Updated: Jul 10, 2020
Tomorrow is the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. Every year on this day the most romantic encounter in the Universe is celebrated.
For us the story started years ago on a 7th of July at noon in the Plaza of San Pedro de Atacama where we saw a tree full of little pieces of paper tied to it. Thalía, our guide told us the story: The pieces of paper (tanzaku) seal a wish that a person writes and ties to the tree on the day that the Japanese (although originally from China) legend of Tanabata is celebrated.
Tanabata commemorates the story of two lovers who are represented by the stars Vega and Altair. Legend tells of the life of Princess Orihime daughter of the King of Heaven who was a great seamstress. She wove clothes for the gods. The beauty of her work made her be admired by everyone. But Orihime was sad because she did not love anyone, so her father, who adored her, took her to meet a cow herder named Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the river Amanogawa. They fell in love instantly. They married and were very, very happy, but they loved each other so much that they neglected their jobs and the gods were upset. Then her enraged father separated them, one to each side of the river, but told them that if she returned to knitting and Hikoboshi to take care of the herd, he would allow them to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month.
On the first day they were to be reunited, they found the river to be too difficult to cross. Orihime became so despondent that a flock of magpies came and made a bridge for her. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies will not come, and the two lovers must wait another year to be reunited.
That same night we climbed up to the Montaña de la Sal carrying a 16 inches Newtonian telescope from where we actually were able to see the stars Altair (Hikoboshi) and Vega (Orihime) separated by the Milky Way (River Amanogawa). The lighting conditions cause the brightness of the Milky Way to dim, making it look like a bridge is being built between the two stars. This phenomenon can be seen around those dates.
It surely was the most romantic and exciting thing I've ever seen in the skies.
We hope for clear skies on Tanabata so the lovers can be reunited tomorrow!!
If you happen to be in the Atacama Desert consider a visit (on Saturdays or Sundays only) to ALMA, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), currently the largest radio telescope in the world.
If you want to know more about a stay in Atacama take a look at our suggested itinerary
is there somebody you'd like to surprise with this decorative decals for their Airpods? Check them out by clicking the Amazon icon. I found them particularly useful when everybody in the house owns a pair. They won't ever get messed up with the others.
Photo credits: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)