During the day, Fábio Pelegrino from our São Paolo office is a consultant, working on commercial policies, trade terms, portfolio rationalization and promotion analysis for the consumer goods and retail industry. After dark you are more likely to find Fábio somewhere in the mountains, lying on the bonnet of his car, and behind the lens of a telescope…
Fábio, we heard that before joining Simon-Kucher, you were actually an astronomer. Can you tell us more? In particular, what first sparked your interest in the stars?
Well, actually an amateur astronomer, yes! The first time I looked up and started watching the stars I was around eight years old – and I have been doing it ever since. I was particularly intrigued by two important events: First, I remember seeing the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster on the news, and it got me thinking about the importance of aerospace engineering, space exploration, and space itself. Then, in 2004, there was the chance to watch Venus passing in front of the sun. Although just a tiny black spot, it was amazing for me as a child. Since then, I can't think of a day when I haven't looked up to watch the sky.
I went on to study aeronautical and aerospace engineering at Universidade de São Paulo (USP) and the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and although I now work as a consultant by day, I am still an avid stargazer by night. In fact, it doesn't even have to be during the night – sometimes it is possible to see interesting things during the day, too.
Is there any special equipment that you need for stargazing, aside from a telescope?
Ten years ago, I didn't have a telescope, so I relied on naked eye observations. This was an important phase where I learned how to read the night sky as it changes throughout the year. Today, I have three telescopes. My most basic allows me to look at the moon and some planets. The second clearly shows the color and distinguishing features of planets, such as the hurricane on Jupiter. The third is the most powerful and is more than two meters long. I keep it at my family’s farm in Atibaia, a very small town near São Paulo in the countryside, where the sky and weather conditions are perfect for night sky observations. This telescope is linked to automatic adjustment software, which makes things easier because I can focus on the observation.
Are you working toward any specific goals or looking forward to any specific events?
Not an event per se, but I would definitely love to spend some more time in the Northern Hemisphere. There you have good visibility of the Andromeda Galaxy – one of the few galaxies that can be seen from Earth without a telescope. In addition, I have already been lucky enough to fulfill my dream and meet the astronaut Marcos Pontes, the first South American and Brazilian to go into space. It happened at an aerospace event at my university in Brazil, where he gave a lecture on space exploration and how it felt to be up there.
Aside from meeting famous astronauts, what is the most enjoyable aspect of your hobby?
Astronomy is not just a hobby for me. It's like therapy. If I have had a crazy week at work, going to watch the stars from a quiet place such as the mountains is all I need to relax. I can just drive somewhere without much light, lay down on the roof of my car, and spend the night looking at the sky. Sometimes I don’t see anything new, but it makes me feel comfortable and calm. That's the most important thing for me.
For those that might be interested, what personality traits do you think are required in order to become a stargazer? Is this similar to consulting?
In my personal life, I'm not the most patient person. However, night sky observations require a lot of patience. For example, there are specific times in the year when it's more likely to see shooting stars, and you have to just be there. You have to spend the night, lay down, and look up for hours in the hope that something will happen.
In consulting, we also have to be patient. Even if things point toward a very clear conclusion, we can never be certain of our hypotheses until we have the supporting data. Consulting is also about searching for opportunities, studying, and analyzing. I am a very data-driven person, and this fits well with my work, as well as astronomy, astrophotography, and aerospace engineering. They are all very analytical in different ways.
However, the most important thing to remember is that anybody can look at the stars. There are many things we take for granted in our everyday lives and often we forget to look at the sky that surrounds us. So I really encourage people, whatever your background, to just take a look and give it a try. Search for things in your own personal way. Who knows, you might find yourself to be another sky lover like me.
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