Monday, March 20, 2017

Traveling Telescopes: A Great Way To Spread Astronomy Awareness?

Given that a lot of young people are still clueless about astronomy, are travelling telescopes a good way to spread the knowledge about astronomy?

By: Ringo Bones 

Astronomer Susan Murabana did not have an easy time following her passion for celestial bodies while growing up in Nairobi, Kenya. Even until this day, the country has no planetarium, only a handful of astronomers and access to even an entry-level astronomical telescope in the 200-US dollar price range is nigh on impossible, it seems that spreading knowledge and awareness on astronomy in Kenya is akin to the proverbial “fool’s errand”. But now with her Travelling Telescope Initiative, she now has the means to inspire a new generation of Kenyans to the joys and fascinations to the science of astronomy. 

Together with her husband, Kenyan astronomer Susan Murabana started her Travelling Telescope Initiative back in 2013 as an astronomy outreach program by visiting primary and secondary schools across Kenya with an 8-inch astronomical telescope – about the minimum size to allow the viewer to resolve the structure of the Andromeda Galaxy, our Milky Way’s nearest galactic neighbor. Given that hands on astronomy is still largely an esoteric endeavor to children in the developing world, even seeing the moon through an astronomical telescope capable of a distortion-free 30-times magnification is enough to fascinate the uninitiated. 

Given the worldwide popularity of big-budget Hollywood space-based science fiction movies, the science of astronomy is still largely an unknown or at most a very esoteric scientific endeavor to most children in primary and secondary schools of developing nations across the world. While internet connected desktop personal computers in schools had been a boon to science education in the 21st Century in developing nations, it seems that an overwhelming majority of children in developing countries can’t even point to the planet Mars in the sky as nighttime arrives in their local time zone.