World Space Week celebration in Ethiopia

 

I travelled to Ethiopia to participate in the celebration of World Space Week. The event  is celebrated every year in recognitions of space science and technology to the betterment of human life. International Astronomical Union (IAU)/ Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD)UN office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS) celebrated the event in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia between 8-10 October 2012. ESSS is the only body working for the development of astronomy in Ethiopia and it is in the process of building an observatory in mount Entoto (altitude of ~3100m) very close to the Capital Addis Ababa. The observatory is expected to operate two 1-meter telescopes capable of doing both high resolution spectroscopy and various types of imaging starting from the middle of 2013.

More than 60 high school physics and mathematics teachers as well as selected astronomy enthusiastic students participated in the event. The event created a remarkable opportunity for the high school teachers to develop their skill on how to develop a curriculum that embraces various relevant astronomy topics for their physics and maths classes. A very useful discussion on the topic was held and the teachers shared their experience among themselves. A basic astronomy lecture including stellar astronomy, solar systems, astronomical coordinate systems and navigational astronomy were presented. This gave participants some background to the different activities done later in the program.

Both a presentation and a workshop sessions were conducted about LCOGT facilities and some of the freely available online activities on LCOGT website. The presentation focused on the commitments of LCOGT to promote public understanding of astronomy. It was emphasised that LCOGT has various activities ranging from planets to solar systems to galaxies ready to be used by the public and participants are highly encouraged to use any of the resources. Finally, one afternoon was dedicated to do the Agent Exoplanet and Star in a Box activities.  Participants learned a lot and were very much happy with the opportunity to engage themselves with real data.

The most interesting part of the program was a one hour long live observation done with the 2-meter Faulkes Telescope in Hawaii. Various astronomical objects such as galaxies, stellar systems and nebulae were observed. Participants were able to appreciate the different procedures involved in taking observations with robotic telescopes via the internet. They are all very happy with the big opportunity the LCOGT telescopes (especially the 0.4-meter ones) will bring to Africa for public outreach and educational activities once they are operational. This would definitely help in building the momentum for the use of LCOGT robotic telescopes in the continent for public outreach and education.