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, November 2, 2011

"How do we Study the Atmospheres of Planets"-Dr Tilak Hewagama

There will be a visiting astronomer lecture on the topic of "How do we Study the Atmospheres of Planets" by Dr Tilak Hewagama - NASA/GSFC University of Maryland. The lecture will be delivered tomorrow (Thursday the 03rd November 2011) at 11.00 am University of Moratuwa, and it will be hosted by IEEE Student branch of University of Moratuwa.


 Humans have relied on their keen sense of sight in exploring their environment. The basic properties of light, color and intensity, convey a wealth of information about the source and intervening media, and remains at the core of modern astronomy. We will discuss how visible and infrared radiation, most relevant in the exploration of planets, are used in understanding their diverse atmospheres. Each atmosphere has a plethora of molecules that impart distinct signatures in their glow, and the interpretation of such observations can be complex. Nevertheless, it is an interesting enterprise spanning a range of science disciplines. What processes give rise to these signatures and how are they measured? How is the information disentangled? These questions form an interesting detective story! Recent examples of exciting science results from ground- and spacecraft-based observations of planets will be discussed in this context.

 Further Reading: 

 If you're attending please your name and NIC # to chamika @ ieee [dot] org to be included in Visitor list at security gate.

About Lecturer :

Friday, October 21, 2011

Star Party 2011, Kandy- Sri Lanka

Star Party 2011 will be held from 6.00 p.m. onwards on  21st of October 2011, at the University of Peradeniya, Kandy ,Sri Lanka and this will go for 12 hours, including different sessions of night sky observation.

Basically there will be 2 segments themed as competition and workshop where the amateur students can both evaluate their talent and improve their know-how on practical astronomy. The competition is expected to be the focus of many students, as everybody will try their best to grab the champions trophy and claim for the honor of 'Best Astronomy Team' of the country.  Moreover there will be an online quiz as well allowing just anybody in the planet to take part and of course win prizes depending on their performance. This will be the 2nd time, we're launching the online quiz, taking the possibility of participation into virtual realms. You can easily take part in this online version of the quiz even now as the it's already in progress till the event finishes.More information regarding this is available here

Additionally there will be a comprehensive webcast featuring Star Party at http://Live.StarParty.LK/

Star Party is aimed at improving and evaluating the observation astronomy skills of school students and amateur astronomers. You can browse more information from the official website http://StarParty.LK/
More information can be obtained from 

This event is organized for the 8th consecutive year by Anandian Astronomical Association together with Astronomical Society of Mahamaya Girls College.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Back to blogging and now it's the time for some Draconids

Yeah, I'm back into blogging after ages, and I think I'd fancy blogging in this new platform which I'm using for the first time. This is a moment I achieved despite quite a many stuff that came across my way during recent months. Finally I'm done with my University exams and although it's already been few weeks since the end of the exams, it's just now I'm starting to scribble something, which was mostly due to my new-found passion of traveling. Chances were more that I had found myself engaged in some kind of work, either in University or outside, for my constant involvements with AIESEC and occasional rendezvous with Chess team and astronomical society of course. Although it was blogging where I made my absence I still managed to be on lookout for what's happening around in the arena of astronomy.
(I just selected this photo to feature this post, to showcase my latest passion :) although it has no relevance to this post)

Many great things of which I could have done interesting piece of blogging had already passed by and it's the time to resolve what we've got to come by. I remember I almost planned doing a blog post on the latest lecture I delivered for the astronomical society but it's too sad I couldn't end up doing it. Then I remember someone was trying to 'end' the world in late September and it was surprising that once of my close friends inquired about it asking for some clarification. Next I heard some experiments at CERN that led for weird results and still the media was exaggerating the hype and it was so awkward to notice in Facebook that some thing that has been envisioned true a great many years ago, being joked about just with the unveiling of some unverified conclusions. I remember I managed to meet Prof. Kavan during the following week and was talking with him about this issue, although AALK couldn't manage to make it to any physical colloquim recently. Soon afterward the iPhone 4S was launched and the next morning I was on Google homepage only to find an obituary notice of the very guy, who was the brainchild of Apple's range of hi-tech products. Thus many thing have followed since my last blog-post which was published on May, and I wouldn't too much bother following those up, as you might already have been through the monotonous flow of news.

Well, this is about Draconids, that I'm bringing you as a news for you ! Kudos to my friend Rex, for drawing my attention towards this and hence I'm able to tell you about this meteor shower. Draconids will take place on 8th October, (tomorrow for me) and if you're lucky (being able to be on the right spot at right time) you would witness as many as 1000 meteors per hour but however it could be that you may not be able to see any at all perhaps, which becomes possible in the event of Earth completely missing the torrent of these dust-particles originated from Comet 21 P (Giacobini-Zinner). Chances are more that you will see maybe few meteors at least, provided you're based in somewhere in Africa or Europe. You can check the following link for more details about the Draconids meteor shower and ideal timings for you depending on where you're based.

Draconids Meteor Shower on 8 October 2011 -

Hope you will keep this noted and at least get out and try to catch some glimpses of Draconids, Please do share if you do end up observing, no matter you observations were positive or negative, which later will encourage many to look up !

Keep looking up !!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Star Quest 2011 Organized by Mathematical & Astronomical Society, University of Colombo

Astronomy has been nourishing since as early as Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek civilizations and today it has yielded a great portion of intellect enabling the humans to reach beyond their own horizons far beyond what anybody could possibly imagine. In presence it’s a foreseen attempt that all the countries trying to make their way ahead in the space science, whereas there’s no exception in Sri Lanka as well. In such a context, the Mathematical & Astronomical Society based in University of Colombo can be introduced as an alliance of such likeminded students, bonded together in the ties of science.

The eminent Sri Lankan astronomers Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and Professor V K Samaranayake took the initiative in founding this society back in 1959, playing the roles of very first president and the secretary. This move can be referred to as the first scientific collaboration towards astronomy in Sri Lanka. Further, Professor L S R Wijewardena & Professor Valentine Joseph were prominent members of the society and today senior lecturer Dr. Chandana Jayaratne serves as the senior adviser.

The society conducts occasional observation camps, regular series of lectures and other astronomy activities both for university undergraduates as well as school students upon request. Moreover the official website is kept updated on recent news plus educational material so that visitors are equipped with some knowhow on astronomy. Mathematical & Astronomical Society also has in its possession the Molesworth telescope which is a telescope with 32 cm, thought to be the largest telescope in Sri Lanka during time of its owner major P B Molesworth. Currently the scope is housed in the small observatory / dome near the university grounds.

It is our firm conviction that the school students should be made aware of knowledge for a concurrent progress of astronomy in Sri Lanka, which is the very fact behind many of the outreach projects organized by us. We contribute to school level astronomy by offering both material and immaterial resources for ‘Astronomy Days’ and ‘Science Days’. Additionally we’ve been continuing an interschool astronomy quiz competition and a workshop consecutively for last 4 years and it’s famous among students as ‘Star Quest’. In last year’s program Sirimavo Bandaranaike Balika Vidyalaya and Ananda College, Colombo emerged as winners and runners-up respectively.

It is with great pleasure we inform you that arrangements have been made for a similar attempt in this year as well under the name ‘Star Quest 2011’ to be held on 07th of May 2011 at the university premises. Mathematical & Astronomical Society extends an open invitation to all the school-based astronomy clubs, whereby interested clubs/ societies may apply with as teams representing their entity. More information can be obtained from and through following contacts.

Chethya Vidanapathirana – 0718135177
Muditha Bandara – 0712371914

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

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..

This is the annual astronomy camp that we organize for undergraduates in the University itself, This is generally aimed at getting amateurs more interested in astronomy by working along with a practical observation related path while recruiting enthusiasts as members for the society at the same time. Of course just anyone in the University can take part here in various sessions of activities and talks. The astronomy camp 2011 was held on 11th of March 2011 from evening onwards at the University premises. I was in particular happy that a lot of my batch-mates took part here and enjoyed themselves all the way through to the end.
The participants waiting for the start of the program

It's true that we were surrounded by a great many light sources lit in the Colombo city. There were always flashes anywhere you looked, leaving us to skip more than 60 degrees of altitude from the horizon. Favorably it didn't rain and clouds were a less concern.
As an interesting talk was in progress....

There were talks by our senior members such as Mrs. Monika Madhavi as well as an interesting presentation about so-called "2012" by Dr. Chandana Jayaratne, our staff advisor.

There were observations sessions, where the participants got the chance to observe Moon- I'd say that the Moon was very clear that evening; and Jupiter and Saturn, as well as some other constellations plus Orion nebula. I wish we had repaired the Molesworth telescope somehow, as we would then have managed to do extensive observation with better optics.We've been having it in our possession for quite a time and I think we need to make it back functional.
Having fun with telescopes :)

It's the time for hands-on activity

Inside the dome with Molesworth Telescope

Dr. Jayaratne giving introductory remarks on the telescope.

Moreover there were interesting games, which were aimed at broadening the basic astronomy knowledge in various formats such as puzzles, etc. I must also mention that everybody got a change to visit the small dome where Molesworth telescope is currently housed. I've recorded a video of that segment and I will try to youtube it and post it here.

The video features Dr. Jayaratne giving a brief introduction about the scope to the attendees whilst inside the dome.

The puzzling game..

Enthusiasm + activity = Learning

and Done !

As I recall, I find this astronomy camp as a one where I more or less played the roles of both a participant and an organizer. It was a nice experience and excitement was there right from the start to the end of this
12-hour astronomy scenario. A big thanks should go out to our president Mrs. Chethya Vidanapathirana and other 3rd year students for putting together their efforts for such a successful astronomy camp as well as to contributors and participants alike.

Here is a group photograph of the participants posing in front of the dome housing Molesworth telescope.

Monday, April 11, 2011

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. In fact we had conducted an astronomy camp for them previously as well, back in 2009 during the International Year of Astronomy and this was the appearance of Old Anandian Astronomical Association in AIS premises for the second time, despite there were some failed attempts to have a camp in 2010. I felt great that we had a Go this time.   

Yep, me I know the answer !

I must mention that we had only few hours to go through and complete the program as it was not possible to have the camp going on till the dawn of the following day, as it happens usually in all other camps. I think this must have been due to the restrictions imposed by this school taking some security matters into consideration. Therefore we had the tough goal of equipping the attendees with as much astronomy knowledge and practical experience as possible during this short period.
We at work ..

First there was an introductory lecture by Hasitha Karunaratne, one of our members and it was followed by my session on Celestial Sphere, It was kind of a deja-vu for me as I delivered the same lecture at AIS in 2009 and however this time, there were more questions and the session was rather interactive with a great feedback from the audience. Soon it was the time for dinner and we were able to get out of the indoors and check out the skies. Needless to say there was significant light pollution as the location was in Colombo suburbs and luckily Moon was there reflecting the light so brightly than previous days, I hope you are aware of the Super full moon phenomenon which was going to take place few days ahead. Actually on the other hand this moon was a constraint for us preventing better observation of other celestial bodies.

Clouds disturbing the observation as well as the excessive light of 'super full moon'

Ramidu Mirissage, during his session

This is how you team-work

Afterward there was another session by Ramidu Mirissage on Astro-photography. This guy had enormous experience capturing stars and wildlife for many years and he was savvy about optics and different parameters needed for astro-photography. This session paved the way to the practical activity we had outside. We managed to set up the telescopes and explained their functionalities and let them observe Moon and Saturn. Additionally we used binoculars as well and ideally Orion constellation was visible at that time and the students had the chance to observe Orion nebula as well. Meantime there were numerous questions being asked on different aspects like cosmology and especially Pluto, whilst some were very keen on using the star chart and getting used to it.      
OK guys, what's the plan ??

Everyone ready with their Landers, Check the clock as well

We're a TEAM
Team !

Finally we had the egg-lander competition which we use to have at many astronomy camps and it was really interesting to see students grouping themselves and brainstorming in the process of creating their own lander which would host the egg to safe land when dropped from the 3rd floor of the highest building situated beside. Their had their own interpretations on as to why they had designed different parts of their craft and how they functioned. It was amazing that some of the groups had related basic concepts of aerodynamics when creating their model of the lander. As far as I'm concerned there were 3 groups who had their lander survive the fall from the 3rd floor in the end.
Ramidu & me, whilst the Lander competition was in progress

Happy :-)

It was a shot 6-hour period that went so fast with fun, joy and of course education. Special thanks should go to the principal & staff and Pamudu Tennakoon of AIS.
Landers in exposition : I'm sure NASA guys would love to check these out.

"This is how you make Landers"  :)

The following were the crew of Old Anandian Astronomical Association who conducted the camp. Further there were members of Anandian Astronomical Association supporting us in the course.
A view from the 3rd floor before the landers being dropped.

  • Anuradha Jayathilake
  • Bhagya Alwis
  • Hasitha Karunaratne
  • Prasanna Deshapriya
  • Ramidu Mirissage
  • Surath Bandaranayake
  • Tharaka Abeyrathne

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Remembering Columbia STS-107, 8 Years since the LOST

It completed 8 years to the loss of Columbia spacecraft and its crew yesterday. The Columbia STS-107 mission started on 16th January 2003, with a plan for 16 days of experimentation related to micro-gravity. On its re-entry to the Earth, on 1st of February 2003 the spacecraft failed to land safely and was lost, due to a defect occurred on its left wing during the launching phase.

The Columbia crew composed of 7 astronauts headed by the commander Rick Husband, and all of them were thus lost 16 minutes prior to the scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center.

Image Credit : NASA

The final crew of Columbia STS-107
  • Rick Husband - Commander
  • William McCool
  • Michael Anderson
  • Ilan Ramon
  • Kalpana Chawla
  • David Brown
  • Laurel Salton Clark

Today there are 7 hills in Mars, having been named after the 7 dauntless astronauts and they are commonly referred to as Columbia hills in memory of the orbiter.

I believe that more tributes should be made on their honor and they must be remembered for their sacrifice was eminent.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year to you and all the best for you in 2011 & beyond

It's 2011, at the moment here in Sri Lanka, although these are few countries still waiting to join us in 2011, which will of course take place in the next couple of hours.

Happy New Year to you and all the best for you in 2011 & beyond

I wish you all the best in 2011 and may all your dreams come true in 2011 and beyond. Let's hope there will be more adventures in terms of astronomical expeditions and explorations. Of course now we know Curiosity is scheduled to be launched in late this year, for advanced studies on Martian habitability. I think this decade will be crucial for the ambitions in later years.

In the meantime we are very close to the Gianluca's January Stars coming up on the 3rd evening, and I am up to it.

By the way 2011 is also the international year of Chemistry, seems like a lot of happenings will be there too...

So guys, let's hope for the better...