If we looked for a quality that is fundamentally human and universal, our curiosity about the world that surrounds us would probably be it. This feeling peeps into young minds, it grows and flares, pushing us to know more, to break our limitations, to rise up from the ground into the shining eternity of the Universe. On this quest we might sometimes feel small, lost or bewildered, but we can also envision humankind as one people, united in a journey through the cosmos on this one-of-a-kind spaceship called Planet Earth.
This universal passion that emerges when curiosity and disquietude mix does not only translate into a desire to know the sky, but also into a need to see with new eyes and to share these eyes with others. This is the passion that gave birth to our astronomy outreach program, GalileoMobile, and the one we wish to kindle in the young people we meet across the world. Actually, when asked about GalileoMobile we always describe it as an itinerant outreach program. For the last six years we have travelled in three continents, talking about astronomy at schools and sharing precious moments with people in different places, with different cultures and backgrounds.
As it often happens to travelers, the road eventually tuned our feelings, changed our perspectives and gave us new ideas. This is how we noticed that our experience with GalileoMobile has a lot in common with a constellation, and decided to build one out of the schools we visit. For an astronomer, a constellation is essentially a map. But in reality, it’s so much more than that! In constellations humans depicted images with their imagination, inspired by their culture, uses, habitudes. The disposition of stars in our sky was the offspring for such images and stories related to them. But up close and deep within a constellation one finds planets, “the wanderers”, those lights able to travel around stars and witness their turbulent lives. For this project, the shining stars of the constellations were the schools, whose grand design and stories we could admire from a distance. We were both the observers and the wonderers, knowing each one and changing with its every turn.
GalileoMobile Constellation is a route connecting some of the shiny little points known as schools, hidden in the Latin American continent. GalileoMobile team members were the “planets” of such project, wandering across the Constellation and meeting its stars. Just like for stellar constellations, the closer one approaches it, the higher the amount of stars one can see. If in its first stage Constellation was an idea to connect 20 schools with each other, now it has already become a network between hundreds of students and professors, which are the real stars of the Constellation.
There is nothing more rewarding for a wonderer than to give life to something stable and long lasting. In 2015 we saw this constellation shine both as wonderers and as distant observers. We met the teachers, we spoke with them first by email then with video calls and then in person. We met the students, heard their stories and answered their questions about the sky. Those of us who couldn’t travel observed this constellation from a distance. We exchanged pictures and videos in social media, heard recordings from the activities and chatted about the Universe. More than 50 people worked to make this happen, and thousands of life paths crossed such Constellation. Now we stand in admiration, wishing our constellation shines on for years to come!
Evangelia Ntormousi received her PhD in Astrophysics by the Ludwig-Maximillians University of Munich in 2012. She is a post-doctoral researcher at CEA/Saclay in France, studying interstellar turbulence and star formation.
Fabio Del Sordo was born in 1979 in Campobasso, southern Italy, and he is currently working as postdoc at Yale University and NORDITA. His research focuses on Exoplanets and astrophysical magnetic fields.
Fabio and Evangelia are among the founding members of GalileoMobile and the initiators of the Constellation project.