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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Starry Night in Kandy | Another Outreach Event with MAS

Last Friday gave me the hope of the beginning of a fresh weekend, getting started with an astronomy event. It was the members of the Mathematical & Astronomical Society of University of Colombo (MAS), back in outreach action. We had been invited to contribute to the 'Starry Night 2010' organized by St. Anthony's College, Kandy. Basically this 'Starry Night' focused on 2 segments being Astronomy Quiz & Workshop, first of which is an evaluation of observation based astronomy knowledge in general and the latter was aimed for providing more insight into astronomy and observation, particularly aimed at newbies of astronomy.

Our outreach task was to conduct the astronomy workshop and the quiz related observation sessions. As a matter of fact I'd like to note that this is the normal procedure every school adopts when it comes to organizing such an event. This is reflected with my experience with such astronomy campaigns in recent times, You always have a bi-dimensional workout, which has a quiz and a workshop. Moreover this was the twice in a row, that I would be getting involved with the same annual event, organized by the same school. I was there last time too, but I'm afraid I haven't made a blog post about that :(

We left Colombo, actually the University premises, around 1.00 pm starting our way up amidst the hills to Kandy. There were 9 of us, as contributors representing MAS, plus Mr. Jayathu Fernando, a Research Scientist of The Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT), and his family members joining Starry Night 2010 and we were quipped with 2 telescopes + few Meade binoculars, which were the primary resources we were having for this outreach maneuver.

Here are our members that contributed.

  • Prasanna Deshapriya (me)
  • Chethya Vidanapathirana
  • Virajith Samarasinghe
  • Saman Aravinda
  • Nisal Samararatne
  • Gayan Anushka
  • Muditha Bandara Rathnayaka
  • Chamika Niranjan Goonetilaka
  • Chanya Deshani Subasinghe Arachchige

You always know that you can't count on weather, it's a key fact that is unpredictable. It was the same monster that came against us last Friday evening. We managed to arrive at Kandy around 8.00 pm despite the rain fall and some stopping-bys that had to be made on the way. The students started off Starry Night 2010 as soon as we arrived and the first was the lecture by Mr.Jayathu Fernando as the chief guest on instruments, used with astronomy. However the skies remained cloudy and it was rare that you could spot any star at all. It took our hope of observations away and seemed that we would have to be just stick to indoor sessions, which was what actually happened in the end.

Still we conducted the workshop by having separate sessions, covering Observation Astronomy, Star Maps for Dummies, and much more detailed discussion on Rayleigh scattering. There was also a Q&A session allowing the students to raise whatever the questions they had and to have their doubts cleared. But it was really bad that no observation could be made, but we were looking forward for better skies even in the later morning hours, but the waiting never paid off.

In addition to astronomy, Antonians didn't forget to add some variety to the event, with their talented musicians and the great magic show, which took everyone by amusement. It was the first time I saw a magic show during an astronomy event. Hats-off to the dedicated Antonian guys for their great organizing efforts !

In the end we contributed to the last round of the quiz, (but this turned out to be the penultimate in the end) which was a photo based round, where the students were supposed to recognize the projected photos of nubulae, galaxies, and other stellar / extra-terrestrial objects. Soon, it was the time for the announcement of the winners, but we, who were also held the quiz-masters of this quiz, were told that there had been a tie of scores of 2 teams, so that a winner for the quiz would not be announced. Since there was no regulation on a tie-break had been introduced prior, we opted in for 'another' final round and announced that. I prefer calling this last round as '6-photo-slider' since the way it was prepared was so unique. Finally the team from the Ananda College won the quiz and the Isipathana College emerged runners-up.

It was around late noon on Saturday the 30th (just before the Halloween), when we were back in Colombo, after some involvement with astronomy and traveling within a 24-hour period.


Please await the photos and crucial '6-photo-slider'