-introductory photo Valentin Grigore
text and photos Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
design Florin Alexandru Stancu-

From time to time
something makes me remember that the Argonauts’ Expedition,
returning from the eastern shore of the Black Sea
with the golden fleece of the magic ram,
travelled on the Danube River,
on the inverse sense of the water flow.

This was the most important expedition for astronomy,
some of the names of its heroes becoming, later, names of constellations:
Hercules, Perseus, Columba, Ram,
and especially Vela, Puppis and Carina,
which together form the supra-constellation Argo Navis.

This time Valentin Grigore’s picture,
taken in the Danube Delta at the confluence
of the Danube River with the Black Sea,
made me feel grateful to the Danubian city of Braila,
which I often visit
because my parents had lived here before they moved to Bucharest,
and here I have more relatives and friends,
and I can meditate of the Argonauts’ Expedition
on the bank of this amazing flow of water.

In fact, thinking that on the territory of Braila
the archaeologists discovered traces of a settlement
belonging to the Boian culture (5th millennium BC),
we can image that the older inhabitants of what Braila is today
were witnesses of the voyage of Argo Navis…

Going from Bucharest to the amazing city of Braila,
short before the Danubian city
we can see the industrial towers
of a former large factory for pulp and paper,
which was a pride of the communist regime and is a ruin now.

Then, advancing in the first part of Braila,
the blocks of flats made by the same regime do not seem to anticipate
the fabulous historical centre of the city.

However, a church made in the interbellic times
and named after the legendary founder of Wallachia
in the end of the 13th century,
Radu Negru Voda
(who expanded his territory up to Braila and even further),
appears on the right.

For a sky lover,
an external painting with the Holy Spirit seeming like a star of peace
may be interesting,
as well as the crosses which are adorned with artistic representations
of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun.

Then, through a short deviation from the main road,
we can see a statue with the Earth as seen from space.

At the first major intersection
things begin to become serious:
the new cathedral appears, replacing an older church
which was demolished by the communist regime in the 1960s.

This cathedral commemorates the martyrs
of the Romanian Anti-communist Revolution from 1989,
and it is dedicated to the Birth of the Saviour.

It has a few yellow sun crosses and an external painting with the Star of Magi,
a well known theme for astronomical researches
(after them, this Star was: comet,
supernova, globular lightning, fireball,
planetary conjunction - Jupiter and Saturn, or Jupiter and Venus near Regulus -,
Sirius etc.).

In 13 February 2015
I was lucky to see around this cathedral three such candidates
for the Star of Magi,
the first of them being Venus…

And from the front of Braila’s cathedral,
I saw Sirius on the right and Jupiter on the left.

Then other deviation
to see another vision of Earth from space…

…and a halt to see the Saints Constantine and Helena Church,
made in the 1870s,
also with the Earth, the Moon and the Sun on its crosses.

Choosing the most spectacular entrance to the historical centre of Braila,
we have to return to the Calarasi Way
(named after the postman-riders who transported letters
from Wallachia and Moldavia to the Ottoman Empire and back in the past).

Here, two impressive clock buildings
(so we have some astronomy again!)
appear as an imaginary gate:
the Agriculture Palace and the Mayoralty.

The Agriculture Palace was built in the 1920s in the Neo-Romanian style,
to celebrate the fact that, in the interbellic times,
the price of the cereals in Europe was decided
by the Braila stock exchange.

The Mayoralty is an interesting building made in the communist times
(ironically nicknamed the White House by locals),
which inspires the shape of a ship with a clock tower as its prow.
(For me, this is always another pretext to think of Argo Navis).

In 24 Decmber 2014
I imagined I was a guardian of Braila’s historical centre
and I watched the sunset
from between these two buildings,

Then the Moon’s appearance…

In 16 February 2015
I was again in the same place,
this time with the intention to catch Venus…

But the planet was gulped by clouds
before becoming brighter.

In exchange,
on that night the sky opened again for short
to show me Jupiter trying to develop
a trans-tree connection to Sirius,
then a triangle with Procyon and Sirius,
and then a quadrilateral with Pollux, Betelgeuse and Sirius…

Plus. on the next morning,
an interesting twilight (including the sunrise).

So I decided to postpone my intention to be your guide
in the large historical centre of Braila
and to invite you on the bank of the Danube River
to think of the Argonauts.

I recommend you to do this at any time,
and especially during the Global Astronomy Month (April),
when you can follow the call of Spica and Arcturus…

…or when, during the evening,
the Winter Triangle goes to tell news to Argo Navis,
and, during the pre-morning,
the Summer Triangle comes to tell news… from Argo Navis.

…or when the Morning Moon
is incredibly beauty.

And on the bank,
you can enjoy the company of the Sun
(as I did it 2014)…

…or of the Moon and the clouds
(as I did it in 2013).

I love the Universe, but I don’t think that
I can really become a classic astronaut.
However, for any eventuality,
At least I’d try to be a modern Argonaut.


© 2015 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)