Author Archives: GalileoMobile

About GalileoMobile

GalileoMobile es un proyecto educativo itinerante que lleva el Año Internacional de la Astronomía (IYA2009) a numerosas escuelas de Chile, Bolivia y Perú. Tiene por objetivo fomentar inquietudes acerca del Universo despertando el interés de jóvenes y niños por conocer más acerca del cielo.

Under the same Eclipse: Activities in California during the Great American Eclipse

by Marja Seidel

Almost 2500 students got the opportunity to observe the eclipse from Pasadena, California, with amateur telescopes generously provided by Meade Instruments. Many of them also participated in workshops run by part of our team of GalileoMobile and collaborators.

The 2017 Eclipse happened on the 21st of August and literally passed over the entire continental United States, beginning in the West and moving to the East. That is why months in advance the media heavily advertised this natural phenomena as the “Great American Eclipse”. Especially in current times, such nationwide unifying events are fantastic for a country like America that appears to be increasingly divided since the last federal elections.

As GalileoMobile, our aim is to bring astronomy closer to the public. However, one of GalileoMobile’s most important slogans is “Under the same sky”. What we would like to transmit through this is the feeling that we are all on one planet, in the same Universe, sharing the same sky, regardless of the subtle differences concerning each other’s race, religion, or nationality.

Combining these two:

  1. i) the major event of an eclipse across the USA and
  2. ii) our aim to use astronomy to excite people about science, but also to unify them

led us to the project “Under the same eclipse”. And in fact, it was not only a “Great American Eclipse”. On the Canary Islands, part of Europe, but off the coast of Morocco, the very end of the eclipse could be partially observed. This parallel project, will be presented in another post coming up soon!

In Pasadena, California, we started the planning at the beginning of 2017 and had the first meeting with leaders and teachers of the different participating schools in the spring. Normally, our expeditions have led us into developing countries in South America or Africa and generally one would expect that schools are very well off in a place like California. However, just as in many other supposedly rich parts of the world, many aspects are still left to improve, right at our door steps. Depending on the area of the schools, even in a place like California, resources can be scarce. Some schools might not even have funds for a science teacher in certain grades. Cooperating with the Pasadena United Schools District (PUSD), we identified 5 schools that had a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), but were located in underprivileged areas. The idea was to provide them with telescopes, education material and workshops to fully take advantage of the eclipse with their students and to possibly continue astronomy education at their schools. Additionally, we wanted to foster the connections between the schools.

The first step were a couple of meetings with the teachers from each school to outline the project. In the meantime, we received a generous donation from Meade Instruments who supported this project with Eclipse Viewing telescopes – one per school – and one PST Coronado H-alpha telescope to rotate between the schools. After we received the telescopes, we held a teacher training workshop just before the summer and visited a couple of the schools. Over the course of the summer a 6th school joined the project.

Quite perfectly, school returned one week before the solar eclipse. That gave us time to visit another couple of schools and run workshops around the eclipse and the sun. The students simulated the eclipse using giant inflatable balls for the Sun, Earth and Moon and together, we performed a little theatre play in each class.

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Since the two different telescopes permitted us to observe sunspots and solar eruptions (with the H-alpha telescope), we discussed the sun in a bit more detail with the older grades. Using models of the sun, videos taken by spacecraft and iron powder and magnets, the students started to investigate solar magnetism (with a little bit of facilitation). At the beginning, reactions went into all possible directions. In some classes, students even were almost disgusted by a close-up picture of the sunspots (ok, they do look a little bit like some kind of hairy beast). Throughout though, they were all fascinated by the effect of the magnets on the iron powder. After the first fascination, they started seeing similarities of the structures in the powder and the sunspots. After, we also showed them videos of eruptions and prominences ejecting material off the solar surface.

When we set up the telescopes after the workshops, it was just perfect to find a group of sunspots on the Sun AND filaments of gas on the sun’s surface. Of course, this was the most fascinating part for all of us!

Unfortunately, no-one of our team could stay in Pasadena for the actual eclipse day, as we all travelled to totality towards Idaho and Wyoming (another post about this will be published soon!). However, we actually believe that the schools were very well prepared. Thanks to Meade Instruments we could also supply them with a large amount of eclipse glasses. We also think that it was even better that they observed the actual event on their own. This way, all fear of using the telescopes should be gone and they are ready for more astronomy experiments in this upcoming academic year.

We also hope that at least the older students at each school might be able to collaborate on projects and that we could convey the message “Under the same eclipse”. In total, 6 schools and almost 2500 students participated in this project!

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A day to remember in Cyprus

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

https://www.facebook.com/galileomobile.org/

https://twitter.com/galileomobile?lang=es

https://www.instagram.com/galileomobile/

and the Facebook page of the project

https://www.facebook.com/columbahypatia/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE

The Columba-Hypatia Project: Astronomy for Peace

by Francesca Fragkoudi

“So what does astronomy have to do with peace?” I was asked by one of the children in the classroom we visited during the pilot run of the “Columba-Hypatia” initiative in October 2016.

First, some background on how this project came to be: the island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974, due to a complex series of events, essentially fuelled by nationalism and fed by divide-and-conquer politics. These culminated in the military coup d’état of 1974, staged by Greek-Cypriot nationalists and backed by the Greek junta – which tried to overthrow the president of Cyprus and aimed at annexing the island to Greece. As a result, Turkey invaded the island which lead to it being divided in two, with Greek Cypriots in the south and Turkish Cypriots in the North. The two communities, which before the turbulent years of the 60’s and 70’s had peacefully coexisted in mixed villages, lived isolated from each other for 30 years, until the borders partially re-opened in 2003. Since then, there have been renewed efforts to reunite the island, both politically and through grass-roots initiatives. The Columba-Hypatia project was born out of a desire to facilitate contact between the peoples of the two sides of the island, through astronomy. So, why astronomy?

Science has always strived to enhance our understanding of the world, and astronomy in particular has shaped our cosmovision, our view of our place in the Universe, throughout the aeons. From the time of Copernicus, when astronomy revealed that we are not at the centre of the Universe and that everything does not revolve around us – to the cosmovision offered by modern astrophysics, that our Earth is just one of the many planets, of the many solar systems in our galaxy, which in turn is one of the many galaxies in the Universe. This humbling vision of our world, I believe, imposes on us the necessity to coexist peacefully, to set aside our differences and try to both preserve our planet as well as cherish one another. It gives us an understanding of our truly common origins, of how everything we are made of, all the carbon, oxygen and other atoms in our bodies, emerged from within a giant star which exploded at the end of its life, spewing the galaxy with atoms that eventually went on to form our solar system, our planet, and eventually, us. When one sees the vast Universe for what it is, is it not more worthy to try to find common ground, to work towards finding a better understanding of ourselves, of each other and of the world we live in rather than engage in hostility, rivalry and war?

Having participated in another project by GalileoMobile in schools in Peru, where the aim was to bring astronomy closer to children there, I had a simple yet beautiful realisation. Travelling to a country on the other side of the world from my own home country, with a very different culture to my own, and talking to children there about astronomy, I was struck by how similar we all are at our core. How we are all amazed by the wonders of the Universe, how looking through a telescope for the first time at the moon or at Saturn, can produce the same sparkle in our eyes, as we do the most humanly possible thing there is to do: wonder at the Universe, at the meaning of it all, at why we are all here. Sharing that moment together, under the same sky, is truly a beautiful and life changing experience, one that I believe can bring people together.

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Students observing the Sun during the Columba-Hypatia pilot project last October in Cyprus.

Our hope is that by sharing the sky together, by exploring the cosmos through the lens of modern astrophysics, we can inspire the children of Cyprus to not only be curious about science and the Cosmos, but to also help create a better understanding of our common humanity, thus promoting meaningful communication and a culture of peace and non-violence on the island.

I think Carl Sagan, as always, said it best, and so I leave here his reflections when contemplating an image of our planet Earth taken from the outskirts of the solar system, in which Earth looks merely like a tiny blue dot:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilisation, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

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The “Columba-Hypatia Project: Astronomy for Peace” is a collaboration between GalileoMobile and the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research, funded by the International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development. The project will run all throughout 2017 in schools around the island of Cyprus on both sides of the border, as well as carrying out astronomy events for the public in the buffer zone.

For more information have a look at

http://www.columbahypatia-project.org http://www.facebook.com/columbahypatia