ANTONIO TABARES: “Science and literature have more in common than you might think”

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“Although unfortunately the forest fire on La Palma has added a sad and worrying aspect, my visit to the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (and previously to the Teide Observatory and the IAC Headquarters) has been a fantastic opportunity to rediscover that one of the most cherished possessions of the Canaries is just our sky. It´s there above our heads, within reach of an upward glance. It is also very stimulating to have proof that the best astronomical science in the world is being performed in our islands. I can only applaud a programme such as “IN a certain place in the Universe…” which through literature is trying to bring these two realities closer to people at large.

Antonio Tabares, author of the prize-winning play, which has been made into a film, The tip of the iceberg, is the fourth author to take part in the multidisciplinary initiative “ In a certain place in the universe” which is celebrating the IV centenary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes by blending astronomy and literature. So far, as well as Tabares, Elsa López, Rosa Montero and Juan Cruz have participated, and soon Juan Madrid will also take part. With contributions from the invited authors a volume of short stories will be created, to help a solidarity project related to Alzheimer’s disease.


Tabares recognizes that although science has been treated often in the literature, such as in The life of Galileo by Bertolt Brech, or The Physicists by Durrenmatt, we are still slightly afraid of it, “because of our lack of scientific knowledge”. However in his view the two disciplines are not so widely separated, and they have more in common than meets the eye. “In fact astrophysicists and authors do the same thing. Although they look far away and we look nearby, we work in order to understand our world and ourselves”. Accordig to this author “the more we can establish links between us, the nearer we will be to reach this frontier”.

As he is from the Canaries, and lives in La Palma, this author knew about the science carried out in the islands. However he has been impressed by the high level of science and technology he found in the astrophysical centres. “Because of them” he stressed “we are a point of reference both nationally and internationally, which shows that living on an island need not be a limitation to stand out, to be successful, and to rise high.

At the Teide Observatory, in Izaña (Tenerife), Antonio Tabares visited THEMIS (the Heliographic Telescope for Studying Solar Magnetism and Instabilities, acronym from the original French), The GREGOR solar installation, the IAC-80 optical telescope, the Carlos Sanchez infrared telescope, and the ESA Optical Ground Station (OGS). At the end of his day’s visit he could enjoy a magnificent sunset over the island summits.

The following day he visited the Museum of Science and the Cosmos, of Museums of Tenerife, where, accompanied by the Councillor of Youth, Equality, and Historical Heritage of the Island’s Cabildo (governing body) Josefa Mesa, he gave a press conference to explain his impressions of the project “In a certain place in the Universe…”

At the Roque de los Muchachos observatory he visited most of the installations, among them the Swedish Solar Telescope (SST), the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING); the National Galileo Telescope (TNG) the MAGIC  telescopes, and the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS. His visit was accompanied by Peter Sütterlin, an astronomer at the SST, Javier Méndez, an astronomer at the ING, Emilio Molinari, an astronomer at the TNG, and Romano Corradi, the Director of the GTC. He was also able to participate in an astronomical observation, after sunset.

The project “In a certain place in the Universo...” enjoys participation by the international scientific institutions of the Canary Island Observatories, by the Museum of Science and the Cosmos, of Museums of Tenerife, and is supported by the Cervantes Institute, and funded by the Severo Ochoa Programme.

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