Noted Comet-Discover and Educator David Levy Visits Mercy College

By Jamsel Reyes

David Levy presented “Poetry of the night: Forging a relationship between astronomy and literature” at Mercy College last month.

As a boy, he shared with Mercy College that not only did he love the night sky; he was an insomniac. By not sleeping at night, he used the countless hours to begin research on the night sky. His eyes would be glued to the stars above.

Years later, he began to discover its relationship to literature. In poetry throughout history, the night sky is referenced in many ways in texts, he shared with the class.

“Everyone wrote about the night sky. Poets and writers do now; poets and writers did thousands of years ago,” he said. “Read any short story or even a modern fiction novel and it will describe the night sky.”

In 1993, Levy discovered a comet that crashed into another planet in our solar system, named Shoemaker-Levy 9. This comet crashed into Jupiter resulting in the most dramatic events ever seen on another world. There were many other comets that were as spectacular as the Haley’s comet. He has discovered 23 comet discoveries that tie him for third place for all-time of comet finds by an individual.

Levy’s presentation used literature and poetry to make a comparison to the beautiful night sky. He mentioned the great poet and literary icon, Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s work, he uses astronomy, for example, in Macbeth. Shakespeare states “That will be ere the set of the sun,” said by the third witch in the opening of the play.

Levy addressed the supernovas and eclipses discovered in 1572. Shakespeare mentions these beautiful discoveries in the night sky. “Everything is quiet, so is the moon,” mentions Shakespeare in one his lines in Macbeth, referring to an eclipse that just occurred during his play. “By star at night,” shows that Shakespeare makes his connection to the supernova.

Levy added, “The moon is a great place; you can go there-physically and mentally.”

Levy adds that space and literature are really versions of personal philosophy.

“Just because you are a human and cannot fly to out space, doesn’t mean you can’t go there. You just have to believe and imagine, and you can go anywhere.”

Will there be any life outside Earth in the solar system, Levy was asked.

“It’s not likely, but it’s also not impossible.”

He also had a book signing, took questions from the audience and played some music with his presentations. The asteroid 3673 Levy was named in his honor. He was awarded the C.A. Chant Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 1980. In 2007, Levy received the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Edgar Wilson Award for comet discovery. Levy is the author or editor of 35 books and other products. He won an Emmy in 1998 as part of the writing team for the Discovery Channel documentary, “Three Minutes to Impact.”

Levy added that the moon, planets, and other stars are a motivation to life, and that people can touch the stars; they just have to reach