Nova Scotia youth reaches for the stars

  • April 23, 2007
Imagine getting the chance to study astronomy at the Vatican Observatory. It may seem hard to do, but it isn’t so hard for Nathan Deg, whose dreams have recently become a reality.
NathanDeg.jpgThe 23-year-old from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, couldn’t be happier about this chance of a lifetime. He will be studying at Castel Gandolfo in the Pope’s summer residence in Italy, where students will use various equipment to study extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs (sub-stellar objects that orbit gas giant planets).

“It’s kind of... awesome,” said Deg. “I’m really excited, it’s going to be an incredible experience.”

Deg is one of only 27 students from 23 countries to be selected for this opportunity. John Stevens, director of youth ministry for the archdiocese of Halifax, recommended that he apply for the position.

Deg is finishing off his undergraduate astrophysics honours degree at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. He plans to start a masters degree, but he has not yet decided where his studies will take him.

Deg developed an interest in astronomy while in his early teens.

“I think I became interested in astronomy around Grade 7 or 8.... I became interested in space and then moved into astronomy and astrophysics,” he said.

Although he has an interest in astronomy and astrophysics he does not know what he wants to do with it.

“I’ve always said I’m going to study what I want and God will provide something eventually.”

He has done various studies in school that may prepare him for what is to come, such as measuring the temperature of the Orion Nebula, the nearest star formation to Earth. Though this may sound uninteresting to some, Deg thinks otherwise.

“You look up at the stars at night and say ‛They are really pretty,’ and I can look up and go ‛Wow they’re really pretty, and I know how they work.’ ”

Deg is not only active in his student life, but in his faith life as well. He is a core member of youth program LIFEteen with his parish, giving talks, witnessing and leading groups. He has also been running a Bible study group for the past few months.

Although science and religion seem to be forever at odds, with science often being used to attack the validity of religion and the existence of God, Deg thinks they actually complement each other.

“A lot of people pervert both science and religion by applying them where they shouldn’t be applied,” he said. “They complement each other, science can’t prove God can’t exist.”

Deg added that his faith has never got in the way of his studies.

“The way I look at it is God created the universe the way He did for a reason, and maybe by looking at it we can understand more about the creator Himself.”

Though he has been offered this opportunity, the work is not over yet. The particular program will cost $3,000 which the students are required to pay themselves. He has received some of the money from Halifax Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and SMU, and will also be asking the Catholic Women’s League and the Knights of Columbus for help in covering the cost.

Deg’s four-week course begins June 9.

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