A WONDERFUL ASTRODAY IN BELGIUM

Text: Paul Roggemans and Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
Photos: Casper ter Kuile (2, 4, 5), Arnold Tukkers (7),
Jos Nijland (1, 6), Valentin Grigore (3, 8)
Proof checking: Alastair McBeath (U.K., Vice-President
of the International Meteor Organization)
Design: Gabriel Ivanescu

-A dialogue in memory of 2005, September 19th,
when Paul Roggemans (our host,
former Director of the Meteor Section of the
Belgian Astronomical Society, the VVS,
and General Secretary of the International Meteor Organization
between 1988 and 1996),
Andrei Dorian Gheorghe and Valentin Grigore
(both from SARM, Romania),
Casper ter Kuile, Arnold Tukkers and Jos Nijland
(all three from the Dutch Meteor Society),
Valentin Velkov (leader of the Bulgarian meteor group),
and a few other sky lovers spent a wonderful day in Belgium,
after the International Meteor Conference in Oostmalle-

Motto:
"When I plunged for the first time like a meteor from the sky,
before opening my parachute,
I felt myself as if swimming through ethereal waters."
- Valentin Velkov -



PALLAS AND ANOTHER LEGEND
- by Paul Roggemans -

I started meteor observing with an astronomy club called "Pallas",
now more than thirty years ago.
It was a most enthusiastic group with a strong interest in the
scientific and observational aspects of meteor work,
but we also went to the theatre, concerts, films, etc.
Some members played the piano, some wrote poems, some painted.
For three years, I was at the Academy of Mechelen, taking an
evening art-school supplement to my other classes.
When we visited other astronomy clubs we noticed that most of them were
very boring and did not generate the same enthusiasm that
we knew in our club.

In 1976 we brought together all the Belgian astronomy clubs with
young amateur members in one meeting.
Later, these would be the people to determine the
future of astronomy in Belgium.
I wondered why and how such enthusiasm was generated in our club to
undertake so many initiatives.

Later still, I visited astronomy meetings in
Holland, France, Germany, the UK, etc.
Most consisted of rather boring "dry" lectures,
and often seemed to have the spirit of a funeral.
Afterwards, the participants just went home.
The atmosphere at these events killed-off any possible creativity,
and these societies were virtually like death.
What a difference to the atmosphere we enjoyed in our club!

Thirty years ago we mixed our astronomy with music from the musicians,
poems of the poets, and drawings and paintings of the artists,
talents that we shared, and which made such a difference from that
dry, boring science elsewhere, giving us so much extra motivation...

Looking at the nightly skies,
questions started to arise.
Wondering about plenty why's,
portions of wisdom about life,
discerning truth from lies.

Starry skies provide human beings,
inspiring challenges to meditate.
Easy replies cause unhappy feelings,
forcing a scavenging more adequate.

Mankind on our planet Earth,
should remember to look above,
to find a treasure of worth,
fit to develop a deep love,
to find science to set forth.


(Paul Roggemans, 2006, February 20)

Finally, thinking of the "Pallas" club that began in Mechelen
(former capital of the Netherlands till the XVth century),
I shall relate an "astro-legend" about this town:

THE MOON FIGHTERS OF MECHELEN

Centuries ago, the inhabitants of the city of Mechelen,
capital of the Netherlands,
were proud of the majestic tower of the city's cathedral, St.Romouts.

Great was their distress and fear when suddenly one night,
someone noticed the tower bathed in yellow-orange light.
In no time, the alert was passed from door to door,
"The tower is set alight."

The fire-fighters were on their way, citizens ran with buckets of water,
all to the tower.
But when they got there, where was the fire?

Atmospheric conditions of clouds, mist and moonlight had created the
illusion that the tower was on fire!

Since that date the proud citizens gained the nickname of
"The Moon-Fighters",
as the story spread to other cities that the inhabitants of Mechelen
were on fire-alert just for an optical illusion from moonlight...

When the roof of the cathedral really was on fire in 1974,
many people of Mechelen got a bad feeling that the
old legend was coming true.

 



SARM AND ITS ANCESTORS
-by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe-

Many people wonder how the Romanian Society for Meteors
and Astronomy-SARM remains so active in astronomical poetry and art,
in spite of the extremely hostile socio-economic conditions in Romania.
I think I can give an answer.

For all its defects and problems, Romania has some special
points of reference regarding its spiritual connection to the Cosmos:

1. In the Romanian national myth-ballad, "Miorita" (The Little Ewe),
first preserved by Vasile Alecsandri, the shepherd-hero compares
his own future death with a cosmic wedding:
"...and a star fell/ at my wedding party,/ the Sun and Moon/
carried my coronet,/ ...and the stars were my torches."

2. The masterpiece of Romanian literature is the
long cosmic poem "Luceafarul" (The Evening Star, or Hyperion) of 1883
by Mihai Eminescu. In this:

"Hyperion started. His wings/ Brought him up into the sky,/
And the way of millennia/ He crossed in seconds.//
A sky of stars below,/ A sky of stars above,/
He looked like an unbroken flash/ Lost among them."

3. The most beautiful Romanian short poetry is a kind of equivalent of what
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" by Jane Taylor is in English literature,
or what "The Evening Star" by Edgar Allan Poe is in American literature.
Its name is "From The Star", and it was composed by
the same Mihai Eminescu in 1886.
Here is a significant stanza from it:

"From the star that has risen/ It is a way so long/
That the light needed thousands of years/ To arrive here..."

4. The masterpiece of Romanian art is considered a 1930s sculpture by
Constantin Brancusi, entitled The Column of the Infinite,
a fascinating symbol which climbs over thirty meters from the earth to the sky in
a park in the town of Targu Jiu.

All these masterpieces have also become myths for the real Romanians
(who in the 19th century chose the main colours of the
rainbow - red, yellow and blue - for the national flag),
so I think SARM's enthusiasm for astronomical poetry and art
is something rather ancestral...

Finally, thinking of the sky, I wrote...

"Nobody knows the sky like me,"
says the arrogant scientist,
"so I deserve more from it."

"Nobody feels the sky like me,"
says the proud poet,
"so I deserve more from it."

"Take it easy, please,"
says the poet-astronomer,
"nobody can confiscate the sky.
We can just love it
in our different, shining ways."

(Andrei Dorian Gheorghe, 2006, February)


2007 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)