In the past, the inhabitants of Oceania faced the sea with confidence because they learned to know and interpret it. They did this by developing a navigation system based mainly on the stars, which marked the position of the islands on the horizon, in addition to other calculations related to ocean currents and wind direction. One of these ancestral peoples is Rapa Nui, a Chilean island located in the eastern vertex of the so-called Polynesian Triangle, in the South Pacific Ocean.
This place, known for its nature and ancestral culture, was visited by the Las Campanas Observatory of the Carnegie Institution for Science during April of this year, to conduct workshops, talks and observations with telescopes together with high school students of the Liceo Aldea Educativa Hōɳa’a o te Mana.
The activities, for tourism courses, environmental forgers, biology and chemistry electives, and scientific humanist courses , focused on the Moon and its effects on the tides, space debris, stellar evolution, observatories, light and optics, and telescopes, and were conducted over two weeks by astronomer Carol Rojas, in charge of Communications and Outreach at Las Campanas Observatory.
For Princesa Moulton, a student of the establishment, the most interesting thing was to learn about space junk. “Satellites are super useful on a daily basis, but the perspective that when they stop working they can be junk was very relevant to me. Also, to understand this, we touched on topics such as gravity, Earth’s rotation, etc.”
“Chile must integrate the cultural and scientific heritage of all its regions and territories in its community work. That is why the Las Campanas Observatory of the Carnegie Endowment for Science is interested in communicating astronomy to children, young people and the general public throughout Chile, especially in areas as rich in astronomical heritage as Rapa Nui”, emphasizes Leopoldo Infante, Director of the Las Campanas Observatory.
This school is multipurpose, offering subjects in the scientific-humanistic area and in the technical-professional area. “The talks for the tourism students were super relevant, since they train them in the area of astro-tourism, which, without a doubt, is a good contribution,” emphasizes Felipe Rivera, chemistry teacher at the establishment. “We are very grateful for the visit of the Las Campanas Observatory and for the activities that have been carried out in this remote place, where it is difficult for this to be done due to the distance at which we live. It has been a very rewarding experience. The children have participated, they are interested, they have liked the activity and the experiments that have been carried out”, adds the teacher.
In addition to the activities with the students, the visit included night observation for the general public at Tahai, a place famous for having a platform with moai in front of which people gather to watch the sunset.