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 !

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
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
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 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
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
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

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

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” ( 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.)

  • 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:, web:, For further information please refer to the
Director of the OAD, Kevin Govender (

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Total Solar Eclipse 13/14 November 2012


The next total solar eclipse is not that far away, We're about 2 weeks away from it. On 13th and 14th of November 2012 (UT) those who are located in Cairns, Australia and southern Pacific Ocean will have the chance of observing this. This time the greatest totality will last around 4 minutes of time with a magnitude of 1.05 Generally a solar eclipse will take place when the Moon passes in between Sun and the Earth, shading the solar view partially or fully relative to an observer based on Earth. The solar eclipse is said to be a total solar eclipse when the Moon's apparent diameter is larger than that of Sun, completely obscuring the view of Sun and the corresponding areas of Earth will experience darkness during such an event. Thus the totality will be visible to observers located in a narrow traverse across the Earth's surface whilst a partial solar eclipse will be experienced in a broader region.

Total Solar Eclipse 13/14 November 2012

Where to be

If you could happen to be in Cairns, in northeastern Australia which is where most of the eclipse-chasers are going to rendezvous, you would be likely to observe a totality of 2 minutes at 20:38 UT (06:38 AEST on 14th of November) on 13th November. Thus it would be just after the daybreak with sun at an altitude of 14° in local time on 14th. Further islanders of Norfolk Island, east of Australia will encounter a partial solar eclipse with 98% of Sun covered at 09:37 NFT. Additionally, Auckland & Christchurch in New Zealand, and Los Ríos & Los Lagos regions of Chile will be other land masses that will undergo a partial solar eclipse. However if you don't want to miss the maximum totality, you have to be located somewhere in south Pacific Ocean, on east of the International Date Line on November 13, approximately 2000 km east of New Zealand, and 9600 km west of Chile. That is 4 minutes and 2 seconds to be exact.

How to view SAFE

It is really important to be savvy how to SAFELY observe a solar eclipse, for what you're playing with is sun and hence there shan't be any mistakes at all, for they would lead to irreversible damage to your eye. You should never directly look at the sun with the naked eye or with some optical devices such as telescopes binoculars. During a total solar eclipse, there are 3 phases which are the phase of totality and the ones before and after totality. However it is safe to view the solar eclipse without any filters, ONLY when there is the short phase of totality. It is imperative that safely precautions must be adhered to during the other 2 phases. One common solution is using the welder's goggles/ glasses with the rating 14 or higher, as they screen out the harmfulness.One of the safest methods on the other hand is the indirect projection. The image of the sun is projected onto a white piece of paper using binoculars (with one side covered), a telescope or another piece of cardboard which has been made into a pinhole camera (by making a small 1mm hole in it).

Total Solar Eclipse 13/14 November 2012

Live streaming of total solar eclipse 2012

It is true that most of us can't travel to Cairns or to be in a cruise in South Pacific Ocean during the time of the eclipse. Therefore there will be live webcast/ streaming via internet as the total eclipse will take place. A Google search will take you where you want. However nothing beats the exciting adventure of traveling to the eclipse site and observing it physically and only reminds me the eclipse chase tour to Jaffna, Sri Lanka in January 2010 for the annular solar eclipse.

Here are some useful websites especially dedicated to bringing you updates and news from Cairns.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Revival of Astronomy & Space Study Center - ASSC | Subodhi

We're not far from achieving a much anticipated goal, the revival of Astronomy & Space Study Center or ASSC or even more colloquially known Subodhi. During last couple of months and especially the last few weeks the preparatory activities of the ASSC had kept us busy and despite the sacrifices we've all made, I'm sure this would be a rendezvous for many astronomy enthusiasts, students and many more like-minded people. Equally it would be reunion of many of us, who'd found ourselves scattered apart, after the long pause we've been having since 2006. Thus I really feel excited to be a apart of this revival effort as we get closer to the very date, that is the 03rd of November, 2012.

Revival of Astronomy & Space Study Center - ASSC | Subodhi

Astronomy & Space Study Center, affiliated to Subodhi Institute of Integral Education based in Wewala, Piliyandala has been a center of astronomy knowledge and resources for students and astronomy enthusiasts in Sri Lanka for about 24 years. Astronomy & Space Study Center has thus far rendered a great many astronomy professionals working at both national and international arena. Having been once, the most active astronomy society in Sri Lanka, the center has been instrumental in organizing astronomy lectures, activities and observational camps during its regular Saturday programs. Since the society has been inactive for about last 6 years, now a revival attempt has been made to get things back on track.

 I could still recall the last day program we had on 31st of December 2006, almost 6 years ago and gathering from what was following never did I think that it would cost 6 whole years of absence for ASSC to be activated again. The pause was presumed to be for about 6 months or at most one year, but things happened in such a way that it got dragged up to 6 years. The Saturday program that we had each weekend was missing big time and one of the resources that was active providing astronomy knowledge to the country had gone missing. However what has happened has happened, and only those inspired can change the happening.
Letters of invitation
Dileepa at work !

Fr. Mervyn Fernando will patronize the ASSC as usual with the revival of ASSC due next Saturday and the regular Saturday program will be effective each Saturday with an interesting blend of astronomy content and activities. We've already sent out invitations for about 60 schools throughout the island to take part in the event of revival, commencing at 1.30 pm at the Subodhi premises. I sincerely think this would be a great chance to meet old friends, and make new friendships and of course to learn about astronomy. Feel free to comment here if you have some thought to share or anything to clarify or even if you're interested in being a part of this endeavor. Looking forward to meeting many astro-enthusiasts !

Invitations, off they go !!

Facebook event :

Sunday, September 9, 2012

An unknown static blinking red dot close to zenith tonight

I'm publishing this post to know if there are more people who have seen the same as I did, just a while ago. I was going to my rooftop just to catch some fresh air and suddenly something brighter in sky took my attention. It was located about 20 degrees northeast wards from my zenith (I was located in Piliyandal, Sri Lanka), Local time read 20:00h. (09th Spetember 2012). Please note that Sri Lanka is GMT+5:30h

My co-ordinates in Piliyandala

Latitude: +6.801778
Longitude: +79.940354

There was a bright red dot noticeably visible to where I was and I was observing it for almost an hour before it disappeared. However I noticed that the background stars were moving relative to this strange red dot and the dot was frequently varying its color. During this course I assume the dot remained static in its celestial location/ co-ordinates. Thus I noticed a fast variation of its brightness. Unforgettably I didn't have advanced equipment for recording this, but I informed some of my friends located in the same vicinity and few of them could observe the strange red dot.

Just few minutes before it was gone, I noticed the dot becoming even redder and I had no clue what it was, I ruled out that it was a satellite as it was a static object as per my observations.

Finally what I could figure out was that this might be some explosion very far far away from our solar system. Could it be something in the range of what Tycho Brahe observed to be a supernova explosion for months, located from Europe during the 16th century, whereas the duration of this as 1 hour more or less ?

Looking forward to your comments and maybe similar reports..

Clear skies !!

Monday, August 6, 2012

We're back on Mars - Curiosity Touchdown Story

Yes, we've just made it to the Mars once again, a few minutes ago Curiosity Rover safe-landed on Mars and started to send back the signals. I was just glued to my chair during the last 2 hours of flight of the Curiosity capsule, listening to various media news and NASA TV and finally as it was successful, I was sunken in a lot of feelings. What an effort made by the crew to have this sophisticated robot landed on our neighboring planet, the dedication and sacrifices they've put forward in bringing this up to a reality. So hats off to all those who are behind this great project, well done guys !!!

Plus what kind of discoveries can be made with this rover's expertise. By far Curiosity is the largest rover to have landed on Mars as we know and what we all just have to do is let the science begin, Already there are torrents of photos and data being sent to Earth and you all can see the pictures in NASA website. Quite interestingly it was seen that the NASA web-servers crashed at the high traffic naturally triggered for the Curiosity's news of safe landing. Anyway stay tuned in for NASA for latest news about the Curiosity.

Practice of the tradition of munching peanuts before the entry of the rover
Practice of the tradition of munching peanuts before the entry of the rover

Just before the first entry point, it was seen the usual tradition of munching of peanuts was practiced and now we all know that Curiosity has made it to Mars safely. The crews at JPL were exhilarating as they made the achievement when the pictures of the Martian surface appeared on the screen. It was truly a moment of joy and celebration, as their untiring efforts paid off.

JPL Crew reactions at the touchdown of Curiosity Rover
JPL Crew reactions at the touchdown of Curiosity Rover

If you have time just try to find and have a look at the animation depicting the entry and landing, the technique of parachute and rocket boosters is novel and interesting. They have built the largest ever parachute for this endeavor, I heard.  Looking forward to more updates from Curiosity !

Pictures courtesy : NASA TV

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pictures from Venus Transit 5/6 June 2012

Well, it didn't turn out to be so good in turn of the weather, and we had an irritating blockage of clouds over the Easter horizon from Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. We arrived in the observation site around 4.45 am in the morning and were eagerly waiting for the sun rise, Alas !! What we had for our welcome !!!! It was nothing more than a white layer of clouds... And the clouds had the sun imprisoned for almost 2 hours after the dawn and finally it came out of the layer of the clouds but still with a less brightness,

However the Venus transit is still in progress for us in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka and it will last for almost 1 hour more or less. Here I'm posting some pictures of this final Venus transit of the century, taken by me and also some other photos of the outreach campaign we conducted for the school students and people in the areas, It would be great to hear what you guys had been through during the same time, so let's share !!

Above was taken around 7.40 am local time from Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, just above the eastern horizon.
The above was also taken around 8.00 am local time from Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, just above the eastern horizon. 

The above was also taken around 8.10 am local time from Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, just above the eastern horizon.
Some outreach activity photos of  Venus Transit 5/6 June 2012

Please note that prior written permission should be obtained prior to using the images/ pictures given here as they're matter of copyright. 

Trânsito de Vênus, 5/6 de Junho de 2012, ao vivo de Trincomalee 2012''

Olá Pessoal, 

Pena que eu não tive tempo antes para trazer esta notícia antes, sobre o fenômeno histórico, onde pela última vez neste século, assim como em quase todo o nosso tempo de vida. Vênus passará diante do Sol, visto da Terra, ocultando uma pequena parte do disco solar. Eu viajei para Trincomalee na costa leste da ilha (Sri Lnka) só para observar isso alguns segundos mais cedo do que os meus vizinhos em Colombo (Capital do Sri Lanka). Nós (membros do MAS ) estamos trazendo um webcast ao vivo, via streaming de Trincomalee. Vamos, naturalmente, perder os 2 primeiros pontos de contato devido à nossa localização geográfica, porém, poderemos assistir a partir do nascer do sol no horizonte oriental e os pontos 3 e 4 do evento. Estou colocando o link, onde teremos o streaming do trânsito de Vênus . Você tem também a chance de conferir ao vivo, com o streaming abaixo.

Aproveite para compartilhar, desejo-lhe tudo de bom, e um bom clima!

Translation Credit: Hermerio Júnior

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Venus Transit 6th June 2012 Live Webcast/ Streaming from Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Hello Folks,

Too bad I didn't have time earlier to bring you some early news about this historical phenomenon, where for the last time in this century, as well as in almost all of our life time, Venus makes a transit across solar disk, as seen from the Earth. I've traveled to Trincomalee in the East coast of the island just to observe this a few seconds earlier than my neighbors in Colombo. We (members of MAS) are bringing a live webcast/ streaming from Trincomalee as the event takes place. We will of course miss the first 2 contacts due to our geographical location this time, however we will take it from the sun rise from the eastern horizon to be followed by 3rd and 4th contacts.

Here I'm giving the online link where we will have our Venus transit webpage and you have also the chance of viewing it live from this blog right now.

Enjoy and share and I wish you all good weather !!

Venus Transit 05/06 June 2012, Historical Event of this Century - Don't miss out

What is a transit of Venus?

When Venus passes directly between earth and the sun, we see the distant planet as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun. Historically, this rare alignment is how we measured the size of our solar system.

When is it?

The next transit of Venus occurs June 5 or 6, 2012, depending on your location. Observers in North America see it the evening of June 5. This will be the last transit of Venus to occur in your lifetime.

Where to Be

Whether and when you can see the 2012 transit of Venus depends on your location. Key highlights include the four "contacts" near the beginning and end of the transit when Venus appears to touch the edge of the sun. Most of North America sees the beginning of the transit in the afternoon and evening (find a clear western horizon!) on June 5, whereas much of Eurasia sees the end of the transit in the morning (find a clear eastern horizon!) on June 6.

For Sri Lanka

Source :

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Golden Moments -5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics

It's always been a pleasant experience cherishing past memories with great happenings. Even now, just a month and a week later, I can be happy going though my own flashback of 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics held in Brazil. Blogging requires to be specific sometimes and in this post I will recall about some interesting happenings took place during the 3 days from 19th to 22nd of April 2012. You can always check about the pre-events that preceded the 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics and also the event schedule/ program.

I had the pleasure of participating in the 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics as an invited speaker as the president of the Mathematical & Astronomical Society of University of Colombo. Having arrived in Brazil for the first time, and being though my first 2 days in Brazil I was slowly having my lessons and learning about the culture and the people, who proved to be very dynamic, spontaneous and friendly as I was progressing with rest of the stay. The hospitality I received was amazing, Professor Marcelo was always making sure I was doing fine and helped me in whatever possible way he could have had, and later as I was traveling in some parts of the Brazil, it proved to be no exception, as the Brazilian hospitality I received was at its best.
My Visa for 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics

Well, Let's get straight into the context, 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics started on the 19th morning inside the cinema hall of the Shopping Boulevard in Campos dos Goytacazes. Saying something about the hosting city, which is usually referred to as Campos, it is located almost in the middle between the cities of Vitória and Rio de Janeiro, which are the metropolitan capitals of Brazilian states of Espirito Santos and Rio de Janeiro respectively. I think you would get to Campos in a 3-hour driver from Rio. In Brazilian Portuguese, Campos means fields and they say Gaytacazes is an Indian tribe that used to live in the area and hence the name Campos dos Goytacazes.

During the Opening Ceremony of 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics at Shopping Boulvard, Campos dos Goytacazes, RJ, Brazil - People pictured from right to left are, Professor Marcelo Souza from Campos dos Gaytacazes, Brazil, Tamas Ladanyi from Hungary, Johannes Stübler from Austria, Andrea Sanchez-Saldias from Uruguay, Prasanna Deshapriya from Sri Lanka, Dirk Ross from Japan, Dimitri Gadotti from ESO,  Douglas -A representative of Shopping Boulevard, 2 other personnel from Campos dos Goytacazes city.

The audience at the same time: The audience consisted of students, teachers, and citizens of Campos dos Goytacazes

Professor Marcelo Souza, speaking at the opening ceremony
Here you can see the happy face of Professor Marcelo Souza, who is the chief organizer of 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics. Also pictured is the Hungarian astro-photographer Tamas Ladanyi from the TWAN- The World At Night project.

Just before the start !
You may see here how crowded the cinema hall was getting just before the start of the opening ceremony. Here you can see Professor Marcelo and some of the members of the Luis Cruls astronomy club as well. I must mention that these guys did an awesome job behind the scenes with so much untiring efforts towards the success of the 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics. Thus it is with great gratitude I mention them here for despite their young age they delivered really serious and tough work. I'm really happy to have enjoyed their company throughout my stay in Campos, not only during the meeting, but also prior and post to the event.

Tamas Ladanyi from Hungary - TWAN (The World At Night)
Here you see the first speaker of the 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics, Tamas Ladanyi, an astrophotographer from Hungary who also works for the TWAN, specialized in the landscape photography.  During his session he showcased his experience with astrophotography, which was vivid with a lot of fine combinations of skies and landscapes. One of the interesting pieces of his work was the photograph titled in Spanish "Mira mira Mira" (Mira olha Mira em Português) where his daughter Mira, is looking at the red-giant star Mira (a star in the constellation Cetus).
Professor Marcelo performing the interpretation task during the astrophotography workshop of Tamas Ladanyi

During the evening of the second day he also conducted a workshop on using equipment/ gear for astrophotography, touching down many technical specs as well. Then he led an expedition into a darker and distant area of the city with Professor Marcelo to flee from the lights of the city to get involved with more hands-on activity, where he demonstrated exactly the very steps that one needs to follow in taking a decent photo of some celestial object with the inclusion of a landscape as well. I was able to join this expedition and get more insights into my understanding of this beautiful branch of astronomy. Below you will see a picture that Tamas made at the end of the observation session at this remote location, along with all the participants.
Have a thorough look at the southern skies  !!
Southern skies and the participants of the Tamas Ladanyi's workshop -  Tamas himself, Professor Marcelo Souza and Johannes Stübler from Austria are also presented in the picture. (Photo Credit : Tamas Ladanyi)
Me and Tamas Ladanyi
 The second speaker José Carlos Diniz, a Brazilian astronomer from Rio de Janeiro spoke about the difficulties that one must undergo when doing astronomy in Brazil as well as about some determined individuals who have proved themselves exceptional, still to continue practicing astronomy in Brazil despite the various issues. The humorous sense he developed whilst presenting himself added more vibe to his presentation bringing about the ideology of his talk "Astrophotography in Brazil, the victory of passion".

One of the funny slides of José Carlos Diniz  (Photo Credit : Johannes Stübler)
It was really inspirational as José went on to particularly mention how difficult it was for him and his colleagues to find dark areas for observations in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil and how they finally managed to find better areas in the end in the same vicinity with adventures mixed with huge passion, and love for the astronomy.

The next was the presentation of Johannes Stübler, the National Co-ordinator of AWB (Astronomers without Borders) from Austria. Johannes gave an account about his ambassador role in "Living the Idea", traveling from Linz, his home city in Austria across Jordan, Syria and Turkey, promoting the astronomy and trying to get more people, met on the road to look at the skies and get interested. I was convinced that it is a great coincidence that Johannes Stübler also comes from the same city that Johannes Kepler was once living, as I was gathering more information.
Astronomy Outreach - from Orient to Occident (Photo Credit : Johannes Stübler)
 As I had the chance of having the company of Johannes during the meeting, we were sometimes sharing our ideas and experiences and it was fascinating to hear about the AWB Beer they had in Austria for the GAM (Global Astronomy Month) and I think it shows the innovation and creativity, blended with popularizing astronomy among people.

A souvenir I received from Johannes Stübler
Me and Johannes Stübler, he presented me the gift of the raffle draw :)
 Here is another picture taken during the first day of the meeting. Pictured are José Carlos Diniz, Patrick - the Portuguese<>English interpreter throughout the meeting, Norma Reis from Brasilia, Brazil and Oscar Matsuura from São Paulo, Brazil. Look at the variety of people that astronomy could bring together !
Another picture, you add the caption for this !
Dimitri Gadotti, a Brazilian working at ESO in Chile, during his presentation
The talk about the life and work at ESO telescopes in Chile with a focus on E-ELT, ESO's newest challenge, by Dimitri Gadotti was interesting, and curious as I was wondering how they make such great missions possible. It was also my Why for ESO's preference on southern skies, as they produce a lot of sophisticated cutting-edge accessories and equipment in Europe and transport those all the way across Atlantic Ocean and further to Chilean deserts.

“Jorge Marcgrave in Dutch Brazil: his founder role in Astronomy of Brazil and of the New World” - This sounded different for me in the beginning, Dutch Brazil ? Well, as I was through the presentation of Oscar Matsuura, who is a veteran researcher based in São Paulo, Brazil, I managed to figure out answers to my puzzle. He spoke about the pioneering role of Jorge Marcgrave in astronomy in Dutch Brazil or Brasil holandês as it is said in Brazilian Portuguese and about the influence he had on the people of northern parts of Brazil when they were Dutch colonies. Although I've included the Wikipedia link about Jorge Marcgrave here, I'm more than sure the presentation of Oscar was more resourceful.
Oscar Matsuura, and me outside the Shopping Boulevard, Campos
Attendees for the 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics waiting inside the Shopping Boulevard, You can also see the telescopes, multimedia, mobile planetarium, belonging to the Louis Cruls Astronomy Club.
Astronomy + Chess : I've always stumbled upon this game whenever I was out of Sri Lanka. I really don't know how I always find a connection with Chess and end up playing it, as the time permits. With me here is Laura from Louis Cruls Astronomy Club with a keen interest in astronomy.
The second day of 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics continued at Campus Guarus do Instituto Federal Fluminense, a new location also close to the city center.

Dr. Robert Zubrin from United States during his presentation
First presentation in the morning was that of Dr. Robert Zubrin from Mars Society, US about the project "Mars Direct" which is an attempt to get the man to the red planet in no more than a decade. Dr. Zubrin particularly expressed his idea on why this should be done within a time frame of 10 years and no more. He was quite certain about the potential about the project and I think it wouldn't be too far away the day where there would be Mars colonies, probably within our lifetime provided all works out fine.

Professor Marcelo & Dr. Zubrin with Monique, Ana, Lucas & Hermerio - First Brazilian Crew in Mars Desert Research Station
Then followed the report of the first Brazilian crew in Mars Desert Research Station, a facility located in the US. The report was about the experiences of Lucas, Ana, Monique & Hermerio, 4 students of Louis Cruls Astronomy Club who had the chance of visiting Mars Desert Research Station and spending few days there under the crucial conditions, similar to those, to be faced in real exploration activities in Mars. The students were supposed to be crew members, who had different areas to undertake like, geologist, communicator, etc whilst during the stay at this facility. For example Ana, who was in charge of communications had to wait long hours for the feedback from Earth, taking into account the distance between the two planets after she has sent any message/ signal. I believe it was truly an inspiration to all the participants as the students shared their individual experiences. Professor Marcelo also thanked Dr. Zubrin for his involvement in this project and I reckon there would be more chances for the Brazilian students in the future.

One of the other interesting as well as curious sessions to follow was the presentation of meteorite hunter Dirk Ross from Yamaguchi University, Japan and AWB with the topic "Meteor/Meteorite Soup"
Here is Dirk Ross, as he presents on "Meteor/Meteorite Soup"
One of the facts that Dirk mentioned in his talk still echoes in my mind; he went on to say that there had been only few meteorites found in the Brazilian territories and provided the large size of the country, there could be many more meteorites to discover. Later I got to know that Dirk, himself led some expeditions on lookout for possible meteorites along with some other students, and the results were not positive though. Nevertheless I hope they enjoyed the expeditions.

Dirk is confronted by curious students after his talk !

Dirk Ross at his meteorite hunting workshop, Look at the meteorites on the table !
 I don't know how to relate what happened the following evening, We received the NEWS from locals that there had been a meteor crash close to Campos and someone had recorded it as well and had put the video up on Facebook. We were with Professor Marcelo and he was receiving a lot of calls, reporting about this so-called meteor crash. In a different sense it was funny that Dirk Ross had just delivered his presentation about meteorites during the day and he had just had conducted the workshop in the evening on how to look for and identify them, and few hours later we're receiving a lot of reports on meteorite sighting.
Professor Marcelo, Dirk, Andrea and me as we were receiving the HOT news !, Believe me, this kept us sleepless and awake till the early morning.

However later taking into account the information and all the possibilities, Dirk concluded it to be space junk, seen being burnt as it was entering the atmosphere. However it triggered some fuss and suddenly a lot of interest and attention was paid to what Dirk was trying to explain in his talks.
The Souvenir from Dirk Ross

Still on the second day there were many other sessions and activities too with the inclusion of variety of events both indoors and outdoors.
The areas discussed in the meeting were vivid, here you see Eugênio Reis talking about Sun and its life cycle

Eugênio Reis with students at his outdoor session on solar observation.

Norma Reis from Brasilia, talking about her work with scientific communication, her topic was “Teacher’s MEC Portal exemplified by the site “Astronomy, Astronautics and Space Science at the School”
Here you see Oswaldo Barbosa during his workshop session, he's specialized about rocket propulsion and is from ACRUX Aerospace Technologies based in São Paulo, Brazil.
Outdoor adventure with Oswaldo Barbosa
  Whenever there was a break between the sessions I always tried to talk to fellow speakers and students and learn more about what they do, for I was naturally driven with the curiosity. These times proved to be hard sometimes when I stumbled upon some students who hardly spoke any English. However the universal expression of smile was commonly shared despite the language barrier. Below is one such a situation.
Dirk Ross and me with some students
This is Gennady Saenko from ROSCOSMOS talking about "Russia in Space - Vision and Challenges"
Andrea Sanchez-Saldias from Universidad de La Republica – Uruguay, during her presentation of “Educational experiences in Uruguay (formal and non-formal)”
This is me with Adriano Leonês, who talked about “School in the Stars – Experiences and Reports of three years teaching astronomy”
This is me with Andrea and Claudio, I should mention the latter is a polyglot, believe me he spoke Greek as well, and was one of the interesting characters I got to know during the meeting. I'm putting this picture up because of this amazing guy although I look pretty terrible in the picture, don't look at me !
During my presentation, which was the last on the agenda.
I spoke about the outreach activities of astronomy in Sri Lanka, generally what we do here to popularize astronomy. In addition I also talked a bit about my astronomy career and how IYA2009 boosted my involvement with astronomy outreach. In the picture above, in the slide, I'm seen presenting the annual astronomy magazine "Sigma" of Mathematical & Astronomical Society to the staff adviser Professor Chandana Jayarathne at the 'Star Quest 2011' inter-school astronomy quiz competition held in May 2011. In fact this was a great milestone of my astronomy career as I was the editor of that publication. 

The amazing and promising team of Louis Cruls astronomy club, who were behind the organizing of the 5th International Meeting on Astronomy and Astronautics and bringing it to such a success. Kudos to all of them it was a great event !
It is with great gratitude I mention here Professor Marcelo Souza and his beloved wife Eponine. Professor Marcelo is a wonderful person with a great personality. His hospitality and friendliness is irresistible. Muito obrigado Marcelo por tudo. I humbly feel privileged to have known him.