Zsigmond Bödők

The namesake of the first astronomical observatory of Csallóköz in Hungarian southern Slovakia

Minor planet (210939) Bödök = 2001 TR197

I would like to start with a quote from one of Zsiga’s most important books, Magyarok égi képeskönyve (The sky picture book of the Magyars), which he dedicated to his wife, Marika.

"Long time ago, when human knowledge already existed but no science yet, the description of the nature and the surrounding world was more like a poetry. This poetry spread by word of mouth and from father to son throughout generations as believes, myths, stories, sagas, legends and fairytales. However, this heritage is not complete."

The Magyar (Hungarian) folk believes about sky and celestial objects are exceptionally rich. Despite of this fact, the folk literature in this area is the poorest, gathering information and research is at best minimal.

The cultural and historical value of Zsiga Bödők’s work is monumental. His Harmatlegelő book (1986) and the Magyarok égi képeskönyve published 20 years after, are his true lifetime works, where he presents the fruits of his many years of research and collecting efforts. In his own words:

"Our old shepherds are quietly disappearing from among us and took their knowledge of stars and traditions to the graves. Collecting ancient star names and believes is therefore even more pressing as the last of those generations, who might still know them, are slowly passing away. These memories should be saved for future generations.

"To have poetically beautiful star names and not to know which actual star it belongs to, is very sad" – writes Zsiga in his book. The recognition that he might live in the last possible era to collect the old Magyar believes and knowledge from our elders, pushed him forward and encouraged him to collect anything remaining. He felt responsible for enhancing and saving the Magyar culture. He loved his nation.

He writes on this subject in his book: "To collect, protect and pass on our intellectual heritage is not just the matter of piety but it is also an obligation."

In 1981 together with friends he founded the Trifid amateur-astronomical organisation, which was unique in those times.

He collaborated with famous astronomical organisations of the eastern and western world.

Zsiga’s energy, work and love for astronomy formed the Trifid into an organisation and movement, where the Hungarian youth of the 80’s was able to find a way out of the suppressed lifestyle of the communist era.

I remember, that we rebelled and were full of energy, and Zsiga was our leader, our manager. We were young, most in their teens, some barely twenty, but we had a charismatic leader who continues influencing (indirectly) many thousands of young people ever since.

During summer weeks, in Konkoly astronomy camps, we were able to use various new technologies and able to learn new things. In these many weeklong camps, he was teaching school kids, showed us the wonders of the starry skies, brought in the latest telescopes and organised presentations by university professors to hear about the latest discoveries.

And during the evening camp fires he talked about the Magyar folk culture and traditions, about our ancient believes of the sky, about Magyar kings and important figures from our thousand some years past.

He introduced us to the Hungarian folk music and dances, which he loved and publicised and for which we are forever thankful to him.

Our dear Zsiga taught us that knowledge, intellect, honour, and our national awareness is the biggest treasure and value we can have, which he demonstrated with his own way of life.

He educated us towards a brighter future and for which we all thankfully remember those beautiful days in camps and meetings and him personally, our beloved leader and friend.

He showed us what it means to be Magyar and taught us to appreciate and love everything what is part of our culture and nation, which became his life achievement.

We thank him for taking us up to the Lomnic peak solar observatory in High Tatras mountains, so we could experience the dawn and the dark starry skies in the same time and to get closer to the stars and all the wonders of the universe.

He organised weeklong roundtrips around Hungary, where 8 people drove around in a minivan and visited various astronomical institutions, historic cities and fortresses, made friends with likeminded amateur astronomer enthusiasts and had fun.

He wanted to show the world, to students and people of all ages everything he knew about the sky, therefore he took pictures of everything he observed and saw. His images are priceless, showing his artistic and unique worldview.

His master images were showcased at various exhibitions, while he held entertaining but science-driven presentations at different locations. He loved teaching and sharing all the knowledge he acquired throughout his academic and work years. And all his efforts show. By now, his students and friends became intellectuals who remember him with great gratitude.

As the fruit of his work within the Trifid organisation, we, the Magyar (Hungarian) amateur astronomers of southern Slovakia, built the first astronomical observatory of our beautiful region called Csallóköz, which was inspired by his life and views. It is a memorial to his achievements and efforts.

Thank you, Zsiga, our friend, for everything you did for us, for the way you formed our knowledge and broadened our views, and that you channelled our youthful energies into right direction and gifted us with lifelong friendships.

We respectfully remember your friendship and your work, for which we will never be able to thank you enough, only maybe by way of continuing your selfless work.

This was the reason, why we chose you to be the namesake of our observatory. You were and still are with us, living in our thoughts, actions and writings, lifting people to the stars and making the world a better place.

Dear Zsiga Bödők, rest assured that our love and respect will follow you on your starry travels and your memory will be kept alive by the wonders of the sky reflected in our telescopes.