Astronomy Camp at AIS 2011

Well, this is the first blog post that I'm publishing after 2 months. I'm really sorry about the absence of updates and news as i was really busy with University academics and AIESEC work. This post is about the Astronomy camp that we conducted for the Asian International School (AIS) last 18th of March

Astronomy Camp - March 2011 at University of Colombo

I'm now gonna blog about an event that we had in our University almost 2 months back. I'm really sorry guys for dragging this such longer due to the busy schedule I've been undergoing last few months due to various reasons. Hope you don't mind me sharing in so late. Anyway here it is...

Watch Total Solar Eclipse 11th July 2010 Live Streaming from EclipseBlog

The most awaited total solar eclipse of the year 2010 is about to take place in less than next 20 hours from now. There have been a lot of groups/ individuals flocked at South Pacific islands and Chilean territories right now waiting for the eclipse to take place.

IYA2009 Commemorative Coins Issued by Many Countries Worldwide

As the title of this post hints, there were lot of countries involved in this worldwide celebration during 2009, which was the 400th anniversary of both the discovery of telescope for astronomical observation by Galileo Galilei and the publication of “Astronomia Nova” by Johannes Kepler. These were the reasons which were prominent in specifying 2009 as the IYA.

A Tribute to Fiami the author of The Lives of Galileo

I have already made a post about Fiami, and his great gift that I received during the Christmas season. I got many great feedback on that and even my friends wanted to read it, as none of them had the comic book with them, So I thought of doing a youtube video featuring Fiami

The Blog Has Moved !

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My visit to Iceland on lookout for Northern Lights aka Aurora Borealis

I'm creating this blog post to share some of the reflections of my visit to Iceland last month (February 2013). In fact the main reason behind my visit to Iceland was to see the northern lights, aka aurora borealis. Ever since I'd heard of them and seen them in pictures and internet with breathtaking time lapses, I developed an utter desire to see them in reality.

Beyond doubt Scandinavia is the place to be, but you have to make sure you're within a decent latitude to see this magical phenomenon. Far north in Norway or Sweden , Finnish Lapland or distant Iceland would be potential candidates for your location if you're close to Europe. As for me I bailed out Norway and Sweden merely because I'd been there before, although it was not the far north where I was before, during my first trip in Europe. This latest being the second, I chose Iceland as my target, inspired by many facts about amazing nature, sagas, old Norse, Eyjafjallaj√∂kull, the best horses and Reykjavik night life in addition to the mere ambition of spotting the northern lights. Additionally the Icelandic forecast for this winter was quite promising too.

During my arrival in Reykjavik it was not the best time to see northern lights from there whereas the very northern-most capital of the world is located in Southwest of the giant island, not the best at least per meteorological reports available at http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/. However owing to random circumstances with spontaneous occurrences I managed to get in touch with a Finnish couple, rent a jeep and drive to Akureyri, a town located in Iceland with more hopes for those irresistible natural flashes over the skies.

The first night in Akureyri had to be given-up due to the thick cloud cover and even the people who'd been taken out by those expensive tour operators had no luck the entire midnight. As for the next day I had already checked Vedur.is site and we in Akureyri had an activity of 1 in the aurora forecast whose activity is given in the range of 0 through 9. Thus with desperate hopes with minimal chances of aurora borealis we found ourselves chatting in a bar with some Erasmus students and locals, later that evening. For them who had been witnessing this ongoing extravaganza for many many times, just another show of northern lights was nothing that could get them out of their chairs. Actually they'd got bored seeing them too many times that it was nothing special for them.

However a while later we were coming out of the bar to head back to our hostel, when we began to realize that the magic is happening. Voila !! YES, it was northern lights. Gleaming beams of greenly and yellowish lights were all over the skies, they were drifting across the skies like fast-moving torrents. Some lasted for a longer duration and some disappeared quickly leaving no traces whatsoever about their being. But above all, that was a stunning and a spectacular show of northern lights. One of the amazing days of my life that I would never forget. I was really happy that the mother nature had favored us and we could see the northern lights.







Meantime we hurried to our jeep and went a bit up towards mountains to avoid the pollution-lit town to get a better view and some pictures of course. We didn't have a tripod and pictures were taken with my friend Tuomas's camera. The lack of the tripod is clearly reflected in the pictures, but nevertheless I wanted to share them and I hope you will enjoy them ! Let me know what you think.

Most importantly don't miss a chance to visit this amazing volcanic island with its unparalleled natural aestheticism !!

     

Monday, December 31, 2012

Sri Lanka to Get Space Academy with Chinese Support



Seeing the stars from earth is one thing but it is the dream of every young astronomer to one day be able to travel into space and gaze at them from beyond the sky. There is now a possibility that this dream will become a reality for some lucky Sri Lankans, as the country’s first space academy is planned for launch next year. It will be aided by the Chinese as part of a joint venture between the Great Wall Industry Corporation of China and Supreme Satellite Private Ltd Colombo and aims to inspire young people and increase their interest in space. The academy is planned for construction in Kandy and promises to make the city synonymous with space-related knowledge and technology. ‘It will use Chinese world-class expertise in space science to further boost the size and quality of Sri Lanka’s science and engineering pool,’ Supreme Satellite Private LTD Colombo managing director R.M. Manivannan told the Business Times when asked about the project.

Training for Young People 

The plans for the academy have received a favourable response and generated widespread excitement, with the Sunday Observer pointing out that the world would have previously laughed at the Sri Lankan government if it had announced that Sri Lankans were going to build a plane, never mind develop a space academy. This project has been touted as a step that will help the country to shed its image as technologically lacking and hopefully cause it to emerge as a nation that is regarded as being comparatively advanced. The academy will be used to provide training for young people to handle satellite communication operations. Satellites are a valuable tool in wireless business communications, amongst other things, and are an asset that most countries in the region do not possess. The only other nearby countries that have their own satellites are Pakistan and India. Plans are also underway to train Sri Lankans as astronauts and use them for future space missions.

The Academy

The proposed academy will include a state-of-the-art satellite ground station that will provide vocational training for Sri Lankans to control the satellites. This venture will see Sri Lankans uploading material to satellites for the first time in the country’s history. The signing of the agreement for the construction of the satellite to commence will take place next October and will see sixty million US dollars being injected into Kandy, which will be the largest foreign-funded private investment that Central Province has ever seen. It will also be the first Chinese investment to be made in Central Province.

Sri Lanka as a Knowledge Hub

The president has stated that he believes that this move will transform Sri Lanka into a ‘knowledge hub’, which is a sentiment that is being echoed across the country. It is likely to significantly increase the level of interest that the public displays in space and astronomy and capture the imagination of the nation. R.M. Manivannan has expressed the viewpoint that the academy will not only put Kandy on the world satellite map but also take Sri Lanka one step closer towards being the ‘wonder of Asia’. Deputy managing director of the Great Wall Industry Corporation of China Wang Zhongmin has promised that work will start on the construction of the satellite in January. People’s Republic of China vice minister of industries and information technology Chen Qiufa flew all the way from China to witness the plans for the academy being finalized and says that the space industry is important for the growth of the country’s industry. The Sunday Observer claims that it could trigger and promote growth in other areas and significantly benefit the Sri Lankan economy.

Final Thoughts

The plans for the space academy are exciting for both astronomers and Sri Lankans in general. They offer the possibility for space enthusiasts to one day become astronauts and explore the realm that they have spent so many nights gazing at through telescopes. The proposed project is also likely to create a surge in interest in all things space-related, which will get more young people involved in astronomy and increase the country’s knowledge of the stars, involving them in a rewarding pastime that will help to further their understanding of the universe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Live Streaming/ Webcast of Total Solar Eclipse from Cairns, November 2012

Yet one more solar eclipse! Well, this time it's gonna be a total solar eclipse. Maybe you're already in Cairns or almost there, or somewhere in the South Pacific, which are the places to be, to be able to witness this amazing celestial phenomena. As I blog this post from Sri Lanka, there are few more hours left until the start of this total solar eclipse. So we're just about there. As for me, and those who couldn't manage to be in the right places, there is this wonderful tool, Internet facilitating us to watch the eclipse online, as numerous groups bring out their own live streams of the eclipse, and updates. Believe it or not there's gonna be even a hot-air balloon offering a live webcast of the eclipse.

Thanks to Thilina Heenatigala of AWB now we can have a list of web-streams of the total solar eclipse.

The totality of 2 minutes will take place at 20:38 UT on 13th November. (06:38 AEST on 14th of November). In Sri Lankan local time, it would be 02:08 am in the morning of 14th.

Don't miss out !!

Live Streaming/ Webcast of Total Solar Eclipse from Cairns, November 2012


Cairns Solar Eclipse, 2012
http://www.eclipse2012.org.au
The official destination website for the total solar Eclipse over Cairns and Great Barrier Reef will feature Terry Cuttle from the Astronomical Association of Queensland as the host. He will be joined by Kate Russo (eclipse chaser and author), Ben Southall (winner of the 'Best Job in the World' promotion and tourism ambassador), Richard Fitzpatrick (an underwater cameraman, will be live from under water) and Alan Hale (from Hale-Bopp comet who is studying comets close to the Sun which can only be seen during an eclipse).

2012 Eclipse live from a Cairns Hot Air Balloon
http://www.hotair.com.au
Up to a dozen hot air balloons floating west of Cairns, Queensland Australia, with visitors from 20 different countries will be part of a live webcast of the 2012 total solar eclipse.

SLOOH
http://events.slooh.com
SLOOH will broadcast a free, real-time feed of the stunning total solar eclipse live from Cairns, Australia. The broadcast team includes Patrick Paolucci, Bob Berman, Lucie Green, Matt Francis and Paul Cox.

Cairns City Eclipse 2012 webcam
http://www.eclipsecairns.com
Can't make it to Cairns to see the Eclipse? No problem! Just check back on 14 November before 6:39am AEST (GMT+10) to see it live on our webcam.

GLORIA Project
http://live.gloria-project.eu
Videos and pictures of the eclipse will be broadcast live on the internet starting at 20:30 UT. Additionally meteorological data will be collected to allow students to perform an interactive experiment. During the broadcast there will be live commentary in Spanish and English.

Live Web Camera from Port Douglas Australia 2012
http://www.zincportdouglas.com/solar_eclipse_port_douglas.html

Monday, November 5, 2012

Revival Event of ASSC ends a Success !

The evening of the Saturday 03rd November saw a great success for the revival event of ASSC held at Subodhi premises. There was an encouraging attendance of both school students, teachers as well as members themselves of ASSC outnumbering the expected. Founder-Director of Subodhi institute Rev. Father Mervyn Fernando, Rev. Father Anthony, Dr. G T F De Silva from University of Moratuwa, astrophysicist Professor Kavan Ratnatunga, Mr Nishantha Dilruk, one of the senior members of ASSC and Mr. Tharaka Gamage from Rivira Newspaper were among the guests. The event comprised of few informative talks and an out-door astronomy activity of making a sundial and the proceedings of the ASSC regular activities will resume from next Saturday onward at the Subodhi premises.


Rev. Father Mervyn Fernando, in his address, expressed his ideas on the importance of continuing the regular activities and keep offering the astronomy knowledge to those who are in need. Further he went on to mention that an astronomy course will be offered from the beginning of 2013.

Dr. G.T.F. De Silva during his lecture

Mr. Tharaka Gamage, while he was addressing the gathering during his presentation

Mr. Nishantha Dilruk putting into words his experience during the initial stages of ASSC, and describing how they worked in numerous projects, such as to build telescopes from scratch with raw materials. 
Rev. Father Anthony addressing the gathering
Professor Kavan Ratnatunga, during his video presentation
Then, there are some snaps taken during the outdoor activity of making a sundial. This activity was conducted under the supervision of the members of ASSC.



Here is a list of the schools that were represented at the revival event of ASSC.

1. Sri Sumangala College, Panadura
2. Central College, Piliyandala
3. Science College
4. St. Joseph's College, Nugegoda
5. Isipathana College
6. Defense College
7. Buddhist Girl's College
8. Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa
9. Kothalawalapura Maha Vidyalaya
10. De Mazenod College, Kandana

Thus the upcoming events of ASSC look promising, as the next program is due on 10th of November 2012 from 1:30 pm onward at the Subodhi premises. If you're not a member, you too can take part and make sure to be there in time, next Saturday joining the noble endeavor of exploring the universe.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Internship opportunity at IAU Office of Astronomy for Development

I've come across this internsting internship offered by IAU Office of Astronomy for Development and here is information regarding that in case you're interested. You can aslo find the same in PDF at ftp://ftp.saao.ac.za/outgoing/kg/astro4dev/OAD-InternshipOpportunity-13-03-2012.pdf




IAU Office of Astronomy for Development: Internship Opportunity

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), in partnership with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), has established the global Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa. The OAD began its work on 1st March 2011 and ambitiously sets out to use astronomy as a tool for global development. This office is to be the centre of development activities worldwide in the areas of (i) astronomy for children and schools; (ii) astronomy for universities and research; and (iii) astronomy for the public. The OAD is the first step in the implementation of the IAU decadal strategy entitled “Astronomy for the developing world” (www.iau.org). It will coordinate three task forces in the areas mentioned above and several regional nodes across the world.

As the OAD gains momentum it seeks assistance in many different forms. The internship position
should be filled by an energetic person with strong computing and excellent communication skills. Not only will this be an opportunity for the person to contribute meaningfully to this global development project but it will also provide them with unique international experience in using astronomy for development. The position could be part time or full time depending on the applicant’s current study commitments. It will be based at the OAD in Cape Town and the intern will report directly to the Director of the OAD. He/she will be responsible for all or some of the specific tasks listed below.

  • Communicate regularly with international stakeholders and manage email lists
  • Coordinate translation/interpretation services as required
  • Oversee maintenance of website, databases, new media (twitter, facebook, etc)
  • Source information as needed for OAD operations (this may entail literature searches, research into regional strengths and weaknesses, surveys, etc.)
  • Assist with administration of small grants
  • Provide assistance to Director wherever needed (e.g. in preparing international funding proposals, coordination of volunteers across the world, collecting resources, etc.)

Requirements:
  • University degree in astronomy or related field
  • Demonstrated experience relevant to the tasks above
  • Good communication skills (both written and verbal)
  • Good computer skills and knowledge of social networking
  • Highly organised and a quick learner
  • Project management and financial experience will be advantageous

Interested candidates should send a cover letter containing a motivation, and full CV, including 2
letters of reference, to the SAAO Human Resources Manager, Linda Tobin (Address: P O Box 9,
Observatory, 7935, phone: 021-4470025; fax: 021-4473639; email: linda@saao.ac.za, web:
www.astronomyfordevelopment.org, www.saao.ac.za. For further information please refer to the
Director of the OAD, Kevin Govender (kg@astro4dev.org)