Cruzeiro do Sul

by Jorge G. Rivero González

“It’s so beautiful”, she said with her beautiful eyes right about to burst into tears.

“Is it the first time you see the Full Moon through a telescope?”, I asked.

She smiled, looked into my eyes and said: “No, but it’s so beautiful that every time feels like the first time”.

This was one of the most moving moments I had during the BraBo Expedition. And it happened in Cruzeiro do Sul.

Cruzeiro do Sul, close to the western edge of Brazil, is named after one of the most important constellations of the Southern Sky, the Southern cross.  A constellation that people use to find the celestial southern pole from which all stars observed from the Southern hemisphere move around. Fun fact, this constellation appears on the Brazilian flag, together with other important constellations, the way they were placed on the sky at the time of the proclamation of the Republic of Brazil in 1889.

We arrived to Cruzeiro after almost ten hours by car. It was quite exhausting. For the first two hours,  the road was full of cicadas flying around, crashing with the van’s windows and often hoping inside our van. There were so many of them that every half an hour we had to stop the car to wipe off the traces of the dead cicadas on the front window because it was imposible to see the road. It was quite a massacre!

Cicadas storm. Credits: Patrícia Figueiró Spinelli / GalileoMobile

Cicadas storm. Credits: Patrícia Figueiró Spinelli / GalileoMobile

The night fell before we arrived to Cruzeiro and we could witness how the Super Moon arose on the East behind us as we were travelling to the West. We jumped off the car, in the middle of nowhere, to take some pictures. It was beautiful.

It’s really fascinating to be able to observe the stars every night. I only have lived in cities where light pollution prevented me for doing so my whole life. For a couple of weeks I could feel a real connection with nature triggered by the stars that made me realise how the ancient cultures mirrored their environments into the starry sky. Do we really want to miss that? I think this is something we should think about, as society, for the future.

We spent three days in Cruzeiro and performed activities with children, teachers and undergrad students. There was a long road around the place we were  performing activities. It was the perfect scenery for our activity “The Earth as a pepper grain”  so students would get the feeling of the vast distances between planets on our Solar System. If the Earth was the size of a pepper grain, the distance between the Sun and the outermost planet, Neptune, should be of around 752 meters! We walked around with them from one planet to another counting the corresponding steps. The students were quite amazed of the immensity of the Solar System.

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During the night we held a cine-forum and night-sky observations. Felipe, the director of the upcoming documentary about the BraBo Expedition,  showed space-related short films and we had a discussion with students. And then students could observe Mars, Saturn and the Full Moon! Mixing astronomy and cinema is quite exciting, right? The director himself will talk you more about that soon.

Next morning we visited a primary school in the morning. The children were quite excited with our visit. Our collaborators from Acre set up on the school yard a model of the Solar System and some telescopes. We hang out with them during their recess before our activities. They showered with questions. We even had the great mistake of taking out the Earthball in a place where about 300 children were playing. I recall running in front of more than a hundred kids trying to steal the ball from me until I got scared and threw it away. I felt like Indiana Jones escaping from that big rolling stone at the beginning of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie. Never again!

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Then, we performed our activities with the students. The same programme that we were performing for over a month but every time felt like the first time. It comes to my mind a conversation I had with Felipe about this matter. He said that what we were doing was like those Japanese artists that were always painting the same figures on one canvas trying to look for perfection and beauty.

I loved that analogy and that’s what I love about GalileoMobile. In every layer, something really special always happened that made us feel we were having that experience for the first time.

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