Science communication about the centenary of solar eclipse in Sobral, Brazil

Science communication about the centenary of solar eclipse in Sobral, Brazil

Author: Laercio Ferracioli – Department of Innovation and Science Outreach/Federal University of Espirito Santo, Brazil


  • Thiago Pereira – State Secretary of Education, Brazil

According to Einstein “The question my mind asked was answered by Brazil’s sunny sky”. On May 29, 1919 photographs of solar eclipse at Sobral, Brazil proved the 1915 Einstein’s General Relativity, stating massive bodies deform the fabric of space-time, causing a light beam deviation. It could only be observed through a total solar eclipse. The prediction of this eclipse led scientists to the ideal places: Sobral, Brazil and Príncipe Island, Africa. Africa observations were compromised by a storm.

Considering Sobral Solar Eclipse Centenary, recent publications about gravitational waves and black hole “photographs”, science communication events were organized in Brazil for promoting public understanding of Einstein’s ideas and the historical importance of Sobral Eclipse. In doing so, Einstein’s ideas will be natural to future generations who will grow up with them, as Bertrand Russel said, 1925.

This paper reports an activity promoted within Seminar on 100 Years of Sobral Solar Eclipse at Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil. Since high school students have only 2-hours-of-physics-per-week and there is a new full-time school politics being implemented with very broad guidelines, a theoretical-experimental elective-course was offered focusing on Science-as-human-enterprise; historical-scientific-chronological analysis of Einstein’s ideas; the impact of Sobral observations.

Among other tasks, students built PVC-circular-structures covered with elastane to simulate space-time curvature; light deflection simulators using cardboard-box, highlighter-pen, black-light-bulb; and Einstein’s-life-timeline.

Evaluation questionnaires answered at the end and four-month later students were asked to write 5-or-more-words expressing their course experience and to draw solar eclipse sketches. Analysis of the collected words with word-cloud-technique came up with citations such as “informative”, “cultured”, “science”. The solar eclipse sketches revealed distinct representations of space-time.

These results lend support for elective courses proposal for implementing full-time school politics based on Science Communication of recent outcomes for preparing citizens for Science and its impacts in their lives.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Technology