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Christian Preuss is completely star-struck. It’s something that began for him at the age of 12, and his obsession has driven him to find out everything he can about the stars. He tracks their movements with long lenses. He even takes

pictures of them, and shares them with other people. But he isn’t some kind of a celebrity stalker. It’s not the Hollywood stars that he’s interested in. His passion is for the celestial cosmic bodies that are scattered across the night sky. Christian Preuss is an amateur astronomer and cosmos explainer.

“When I was a little boy my parents gave me a telescope as a present,” he explains. “The first thing I saw when I looked through it was the planet Saturn with its rings. Live. Not on TV. And that shocked me.” Even now as he explains the source of his inspiration some 20 years later his awe is tangible. “I told my father I wanted a bigger telescope. And now I have one of the

biggest in my region in Germany,” he says proudly. His interest in the stars and the cosmos has driven him ever since and he has made it his business. Today he is an “astrotainer”, travelling to schools or giving keynote speeches, dedicated to communicating the wonders of the universe and the billions of stars in it.

Starry night. The perfect place to stargaze is away from light pollution and the glare of the city.
The perfect car to go off the beaten track into the darkness: the ŠKODA KODIAQ.

Christian Preuss

Tonight, Christian Preuss is hosting an event as part of the ŠKODA KODIAQ launch at a planetarium in Mallorca. Wearing a space suit he bought on the internet as part of his act, he explains the magic of the universe to the assembled audience. Like a newly landed astronaut, he leans up against what looks like his space craft, but which is, in fact, the special projector perfected by German lens-makers Zeiss. It creates the image of the night sky and projects it on the dome-shaped overhead screen of the planetarium.

The stars, he explains to an audience hanging on his every word, are invisible during the day. But they are up there, nevertheless. Twinkling silently to themselves. Billions and billions and billions and billions of them. So many in fact, that if you took every grain of sand on every beach in the world, that number of grains would still be lower than the number of stars that are out there. The audience gasps. By day, he continues, the light of the Sun, itself a giant star and the closest one to Earth, drowns out their light. But at night, when the Earth turns itself away from the Sun, they show their faces.

Understanding the universe: Astronomy explainer Christian Preuss reveals the signs of the Zodiac
and other constellations, such as the shape of the Great Bear (Osa Mayor in spanish).

For centuries, Preuss explains, man has looked up at the stars and told stories about them and found patterns in them. As he speaks the stars magically appear above his head and he traces the signs of the Zodiac, the Orion and Pegasus constellations and – certainly – the shapes of the Great Bear (Osa Mayor in spanish). Using his science fact to transport his audience, he travels through the solar system, the Milky Way and the universe. It is a fantastic trip made possible by the superb planetarium here at the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca (OAM). But there is much more to this place than the astrotainment on offer in the planetarium.

The star dome is just one part of a larger observatory which was established on the island in 1991. It is something of a pioneer in the world of astronomy, because it uses special robotic telescopes to identify and track asteroids. Under the guidance of director Salvador Sanchez, the centre has discovered a number of asteroids that are threat to Earth. It has named a few of them too, and since 2008 it has kept its eye on over 2,000 of them. Sanchez is a dapper, charismatic figure. The 60-year-old has a similar enthusiasm for space as Preuss does, but his focus is less on stars and planets and more on the asteroids.

A passion for stars: Salvador Sanchez, Director of the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca (AOM).

With twinkling eyes he explains the complicated process of identifying an asteroid. “You have to scan the sky,” he says. “We then make four positions of how the asteroid moves and follow up on its movements. Nearly all our work is to do with asteroids, but we also discovered a number of extra-galactic supernovas - the first in Europe to do so,” he says proudly.

Asteroids, he explains, are a threat. They are essentially minor planets which have not yet built up to become a planet themselves and there are millions of them between Mars and Jupiter. Some are just a little too close for comfort to us here on Earth. A few even cross Earth’s orbital path, which spells danger for our planet. If we were to collide with one of them it could be devastating to life on Earth. “We must watch them,” warns Preuss. Sanchez agrees and has made that his life’s work. But there is a benefit to them too. Some asteroids are quite literally floating gold and platinum mines. Some companies, Preuss explains, are being set up with an aim to catch asteroids and mine them for their resources. In 40 or 50 years, says Preuss, those companies will be richer than any company in the world. Asteroids could make perfect space stations too. “They could be the future for space travel,” he says.

Sanchez picks up on Preuss’s point. “The closest asteroid to us, the one that passes the Earth, is only 20,000 km away. We call it the Duende asteroid. It was named and discovered here.” The naming of any space object is a complicated process, Sanchez explains. First, of course, you have to discover it. Then you give it a number and report it to the International Astronomy Union (IAU). A strict protocol is then followed to verify it. Then it can at last be given a name. In 2008, Sanchez was able to name an asteroid which the centre identified in 2003. It was named in honour of Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal.

A beautiful drive into the dark with the KODIAQ: Those wanting to visit the Astronomical
Observatory Mallorca (OAM) will experience a beautiful and scenic journey.

The centre is a learning post too. As well as a fantastic display of meteorites in the foyer, it is possible to look in more depth at the night sky. Anyone can hire one of the small pods scattered around the main building which house telescopes to watch the stars - all night long if so desired. Sanchez proudly shows off a few of the pods, which are named after great astronomers such as Galileo and Kepler, as night falls. It’s a perfect place to stargaze, away from the glare of the city and the light pollution that is obscuring the stars for so many of us city dwellers. The constellations start to light up in the sky; Orion, the Zodiac, the Great Bear.

Both Preuss and Sanchez agree that the best way to stargaze is to break out into the countryside, and off the beaten track into the darkness where the stars can shine their brightest. The KODIAQ SUV is the perfect vehicle to do just that. And sitting in the KODIAQ parked outside his observatory, looking through the sun roof – or rather the star roof – Sanchez looks upwards at the canopy above. He wonders what asteroids lie out there still for him to discover and name and joins up the dots of the stars. Looking at the gleaming points of light reflected on the stylish SUV’s body and refracted in its crystal-like glass settings, the KODIAQ with its seven seats instead of seven stars makes a constellation all of its own: ŠKODA’s unique Great Bear.