The extraordinary story of an expedition vehicle that longs for travel adventure and reaches over and over again for the stars.
A multimedia presentation by Gernot Meiser and Pascale Demy
As a strange vehicle navigates southward under the starry blackness of a Nubian Desert sky, a new idea is conceived. As the adventurers traverse the African continent from north to south – from windswept Sahara sands to savannahs teeming with wildlife – the idea takes shape. The German-French couple is travelling from Europe to southern Africa to witness nature’s most awesome spectacle, a total eclipse of the Sun. Along the way they are encouraged to also follow their new dream – to convert their 12-wheel Unimog expedition vehicle to a fully-equipped portable observatory. On “star safaris” for small groups of enthusiasts, at special astronomy events at Earth’s increasingly rare dark sites, and at sidewalk astronomy gatherings in urban locations, parks and schools, they imagine all that could be accomplished. By the end of their year-long African odyssey, the dream has become an obsession.
Now, years later, that dream has become a reality. In this multimedia presentation Gernot Meiser and Pascale Demy present the story of their African eclipse odyssey as well as the their mobile observatory’s journey from concept to completion. Stunning images of Africa, enthralling photos of a total solar eclipse and the expanse of the universe are all a part of the journey.
Gernot Meiser is a photographer and designer who became an enthusiastic amateur astronomer while growing up in Saarlouis in western Germany. It was there, in 1972 at age 12, that Meiser first observed a partial solar eclipse and caught “eclipse fever”, a passion that became a driving force in his life. He now travels the world to intercept the Moon’s shadow as often as possible, documenting eclipses and leading important expeditions to remote locations in Siberia, Colombia, Bolivia, Africa and more. When not chasing eclipses, Meiser is usually found making night-time observations or sharing his passion for astronomy with others through lectures, conferences and workshops. At weekend seminars and continuing teacher education classes Meiser teaches safe solar observing and practical astronomy. He recently outfitted his 12-wheel Unimog expedition truck as a unique mobile observatory that provides new opportunities for popularizing astronomy by taking astronomy to the people and organizing astronomical events at any location.
Pascale Demy earned degrees in foreign languages and journalism in her native France before moving to Germany in 1989. Her first report on a total solar eclipse came during a trip to Bolivia in 1994, where she also documented how astronomy unites people of different countries and cultures through recognition that we all live under the same sky. She has since teamed with Gernot Meiser on solar eclipse expeditions, often focusing on personal experiences and meetings with other people during the journey as much as the astronomical event itself. Their adventures around the world have given them insights and experiences that they utilize at special events with their mobile observatory, “Startruck Odyssey”, and in training courses, lectures, films, multimedia shows and publications.