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 31, 2010

Less than 1 Hour left for Global Astronomy Month (GAM)

It's 11:10 pm right now local time in Sri Lanka, Yep it's the last day of this March. Just less than 1 hour left for the dawn of April 2010, which will also mark the GAM's start. However for the countries that are well ahead our time zone, GAM must have already arrived. Especially China, New Zealand & Australia must already have welcome GAM.

I do believe the GAM will be more than a Deja Vu of IYA2009, It will of course feature innovative projects, aimed at making people more aware of Astronomy and its significance. Remember the general theme " One People One Sky", which is indirectly speaking of unification of all the communities without any barriers with the very sky that everybody shares.

In fact the theme is a reflection of AWB (Astronomers Without Borders)'s general motto as per my perspectives. I think you all know that AWB is the driving force behind GAM and AWB is focused on networking astronomers on either sides of a border, with the idea of the same single sky that the people in each side of the border share,

A.E. Housman: A Shropshire Lad, Complete in verse and song

Well that's enough talking... You're just about to go towards the dawn of GAM 2010. It will happen for us in Sri Lanka after next 35 minutes. I heard that GAM will have 30 different projects throughout the 30 days of the April, These projects will focus both on physical and virtual means of bringing astronomy closer to everybody despite anything whatsoever.

Now Let's welcome GAM2010 !!!
One People One Sky

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meeting a Participant of CAP2010 : Nepalese Delegate Riwaj Pokhrel

Communicating Astronomy With The Public - CAP2010, was successfully held from 15–19 March, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. This was a platform where different countries got together and discussed how each of them contributed towards the general theme of communicating astronomy with public, There were sessions where delegates from many places of the world demonstrated how they interacted with law and order generally covering the message of beauty and importance of astronomy especially in IYA2009, which was the international year of astronomy.

I had earlier planned to visit CAP2010, but financial problems in finding the necessary funds failed me. It would have been great if anyone from Sri Lanka could be there, but unfortunately nobody managed. :( If Sri Lanka was represented there we would also have had the chance of sharing with the rest of the world, what we really did, located as a small island in Indian Ocean.

However I did manage to meet a participant who was there @ CAP2010, He was the Nepalese representative, namely Riwaj Pokhrel. Actually he was on his way home and had to wait for a transit flight in Sri Lanka. He landed here in 21st evening and I and my colleague Thilina Heenatigala managed to meet him at around 7:00 pm local time.

In fact we were coming home after the Ask An Astronomer session with Prof. Michael, of which I had blogged in my last post. As we were coming home, Riwaj phoned us and told us about his arrival in Sri Lanka. After a some time of wandering, we met Riwaj at the Fort Railway Station in Colombo. In fact this was the 1st time we met him. We checked for the transit flight schedule and it was due in the afternoon the following day (22nd March) from Katunayake to New Delhi.

We spent that night at my place at Piliyandala, which is about 1 hour drive away from Colombo. Till late night we talked about astronomy and outreach in our countries and especially about CAP, and shared loads of information with some serious talk and laughter as well.

Riwaj was a nice guy and I found him always to be enthusiastic whenever during his stay in Sri Lanka. I also knew of Suresh, a colleague of Riwaj, whom I befriended via FB and he is also a collaborator of NASO, the Nepal Astronomical Society. However I am yet to meet this guy. In fact Riwaj is a research student of astrophysics at Central Department of Physics(CDP) of Tribhuvan University(TU), Nepal.

The next Morning we went to the Mt. Lavinia beach few kilometers away from Piliyandala and had some fun together, We  captured some cool sets of pictures in our cameras and enjoyed it.
Soon it was time for Riwaj to be off to the airport and we bid au revoir to him from Colombo.

I'm looking forward to visiting Nepal and meeting these friends in the times to come, Let's hope I will be able to do that sooner rather than later !

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ask An Astronomer : Featured with Professional Astronomer Prof. Michael Snowden

Ask An Astronomer, well but what would you ask? Yes you can almost ask any question pertaining to science and astronomy in general, this is one of the best advantages you get when you talk to an astronomer, Not a lot of people get to Ask  An Astronomer, But a small group of Sri Lankan students inclusive of me, got the valuable chance of talking to an astronomer, in fact being close to an astronomer and spending a whole evening session with him.
If you're a frequent visitor to this blog, you would definitely have read about professional New Zealand astronomer Prof. Michael Snowden, Actually we are friends, In this particular case, Prof. Michael was the astronomer with us, The session got started at around 3:30 pm last Sunday (21st March) at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo. There were 5 students from various backgrounds of education plus my colleague Thilina and Prof. Michael. In fact I am thankful to Mr. Thilina Heenatigala, who was key in organizing this event.

Commencing the session Prof. Michael gave a brief explanation on the modern sciences and classical science, yielding the evidences from past. Actually he pointed out that our ancestors did almost all what we do today but experiments, Experimenting was the margin that can separate the two intellectual groups of past and today. It was the Europe that gave the origin towards expansion of science based on then-age achievements, specifically the Italy, which gave the boost with with Renaissance

Moreover we discussed about empirical data and extensions of them, which we usually perceive. Of course about great intellectually enhanced people of ancient time, Eratosthenes the 2nd genius of the world of his time. It was great to see how Prof. Michael  demonstrated how he calculated the circumference of the Earth just using very primitive methods. He demonstrated it with the straw and glass table which were readily available during that evening,

The students asked different questions ranging from the start of the universe to the famous old question if we are alone in the universe. I asked couple of questions about the Adaptive Optics (AO), used in ground based telescopes and the variation of Hubble's constant over time, which as I reckon, can be called as a variable.

It was really cool talking and listening to Prof. Michael and expanding the knowledge that we usually extract from common sources like internet and books. You get to share the ideas and think astronomically, which is more important after all,

The Participated Students,

  • Prasanna Deshapriya (me, Undergraduate of University of Colombo)
  • Yashodara Abeykoon (High school Biology student of Viharamahadevi Balika Vidyalaya, Kiribathgoda)
  • Shamil Asitha Kuruppu (High school Mathematics Student of Royal College)
  • Sheloni De Silva (High school Biology Student of Anula Vidyalaya)
  • Dimuth Prasad Welivitiya (Graduate student of University of Moratuwa)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Naming X - (Rejuvenating Venetia Burney Phair)

2010 celebrates the 80th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto and marks the 1st year death anniversary of Venetia Burney Phair, the most influential 11year old in the history of astronomy who came up with the name 'Pluto' for the newly discovered Planetary body in 1930.   

As a tribute to Venetia's extraordinary contribution and Pluto's discovery by the young American, Clyde Tombaugh, Space Renaissance Education Chapter, in collaboration with Father Films, announcing 'Naming X', to find the next influential student or school group, with the creative and scientific talent, to suggest a winning name for a planetary body, if it were to be discovered today, and why.

More information on the competition at:

Naming X

2010 celebrates the 80th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto and marks the 1st year death anniversary of Venetia Burney Phair, the most influential 11year old in the history of astronomy who, died on 30th April 2009, aged 90.   

Venetia, was a young schoolgirl, living in Oxford, England in 1930, when she came up with the name 'Pluto' for the newly discovered Planet X.   

In the documentary about Venetia's story, entitled Naming Pluto, Venetia recalls the moment she came up with the name. It was about 8 o'clock and I was having breakfast with my mother and my grandfather and my grandfather as usual opened the paper, the Times and in it he read that a new planet had been discovered. He wondered what it should be called. We all wondered. And then I said, "Why not call it Pluto". And the whole thing stemmed from that.  

But it was Venetia's reasoning that made her suggestion far stronger than those that had been sent to Flagstaff, Arizona, from all corners of the world. Venetia was interested in classical mythology as well as astronomy, and considered the name, that of the Roman god of the Underworld, appropriate for such a presumably dark and cold world.  

As a tribute to Venetia's extraordinary contribution and Pluto's discovery by the young American, Clyde Tombaugh, Space Renaissance Education Chapter, in collaboration with Father Films, announcing 'Naming X', to find the next influential student or school group, with the creative and scientific talent, to suggest a winning name for a planetary body, if it were to be discovered today, and why.  

Competition Rules  
  • Entrants must choose one name per entry and their reasoning for their choice of name is to be no longer than 25 words
  • Please enter your name, year, age and school’s name, City and Country and email address.
  • In the subject box write the Category you are entering and your chosen name only, ie: Category 1 - Pluto. Please abide to this format or your name will not be considered. 
  • Should the same name be submitted by different applicants, the first to be submitted will be selected, so hurry!
  • Winning entries are at the sole discretion of the judges and their decisions are final. Submissions after the deadline will not be accepted. 
  • Be creative as you can, names need not comply with the classical rule like Pluto did. Think outside the box, remember we live in a different world and have made vast scientific advances since 1930.   This could be your opportunity to make a contribution to astronomical history. Good luck!

Category 1 – for 1 – 11years 
Category 2 – 12+ 
Category 3 – School groups  

-Category 1 should resist help from their tutors or parents.
-Category 3 means that a classroom, a school or an after school group can enter as a team.  

The selected name in each category will receive a copy of the award winning short film of Venetia’s story, Naming Pluto and an A3 film poster, both care of Father Films. Although not confirmed, the selected names will be submitted to NASA.    

Our panel will be announced shortly. However, prepare to impress, as they’ll be a group of influential and world expert leaders in their field of astronomy, science and science history.   

Send your submission to

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Paying Tribute to late Sir Arthur Clarke on his 2nd Death Anniversary

The 19th of March 2010 marks the 2nd death anniversary of late Sir Arthur C Clarke. We have already made two orbits around the Sun without his presence. Of course his contributions still lives on and will continue to do so in the times to come.

As a tribute to him, Sri Lanka Astronomical Association in partnership with Arthur C Clarke Estate and the British Council has organized an event scheduled on 17th March which will be a retrospection of Sir Arthur Clarke and his remarkable contributions.  Event details are as follows.

Date: Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Time: From 4.00 pm onwards
Venue: British Council Auditorium (49, Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 3)


  • Welcome and introductory remarks - By Thilina Heenatigala begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting, General Secretary, SLAA
  • Illustrated talk: Sir Arthur C Clarke: Man Who Lived in the Future - By Nalaka Gunawardene, science writer and research assistant to Sir Arthur Clarke from 1987 to 2008
  • Question & Answer session
  • The Making of 2010 (mini-documentary)
  • Screening of featured film: 2010: The Year We Make Contact
Admission is free. Prior registration required. Please reserve your seat earlier as possible by contacting SLAA General Secretary; Thilina Heenatigala on 0716 245 545 or

In-depth Details 

2010: The Year We Make Contact (116 mins, 1984)
Directed by Peter Hyams
Co-written by Peter Hyams and Arthur C Clarke
Starring: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren and Keir Dullea

This is the movie adaptation of the best selling science fiction novel 2010: Odyssey
Two that Arthur C Clarke in 1982. The story picks up almost a decade after the first
manned space mission to Jupiter in 2001 ended abruptly and mysteriously. A joint
American-Russian expedition returns to Jupiter in 2010 to investigate what went
wrong. The collaborative mission takes place against a backdrop of growing global
tensions. Among the mysteries this expedition must explain are the appearance of a
huge black monolith in Jupiter's orbit, fate of the earlier mission’s astronauts and
the behaviour of the sentient supercomputer HAL 9000.

More information at:

Guest Speaker: Nalaka Gunawardene

Nalaka Gunawardene worked closely with Sir Arthur C Clarke for 21 years (1987 –
2008) while pursuing his own professional interests as a science writer, journalist
and broadcaster. Nalaka was research assistant for several Clarke books beginning
with 2061: Odyssey Three, and in 1997-98, helped compile Greetings, Carbon-based
Bipeds!, the author’s collected essays from 1934 to 1998. During the last decade of
Sir Arthur's life, Nalaka coordinated his media, scientific and academic relations,
and was also the liaison person with the Arthur C Clarke Foundation based in the
United States. Nalaka blogs on media, science and society at:

Sri Lanka Astronomical Association

The Ceylon Astronomical Association which was founded in June 1959, (later known
as Sri Lanka Astronomical Association) is a not-for-profit association founded by late
Sir Arthur C. Clarke and late Herschel Gunawardene.

It is for the purpose of pursuing the study of astronomy and promoting the
education of astronomy and related sciences. The revived Association’s goals would
include usage of internet to carry research on astronomy and related sciences
among university students and others.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A lecture with Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe : Our Search for Cosmic Origins

Today I got up with the idea of meeting the most senior Sri Lankan astronomer who is Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe. As I have posted in the previous post about him and his lecture on Our Search for Cosmic Origins, you might also be familiar with this context. In fact that lecture session at the University of Moratuwa, turned out to really exciting one, where there was a wide colloquy about just how the life originated on Earth. Not only that I was able to meet many astro friends after a long time afterward the lecture.

The lecture session started sharp at 11:00 am with an introduction to the lecturer Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe, who is presently the Director, Cardiff Center for Astrobiology Cardiff University, Wales, UK.

Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe started the lecture with an insight to the ancient ideas of the origin of life in Earth and mentioned the ideology adopted by Aristotle and similar concepts.The works of Christian de Duve and experiments of people like Jacques Monod (Chance and Necessity by Jacques Monod), Stanley Miller & Harold Urey (Miller–Urey experiment) were also talked of.
( See for more details )

Then he built up the idea of Panspermia, that says that life on Earth was seeded from extraterrestrial material by ruling out the other possible candidates that were based on primordial soup. This was also supported with what has been said in Buddhist & Vedic archives according to his point of view.

Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe also spoke of the researches carried out by his own daughter Dr. Janaki Wickramasinghe and Bill Nappier supporting the existence of Panspermia. Dr. Janaki obtained her PhD in 2008 with a thesis entitled "The role of comets in panspermia"

If the life has been seeded from outside in Earth, what are other possible planets with similarity? Prof. Chandra answered this question which was raise by he, himself with a note on Mars and Jupiter's satellite Europa. The evidence from space probe Odyssey (formerly the Mars Surveyor 2001 Orbiter) has yielded that 1796 Viking 1 & 2 sites with a significant importance to study with astrobiology.

The lecture lasted for almost one hour as scheduled and then came the Q&A session which dragged on for nearly 45 minutes. This was clearly evident to the degree of controversy and liveliness of this theory which was dubbed "pseudo-science" in the early stages, before being fortified by late Sir Fred Hoyle & Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe, himself . There were a lot of questions raised by the audience, which consisted of astronomical professionals & amateurs, especially from the University of Moratuwa.

I also asked him a question about his childhood inspirations towards astronomy, (I recalled his poem, that was composed by him when he was a 15-year-old teen, the poem was simple and was all about the heavens).
Amongst the myriad stars
I stand alone
and wonder how much life
and love there was tonight

In response to my question Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe said the clear skies that he had drove him towards astronomy and moreover his father was a great embodiment for him.

In the end, after this rare great session I was able to meet many of my colleagues and astronomical professionals. Prof. Kavan Ratnatunga who is the president of Sri Lanka Astronomical Association was there and for my surprise, my New Zealand friend, Prof. Michael Snowden has already came down to Sri Lanka 3 days back. It was really joyous to meet him after more than a year. I also met my colleagues Thilina Heenatigala, Yohan Ferreira, Dimuth Prasad Welivitiya & Tharaka Gamage, all pleased with the visit of  Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe to Sri Lanka.

~~ and of course the pictures of the session will come in a short while !! ~~~

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Our Search for Cosmic Origins- A lecture by prominent Sri Lankan Astronomer Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe

The monthly lecture series of Sri Lanka Astronomical Association will be launched with the lecture: Our Search for Cosmic Origins by Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe – astronomer and director of Cardiff Center for Astrobiology.

The lecture will argue that there is compelling evidence for the theory that life emerged in a cosmic context and was distributed throughout the Universe from a single event of origination. Astronomical and biological evidence will be presented to support the thesis that "we are aliens".

Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe was a student and collaborator of Sir Fred Hoyle. Their joint work on the infrared spectra of interstellar grains led to developing the modern theory of Panspermia. This theory proposes that cosmic dust in the interstellar medium and in comets is partly organic, and that life on Earth was 'seeded' from space rather than arising through abiogenesis.

He is currently working on developing methods for detecting life processes in space. Prof Chandra says that "My most significant astronomical contribution was to develop the theory of organic grains in comets and in the interstellar medium. This was done during the 1970s and 80's, and it is now accepted by everyone almost without remembering its origins! I feel I also played a part in the birth of the science of astrobiology."

Lecture at a glance !

Guest Lecture: Our Search for Cosmic Origins
Speaker: Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Director, Cardiff Center for Astrobiology
Cardiff University, Wales, UK
Date: 4th March 2010
Time: 11am – 12noon
Venue: ENTC-1, Dept. of Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering, University of Moratuwa

For more information please contact Thilina Heenatigala; General Secretary of Sri Lanka Astronomical Association at 0716 245 545