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A group of people interested in traditional and modern knowledge of astronomy is gathering from time to time at the Tiapapata Art Centre where there are telescopes that will allow groups of enthusiasts to observe the stars and planets of the Southern hemisphere. With low levels of incidental light, the night sky above Tiapapata offers excellent viewing of the Milky Way, the planets, the moon and constellations. If you are interested in astro-photography, this is the place to be. ​

"In 1948 a gifted musician in a remote village in Samoa famous for its fishing culture composed the lyrics to a song celebrating Samoa’s approaching independence. He wrote:

“Ah! Hearken

as I explain the meaning of the stars and their positions.

Observe the Milky Way there in the south,

where there are the stars that form a cross.

O Samoa! Be at peace!

Not a bird should warble.

For the enslaved shall find freedom.”

It would take another 15 years, in 1961, before Samoa became the first Pacific Island to gain independence and, as declared in the lyrics of the song, the Southern Cross befittingly appears in the top left corner of the new nation’s flag. The deep knowledge Samoans had of the stars and the constellations once guided their navigators as they crisscrossed the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Ranked among the greatest seafarers in the world, their skill prompted early European explorers to first name the island group the Navigator Islands. But this knowledge of the stars, as with other branches of Samoan traditional ecological knowledge, has faded as surely as the knowledge of ocean voyaging has declined. The telescope will be set up at the Tiapapata Art Centre, 800m above sea level, where there is almost no light pollution. There are currently no known telescopes open to use by the public in Samoa. Children, youth and adults from Tiapapata and neighbouring villages will be invited to learn the names and locations of planets, stars and constellations in a regular program that will later be opened up to the public and disabled persons albeit with limited numbers. Elders and fishermen with knowledge of the stars will also be invited to help develop, in Samoan, a guide to the night sky over Samoa that will help sustain interest."

To listen to the segment of song above, click here.
For the full song, click here.

The photographs below and the one above were all taken by Galumalemana Steven Percival (© 2021).

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