by Natalie Christopher
Through the heart of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus and indeed the last divided capital in the world, runs a buffer-zone created to separate the North and the South of the island. Here in ‘No Man’s Land’ is the Ledra Palace Hotel, once one of the most glamorous hotels in the area- now riddled with bullet-holes, closed off to the general public and surrounded with barbed wire- a stark reminder of the 1974 division.
Amongst the decay however, and just across the road from the Ledra Palace hotel, lies a beacon of hope: the Home for Cooperation. Acting as a bridge-builder between the separated Greek- and Turkish- Cypriot communities, H4C as it is affectionately known, provides a space for inter-communal cooperation. It is here, in this neutral and peace-promoting space, that the first Columba-Hypatia: Astronomy for Peace Project for youth took place, on 1st April 2017.
The event started off with a short introduction to the project – see Francesca Fragkoudi’s post from 18/04/17 for more information – before giving each participant the opportunity to introduce themselves and tell everyone why they chose to come along. It was impossible to guess which side of the border the teenager came from, until they spoke. I was particularly touched to meet so many young individuals who are keen to get to know people from the other side of the border. It was truly heart-warming to hear their desires to be actively involved in promoting peace on the island, and of course learn more about Astronomy!
Our exploratory journey into Space started close to home, with a summary of the Solar System and an explanation of how it formed. When we reached the Moon, the participants formed groups to play a game called Moon Myths, which encouraged team-work in order to decide whether statements such as ‘There is a dark side of the Moon’ and ‘Different countries see different phases of the Moon on the same day’ are true or not.
Following on from the recent exciting discovery of seven terrestrial planets orbiting a star, the TRAPPIST-1 system, we explained the methods Astronomers use to detect planets and discussed how many Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars there are predicted to be in our galaxy.
To put the scale of things into context, we then played Scale Your Cosmos Right. The group was split into teams, with the aim to order images of astronomical objects from smallest to largest in physical size in the quickest time.
To wrap up, we headed up to the roof for some observations of the Moon and to ponder the notion of unity – after all, no matter which side of the island we live on, we still live Under the Same Sky.
You can follow the updates of the Columba-Hypatia: Astronomy for Peace Project in our social media
and the Facebook page of the project