What do you see when you look at the sky?


I chose this title because it can briefly describe the divers’ experience at Planetarium of Bogotá. Even though most of the people think this one is one of the perfect places for kids to be in, I could say that this is a place for grown-ups too. The Planetarium leads us to rethink how diverse our planet actually is.

Surrounded by question marks, we noticed that we know nothing about the universe, or in other words (said by the Planetarium): “our knowledge of the universe does not only come from what we can see”. This questioning was the perfect start for another research of how diversity looks like outside planet earth. We decided to go far up…

Every generation is different; traditions shift and our perception also changes. It changes every time someone says something new, rediscovers any thing or finds out something we have not even thought of before.

A long time ago, people knew when to plant and grow food depending on how the stars were aligned; they could know when the next season was coming because the sky was their main calendar and guide. For instance, Mayans were the first ones to create an “annual” calendar based on the position of the sun and the moon respectively. Every hour the light from both, the sun and the moon, would point at a different angle of the calendar (a circle made in stone, by the way). The thing was that they noticed that the rotation of the earth was conditioned by factors that they couldn’t really understand. Having a calendar was not enough though, they needed a compass to guide them; they would know when to grow fruits but not where to do it, so they used the stars and the constellations to create an imaginary map for them to follow when they needed to build, grow food, haunt, etc.

Mayan_Zodiac_CircleComplete Haab cycle. This photo was taken by Theilr and posted in the Flickr site on 27 December 2007, 13:17:07

Today, we have our own calendar and our own “technologically” assembled compasses, which is probably why all these questions about the universe would not come up in a normal conversation, it’s like everything had been figured out by others for us. Probably, sometimes you are even looking at you smartphone instead of taking a minute to look up to the sky and try to find the “Polaris”, or maybe too busy running in the complexity of modern cities to try and understand why we, sometimes, see Mars in the sky and sometimes we don’t (a little hint: the reason is called the Mars’ Illusion).

What I am trying to say is that the universe is so complex, that there are still questions without answers… Unsolved puzzles. Although there are many theories and hypothesis about the beginning of the universe, there are many remaining doubts, but the interesting thing is that there are many possible ways of looking at one single phenomenon. Either way, all those theories we think are so crazy, should all be respected and why not, heard once or twice. That’s just another way of giving diversity the place it deserves in this world… or maybe in outer space.

I would like to encourage you to have a look at what is around us and you’ll see how small we really are while looking at the big wide night sky, but just keep in mind that for as small as we may be, imagination and curiosity can cross barriers and overcome any limits.

So I want to give you a little task. Why don’t you ask yourself: what do you see when you look at the sky?