As an astronomer’s daughter, I spent considerable time near Coonabarabran at the site of the Southern hemisphere’s largest optical telescope – the Siding Springs Observatory. Being an optical telescope, the area is under strict black-out conditions at night with no street lights, house lights or other light pollution.
A couple of decades ago….
In those days, astronomy (and most science) was mainly a male domain. Thus some scientists felt they could relax a little more than in a mixed environment. One visiting Polish astronomer found the Australian conditions a little warm, so over the course of any late night shift in summer would steadily lose articles of clothing until he was observing in the nude.
One moonlit night, long after midnight and the removal of his clothing, he realised he had forgotten something back at the lodge. So he set out on the 3 minute walk to retrieve it. Coming towards him he saw a bobbing torchlight and became aware that it was the only female PhD student in residence. While the moonlight meant he had no torch to identify him, it also meant that she would notice his attire – or lack of it. Not sure how to avoid the embarassment and in a bit of a panic, he bolted off the path and hid behind a tree.
She continued on her way and he thought he had saved his dignity until the following morning at breakfast. In the communal dining room he was walking past her table when he overheard her saying to a friend “You’ll never guess what I saw last night”.
Barely daring to breathe, he tried to slink back out of the room wondering how soon this would get back to his colleagues in Europe.
Then she continued – “an albino kangaroo!”.