Eyes on

the Universe

Meet ALFA Planetarium’s Astronomic Society

Eyes on the Universe

Meet ALFA Planetarium’s Astronomic Society

Since the beginning of time, humans have been intrigued by what happens in the sky, the infinite space that surrounds us. At ALFA Planetarium there is a group of star lovers dedicated to deciphering, studying and sharing what happens up there.

ALFA Planetarium’s Astronomic Society (known as SAPA due to its initials in Spanish) exists with the mission of promoting, divulging and presenting society with activities focused on the study and knowledge of astronomy. It exists since 1987 and is made up of 40 astronomers, both amateur and professional.

ALFA Planetarium and the SAPA collaborate through an exchange: the Planetarium’s Astronomical Observatory serves as the headquarters for the SAPA’s weekly meetings and backs up the organization. In exchange, after every meeting, the Society offers free astronomical talks to the museum’s visitors.

The Society is also a support for the museum in the organization of activities and talks when an important astronomical event happens; together, they organize events for the general public.

Luis Montemayor, Excursions Coordinator and member of SAPA since 2005, oversees the Society’s events that happen outside the Planetarium’s doors. For example, urban observations take place at the History Museum’s esplanade, Macroplaza, Fundidora Park, and Chipinque Ecological Park in Monterrey, Nuevo León.

Astronomy is a collaborative science by nature: it’s no longer about the traditional astronomer looking through a telescope. In this discipline, many sciences collaborate to understand the cosmos: geologists study the sediments and rocks found on other celestial bodies; chemists study different planets’ atmospheres; physicists examine how closeness or distance from the Sun affects a star’s temperature.

“Astronomy is the only science where amateurs can collaborate and contribute knowledge.

You don’t need to be an expert, only to have a telescope. Many times, amateurs have discovered comets and asteroids that carry their names. For example, a shoemaker in Australia discovered a comet with his telescope and it carries his name nowadays”, Manuel Cabrera, board member since 2001.

Every year, the SAPA celebrates the National Reunion of Astronomy Amateurs where the general public may enjoy talks given by experts in astronomy from the Universidad Autónoma de México; the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica; and the Astronomical Union, among others.

The SAPA contributes to the international astronomic community by taking part in planet observation, for example. Different stations are installed and take record of a planet’s passing in front of or near a star. This data is analyzed and even reaches NASA.

If you ask the SAPA members which astronomical event has been the most impressive, they will invariably reply: the 2017 total solar eclipse.

“It makes you think about what the ancients felt; they didn’t know what has happening and thought the world was ending.

You already know what will happen, at what time, why it happens and even then, when you see the sky go dark and the horizon redden, feeling how the temperature goes down when the moon covers the Sun and you see the solar corona appear, a giant black hole in the sky with a silver halo, you are absolutely moved”, Luis Jorge Manzanero, vice president, member since 2009.

 “As urban beings, many of us don’t look to the sky anymore. When we do, we don’t want to stop, day or night.

We learn from it and that is why we are together: because we love astronomy. Thanks to this passion we can divulge what we know to the community and try and plant that seed in whoever is with us”, Enrique Pérez, member of the SAPA since 2000.

“Space definitely helps you learn your place in the greater scheme of things; looking and knowing the universe is so big and immense helps you think about your mission.

Something very interesting is knowing that what we see in the sky happened years and years ago; there is so much distance between the stars that the light we see today comes from stars that no longer exist”, Ivette Miranda, SAPA Secretary, member since 2006.

Are you interested in joining but have no experience or equipment? Don’t worry! Anyone can be a member of SAPA, you just need interest and a wish to look at the sky differently.

Follow the SAPA on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles and visit their webpage to learn more about their activities.

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