiians also consider Mauna Kea a sacred mountain. In 2019, the indigenous people, Kanaka Maoli, demonstrated against the construction of a new telescope.

I understand that indigenous people want to take back control of their land and be able to decide what happens there. […] Since it is a traditional site where ceremonies are also held, there must be an overlap between the two types of activities and it must be done respectfully.

I often tell people, “When you go up to Mauna Kea, it’s like going to church.”She continues.

Mauna Kea Reserve in Hawaii.

Mauna Kea Reserve in Hawaii.

Photo: National Film Board of Canada

Breaking down stereotypes

The director hopes that his documentary series will allow people to gain some knowledge related to astronomy, but alsoSpark scientific curiosity when young.

The latter also emphasizes her choice of Laurie Russo-Neptune as the protagonist, because she embodies a paradigm of stereotypes. She is a young woman in a predominantly male environment, as well as a pioneer in her field. At a young age, she led a research project with dozens of other researchers globallyhe explains.

Today, in addition to her position as an astronomer-in-residence in Hawaii, Laurie Rousseau-Nepton recently secured the prestigious position of Assistant Professor at Dunlap Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

Her notoriety makes her an inspiration to generations to come. For example, two Aboriginal physics and astronomy students approached her for a conversation, she says. She will also be taking under her wing a native from Saskatchewan as an apprentice soon.

It is a series that aims to dismantle stereotypes, and we want young people to be able to imagine themselves in a scientific career, regardless of their origin or gender.

The flag itself is very stereotypical. [Par exemple]The academic environment places great emphasis on basic techniques and concepts taught in the American way. But science can incorporate elements of culture, and our culture can influence how we do science.She continues.

The series also advocates for the inclusion of more women and cultural minorities in the fields of science. Because to this day, after more than 15 years of experience in the field, no other Aboriginal women have PhDs in astronomy, laments Laurie Russo-Neptune. But I’m working on itEmphasizes.

L’Étoile du Nord will be available for free on the National Film Board of Canada’s website from August 21.