The weather is getting hot now.. In the direct sunlight, it is getting hard to stand and keep talking to hundreds of students.. of course, who cares about that!
Today i met super charged students of LGS EME branch.. Some 400 kids from 6th and 7th grade. They saw the Sun through Solar Glasses donated by CBSAP and my Lunt 152 Hydrogen Alpha Solar telescope; i use this scope with B3400 which gives a bigger field of view of the Sun.
They were shooting questions about every thing they could think of in the entire Universe.. Extra-terrestrial life forms, Black holes, Alien planets, Formation of Stars, planets and moons, Space Missions and what not! I was speaking at the maximum possible speed my sound system could manage with continuously taking water to keep it running. At the end of it all, some 3 hours later, the sound system broke and i am very very happy with that!
Students of LGS EME, you are great!
Being under the burning sunlight, standing for hours, constantly talking to hundreds of people, continuously repeating every time to a new observer what to see, how to see and what is being seen.. this all does not drain me at all; On the contrary, it gives me such energy which i cannot explain in mere words.
Just give me a crowd.. hundreds? yes.. thousands? even better! I have been doing it for decades and will do it everyday.. all my life!
Today i went to COMSATS, Lahore and took my Hydrogen Alpha Solar Telescope with me, CBSAP Glasses and spectral rings. Alpha who is new to our Astronomical Society's core group also came and helped a lot!
Here is the fifth podcast of 'Hamari Kainaat', our bimonthly Astronomy podcast in Urdu. In this episode Dr Salman Hameed answers questions which were asked by amateur astronomers around Pakistan.
We talk about protoplanetary disks, end of the Universe, expansion of the Universe, history of Sun-centered and Geo-centered model of the 'Universe', importance of Astrophotography in Astronomy and efforts of amateur astronomers for popularizing Astronomy in Pakistan.
Ali Khan and i visited Lahore Grammar School even when it rained that day and was cloudy. Their Science teacher Shaista Irfan had arranged a star gazing session there and had brought a Meade 90mm ETX telescope.
We observed Jupiter and M42, also some bright stars as well. Constellations were identified and some of the history of Astronomy and telescope was discussed. Star maps were distributed and used by the students. Good job boys!
Punjab University is a big institute for educating thousands, here in my city. They have a Space Science Department and recently have showed great interest in Astronomy and observing with telescopes.
I got a call from the observer of their department and on 27th February, 2015, i went there to help them with the two big scopes they have in their department. One is from Meade with 14 inch mirror and the other is of Celestron having 8 inch aperture. Both have Alt-Az mounts.
There were some issues with initiating the power so we used it manually. Needless to say, the optics are amazing.. 14 inch mirror always is a treat to use. It was quite hazzy and partly cloudy, but still we were able to see moon and jupiter.
These images were taken by the students of the department and you can see how enthusiastically they were using the scopes. I am sure we will see a lot more coming from Space Science Department in the near future. I wish them all the Astronomical success!
Students of Lahore Grammar School, Johar Town Branch, visited the observatory a few days ago. First i gave them an introductory presentation about the observatory which was followed by a tour of the building, the main telescope it has, Celestron C14 with all its extra gear and the adjacent 'Human Room'.
Fortunately the sky was clear and we first setup Celestron CGEM DX mount, mounted Lunt 152mm Halpha telescope on it, adjusted the pressure tuner, focuser and looked into the eyepiece. There it were.. a few but beautiful Solar Prominences. Lunt152 is an amazing instrument to see the Sun's lower atmosphere. With its big aperture, the details in the view are unforgetable indeed!
Nothing comes close to a white light telescope setup to see the surface of the Sun, where Sunspots and Granulation can be seen at their best. CBSAP 127mm refractor with Herschel Wedge is such an out of this world combination for observing solar surface... Unfortunately, there were very few and small Sunspots at that day; Nonetheless, these young minds were intrigued by looking 'directly' at the Sun and asked many many interesting questions.
I am thankful to their Science teacher Shaista Irfan, who planned and organized it all. I am sure many more students of this school will be coming here after their exams.
Astronomy is becoming more and more popular in Pakistan, specially in Lahore and Karachi. In Karachi city, Karachi Amateur Society is doing a really good job to popularize it among the students, general public and of course among there members. They have a beautiful observatory with very fine instruments!
Amateur Astronomers also formed an Astronomy society in Peshawar recently and i have skyped with them once, thanks to the great efforts of Khalid Marwat.
In my own city, Lahore, we have a very active group and so many enthusiastic members who run Lahore Astronomical Society. We regularly hold a monthly meeting at Zeds Astronomical Observatory, where one of our members delivers a keynote presentation, which follows by a very active Q/A session. Workshops are also conducted here so amateurs at all levels can benefit with others' skills.
My observatory also host public star and Sun gazing sessions. We have many telescopes of all kinds and sizes to see what's up there.
Dr Salman Hameed and i were planning to start a podcast in Urdu for Astronomy outreach in Pakistan. This dream has finally been realized now! Anyone who has an internet connection can listen and enjoy. Here is our first episode of 'Hamari Kainaat'!
"The Jon Wood Award recognizes those that excel in the field of public astronomy outreach and/or display a keen potential in the sciences. This award is given out generally five times per year by 'Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project' to assist and encourage solar astronomers around the world to begin or increase their solar astronomy outreach activities int heir local communities"
On 30 May, 2014, I got this announcement from the director Stephen W. Ramsden of 'Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project':
"The next recipient of CBSAP equipment to help their outreach efforts will be Umair Asim in Pakistan. Umair personifies all the values of our program and he has a passion for improving his community through science that is unrivaled, in my experience."
I was pleasantly surprised to hear that! I am so grateful to CBSAP for this honour! CBSAP sends solar astronomy equipment with this award and on 3 July, this was announced:
"I am EXTREMELY proud to announce that thanks to the donors to this program and my recent award of a new scope and the Astro-Oscar at the Starlight Festival we at CBSAP headquarters have just shipped off another Jon Wood Outreach Award to a most deserving individual in Lahore, Pakistan. Congratulations Umair Asim at the Farooqi Girls High School for his tireless efforts at educating students and the general public about the wonders and science of Astronomy! ... together we have all made it happen through our combined financial support and my extra equipment! He has just been shipped:
Meade 127mm APO with Feather Touch Custom Focuser
Lunt Solar Systems 2 inch Wedge
2 sets of Polarizers 2 inch and 1.25 inch
Baader Hyperion 8-24mm MkIII Zoom lens eyepiece
Televue 2.5x Powermate
Skywatcher 2 inch Nighttime Star Diagonal
Explore Scientific 50mm Finder Scope
ADM mounting rings and a Vixen rail
Retail value over $5000!! plus $1200 to ship it!"
WOW!!! I was simply overjoyed to see all this :)
The equipment reached to me in the third week of July. Though it was requested, at all four sides of the package, to the customs to wave the duty and other charges since this equipment will be used for public outreach and astronomy program but i ran out of luck there.. anyway after the clearance, i was there to receive it from UPS Courier.
The package was Huge!! and putting it in my car was not possible so i had to use non conventional way of driving.. yes yes.. Safety First.. for telescope.. right!
Thank you once again CBSAP and Stephen Ramsden! Just waiting and hoping for the monsoon season to end up soon and then there will be me, this telescope and all, lots of young students and the star of our show, the Mighty Sun!
This was one of the most memorable outreach session for me. The students of a Madrassa literally came running to the solar telescope as soon as they saw an odd looking machine near their mosque.
First i gave them the solar glasses. Now just look at them smiling with these on their faces :) I gave them all the glasses i had in my car and requested to take these to their homes and show their class fellows, siblings and parents. Next they saw the sun through the halpha telescope. Everyone just glued himself with the eyepiece; i was requesting for others' right to see the sun.
Nothing was planned there. I actually went to see my friend and when we ordered the food, the thought came to my mind. There is a Madrassa right there so why not show the kids the wonders of the universe. Wherever i go, my halpha telescope is always in my car trunk. So there i was, showing them the 'fire' on the sun and how much they got excited is beyond the words i can write.
Another solar outreach.. another happy day :)
Solar Observation session at Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad.
One of my astro buddy, Ahsan Khursheed requested a solar outreach at Saint Peters School a few days ago. Maroof Ahsan and I went to the school on 7 May 2014.
It was an amazing experience indeed.. we showed the sun through halpha telescope and solar glasses to more than 400 students and the teaching staff.. these pictures show all the enthusiasm they showed for the sun.. It was more than 100 F and they still wanted to see more of it!
By far the best part was when we showed 12 mentally challenged students (pictured in red shirts in the last pictures) from the adjacent school. They were not speaking clear words but the expressions of joy on their faces made me so happy. I have so much respect for the teachers who are teaching these students!
Last Saturday, Lahore Astronomical Society took its members to 'Changa Manga' which is one of the largest man-made forest in the world. It has much better sky than the heavily light polluted conditions here in lahore and just an hour drive from my city.
On Saturday 22 March, i left home for Changa Manga forest at 10:30am. My solar telescope, Celestron mount and power tank, Laptop bag and projector were in safely put in my trunk. On my way i picked up Behzad, Mateen and Mr. Raza of tourism department who actually made our booking of the resort in the forest.
When we reached there, other members had just arrived. I informed them of our plan: First i will present a keynote lecture on the sun and halpha viewing, then we will all have lunch which will be followed by the solar viewing session.
The presentation went quite well.. lots of information was shared and many interesting questions were asked. In the observation session, many of us were the first to see through the halpha telescope. I distributed Charlie Bates' Solar Glasses to everyone there.. also to the staff of the resort.
For night time session we had four telescopes and some binoculars.. saw quite a few galaxies, clusters and usual planets. Clouds came in, as predicted, around 01:00am and we went to our rooms for a good sleep.
These are the pictures taken from many members of the astronomy society:
'Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology' is one of the most respected institute of engineering in Pakistan. On 16th February, 2014, i represented Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS) in the Science Fair which had attracted students from all over Pakistan.
For me, it was a 500 km of travel so i started a day earlier and slept a night in Islamabad. My presentation and hydrogen alpha observation, according to the invitation letter i received, was supposed to be from 10:00am to 12:00pm. I reached at the GIKI gate half an hour earlier. But when i asked a person at Science Fair desk to show me the program, there was nothing about my event. Ok.. so i had packed up my telescope and mount with all the other gear.. travelled 500 km from my home a day earlier.. now standing here at this Science Fair desk and my presentation is nowhere to be found!.. this did not look good. KSS people contacted the Science Fair folks and after waiting for 30 minutes i was told that they have allocated a slot for me from 11:30am to 01:30pm.. now i just had to wait for another hour.. perfect.
In 2010, i also came here with Celestron C14 telescope, it was such a pleasant experience then. Folks then at Science Society were much more welcoming and very well organized.. missed them all dearly, this year.
Anyways, i waited because there were about 300 students from all over Pakistan and i really wanted them to experience hydrogen alpha views from the sun.
It was a good solar observing session.. I handed over 100 solar glasses, which were so kindly donated to me by Stephen Ramsden of 'Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project'. This way these solar glasses were distributed to many corners in Pakistan and that.. just made me happy.
While traveling through Swabi, i saw many Rickshaws without number plates.. when i asked a driver why there are no number plates on these vehicles; he said traffic police does not stop us for this so we do not bother with the plates.. very friendly folks in Swabi Police :)
I also saw many police officers' photos on the electricity poles (the picture is in front of a Police Station).. they were Shaheeds (martyrs) of Swabi, died in terrorists attacks.. sad indeed.
What a wonderful solar outreach experience! .. the whole experience was one of the best in the past many years of my public observing sessions. Maroof Mian and Ali Khan were kind enough to accompany me on the occasion.
"Lahore Grammar School' Johar Town Branch is one of the best in lahore and the students i interacted with, proved it well. I started out by giving a 30 minutes lecture on the basics of Sun and what they will view from an hydrogen alpha telescope, using a keynote presentation in the school hall. The target audience were six classes of grade 5.
Then moved out to the football ground where Ali Khan and Maroof Mian helped me out with setting up Lunt 60 on Celestron VX mount. It just took me minutes to polar align the mount and see the sun in the eyepiece. Stephen Ramsden, founder of 'Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project' has been very kind and has sent me hundreds of 'Solar Glasses' absolutely FREE, which i took with me there at LGS along with a cool poster.
Each class came with a teacher.. I first gave them Solar Glasses and when they saw the sun.. they got so excited: "AALAA (meaning: super awesome).. WOW.." Some jumped on their feet with joy :) Then i told them that these glasses are sent from Stephen of CBSAP which is in USA. They said to please convey their thanks to them.. so thank you CBSAP from all those fifth graders!
In the end, students' science club gave me a hand made and a very beautiful 'thank you' card with all the members' signatures.. sweet :)
Thank you for coming on such short notice Maroof Mian and helping me in the very exciting solar viewing session. Special thanks to Ali Khan for staying with me till the end and explaining many students at the telescope how to observe better. Thank you Science teacher Mrs Shaista Irfan and other LGS folks for making this event such a success!