Vasco Rossi “tells it to the moon,” Nino Manfredi takes all the brightest stars and a sliver of moon “all for us,” and Jovanotti confides everything to the “city’s August moon” … so many have written, sung and invoked the Moon hoping that their dreams would come true or to confess their secrets, anger, love. This celestial body, so far away, yet… so near.
It’s already been 50 years since that distant 20 July 1969, when the Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and 393,309 km of dreams became reality. Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin and Michael Collins are the three astronauts who faced this epic feat in a pressurized space of just 6.5 square metres.
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” were the words pronounced by Armstrong.
“He touched it, he’s touched the lunar surface” were the words exclaimed by Italian newscaster Tito Stagno to report the first foot resting on the Moon. Broadcast worldwide, 600 million spectators were amazed by those images that changed history.
And as if by magic, half a century after the moon landing, the sky seems to be blowing, as well as on 50 candles, on a curtain opening onto extraordinary events that make the sky glitter even more.
As in the most passionate declarations of love, on July 16th, the second lunar eclipse of the month will make the moon “blush.” And a red moon it will be at 11:30 pm, the same “Luna Rossa” sung by Claudio Villa, then by Frank Sinatra and made an international success by Renzo Arbore.
But it is not enough to make a beautiful lady blush to say that you have won her heart. This year, not even Billie Holiday’s ode to the “Blue Moon” will be enough to equal the ode to the stars written in the blue of the night: a shower of stars will fall at half past midnight on July 29th. The Delta Aquaridi are meteors in the swarm that will make you express all your desires long before the famous night of San Lorenzo, on August 10th. And, wonder of wonders, in the first days of August it will meet with the Perseid swarm, creating the perfect atmosphere for the most coveted of “stellar kisses”!
So while the sky does its part to make our emotions explode, where in Lazio can we see these astronomical shows? Let’s take those we love by the hand and find the right place for a fantastic moonlit night!
At the Planetarium and Astronomical Museum of Rome you will be welcomed in a room measuring approximately 300 square metres, covered by a dome 14 metres in diameter, with 100 seats in concentric rows. The newest optical and digital technology, in particular, the SN88 optical projector, will make you exclaim “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe”: the Planetarium itself consists of two hemispheres that project nearly 4500 stars; the Astronomical Museum shows you models with interactive stations and dioramas that will literally immerse you in outer space.
The Astronomical Observatory of Rome on Monte Mario coordinates educational activities at the Solar Tower and organises the activities of conservation and dissemination of the Copernican Astronomical Museum. The museum contains a historical collection of astronomical instruments: eyepieces and telescopes, sextants for measuring the angular distance between the stars, astrolabes and nocturnal dials. In addition, you will find a rich collection of armillary spheres and celestial and terrestrial globes.
With the motto “We show you the stars all year round,” the Astronomical Observatory of Rome at Monte Porzio Catone is always open to the public, carrying out research in astrophysics and managing the great heritage conserved in the Astronomic and Copernican Museum at Monte Mario and the Astronomical Park at Monte Porzio Catone. In the Astronomical Park, guided tours are organized of the Observatory’s permanent structures dedicated to educational and dissemination activities, temporary exhibitions and evening events for adults and children, with music, shows and interactive workshops.
Designed in 1939 and completed in 1965, it stands above the remains of the Roman villa of Matidia, a relative of the Emperor Hadrian, and in 1989 was the set for the film I Ragazzi di Via Panisperna.
Built in the 1980s at 1500 metres a.s.l., the Astronomical Observatory of Campocatino enjoys an extraordinary view of a sky which is very dark and, therefore, easily observable in detail. Right here, in Guarcino, a committee of scholars appointed by the Italian Astronomical Society studied the phenomenon of light pollution. In summer, the Observatory is open to the public for admiring galaxies, comets, nebulae and other phenomena in the starry sky.
The Gorga Astronomical Observatory is particularly dedicated to children, offering guided tours, multimedia explanations and the observation of celestial objects. The Planetarium, one of the largest in Italy, consists of a dome over 9 metres in diameter, and can accommodate about 50 visitors. The two digital projectors for a full-dome projection and the Dolby Surround 5.1 audio system put the spectator at the centre of the scene… as a real protagonist!
The Observatory of Frasso Sabino is housed in a converted 18th-century mill. Inaugurated in 1995, it is named after Virginio Cesarini, a scholar who participated in the founding of the Accademia dei Lincei, and includes the “City of Stars” astronomy museum featuring a permanent astronomical exhibition, a planetarium and a precious Cassegrain telescope. Managed by A.R.A. – Associazione Romana Astrofili, it boasts the discovery of two asteroids in 2000 and 2010.
In the heart of the Monti Simbruini Regional Nature Park, there is the “Claudio del Sole” Astronomic Observatory. In Prataglia, in the municipality of Cervara di Roma, since 2008, here you can observe the rotation of the planets and the life of the stars. The structure is opened only by reservation, for guided day and night tours, and is located at an altitude of 1120 metres.
Castel Gandolfo houses the Specola Vaticana, the astronomical observatory in the Apostolic Palace. Transferred here in the mid-1930s to escape the light pollution of Rome, it was in use until the end of the last century. Did you know that it participated with 20 other observatories around the world in the “Carte du Ciel,” the first photographically-based atlas of the stars?
Today, the Specola Vaticana of Castel Gandolfo boasts four telescopes, but is no longer used for astronomical observation due to the area’s excessive artificial lighting, continuing, however, with the analysis of meteorites. Every two years, since 1986, undergraduates and graduates in astronomy are guests of the structure for an international event, the “Vatican Observatory Summer School,” as well as for academic conferences and events open to the public.
Still on the subject of the Moon, there’s even an Italian pop hit of the 1960s, “Tintarella di Luna,” about fair-skinned girls tanning under the moonlight. The refrain goes something like this: “You’ve got a moon tan, a tan as white as milk, you spend your nights on the roof, moonbathing like cats, and when the full moon is out, you become pure white” … uh, sorry, we got a little too carried away there. All that remains is to say “Mission accomplished, we’re heading back to Earth!”