Scanning the night sky
Kedar P Badu
In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo invented the telescope. He observed the planet Jupiter through his newly constructed instrument and identified four of its prominent satellites or moons. This discovery led to the breakthrough in scientific thinking by establishing that earth was not the centre of universe, but a mere planet, revolving around the sun.
Astronomy is a science that allows practical application of other branches of sciences also. Our children study science in schools and colleges but without practicing the discipline. In order to give the children of Nepal an opportunity to study objects in the sky, Galileo Astronomical Society of Pokhara (GASPO) was established in early 2003 as a social initiative by amateurs.
Nepal is one of the best places for observations. We have little pollution and the sky remains clear most of the year (except monsoon). We have mountains that are above 3,000 m, perfect setup for observatories. In spite of all these, we have not been able to use it for development of astronomy. Even 400 years after the invention of the telescope, amateur telescopes are not available in our shops. Magazines and journals on astronomy are non-existent in our market. This has hindered the development of astronomy in Nepal. GASPO has decided that it needs to focus its activities not only on observation but also in advocating the importance of astronomy.
After establishing GASPO in early 2003, we found a donor in California, USA (Permission to Dream Project of Space Frontier Foundation), who agreed to donate a Meade 90mm ETX telescope to our club. With the help of this telescope, we now conduct observation of planets and other celestial objects for school children in Pokhara. So far, we have conducted observations of the moon, Mars, galaxies and nebulae.
An interesting aspect of our activity is the stories the students relate after observations. We encourage children to write stories of each planet after observation. After seeing the craters of the moon, some children argued that they believed moon was God but now it looks more like a wilderness full of pits! For us in GASPO, there is nothing more fulfilling than showing a child the craters of the moon, rings of Saturn and wonders of space.
The author is the president of GASPO, Pokhara. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org