Thursday, September 01, 2011

Here is a young telescope builder from Pakistan...

by Salman Hameed

Last week Express Tribune has a fantastic article on a student who has built a Newtonian telescope from scratch in Okara, Pakistan (tip from Farid Alvie). This is again a perfect reminder of the universal appeal of astronomy and what can be achieved when combined with talent and ambition! This is the story of Asad Mehmood, but his journey also illustrates the phenomenal importance of science societies. In his odyssey, Asad did most of the work on his own. But he also got crucial encouragement and guidance from Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS) (see earlier posts about them here and also tangentially here. Also read a post about amateur astronomy in Pakistan here). This is the perfect combination to cultivate talent. I hope schools and colleges also make it a habit encourage science societies.

But back to Asad Mehmood:

Asad Mehmood’s story is one of ingenuity and improvisation. A pre-engineering student in the District Public School and College Okara, Mehmood has been fascinated with optics ever since he was introduced to the subject in Class 6. “I used to play with convex and concave lenses and perform a lot of experiments, just for fun,” he reminisces. “At that time, I didn’t even know about telescopes, their working or their internal structures.”
While many of us grow out of our childhood fancies, Mehmood’s interest in optics only grew with time, and he started doing some serious reverse engineering. “I not only bought lenses from optics shops but more frequently I got magnifying glasses from bookstores. Then I bought a toy telescope, checked out its internals and made another one identical to it.”
The success of this first invention spurred him on. Not content with toy telescopes, he says, “that was when there rose in me the ambition to build a telescope to view the sky and the moon, the stars and planets.”
But dreaming was one thing, actually building a working telescope quite another. Mehmood had never seen a real telescope in his entire life. There was no astronomy society in Okara that he could turn to; he didn’t even have an internet connection that he could use for research. Still, though he loathed reading, he pored over the books in his school library, reading every scrap of information he could find on astronomy, lenses and optics.
“Fortunately I found a book that dealt with the topic ‘light’, which was exactly what I wanted. I gathered a lot of information about telescopes.”
After a year of failed prototypes, he made a Galilean Telescope, consisting of two convex lenses placed at a specific distance to each other. At that time, he was in Class 8.
In order to see him build the larger Newtonian telescope, you have to read the full article here.
Congratulations Asad! Fantastic job.

Related Posts:
Here is a post about the KSS astrofest at Okara in 2009


Akbar said...

As I mentioned earlier, no mention of amateur astronomy in a country is complete without the appreciation of telescope makers. Asad deserves special attention as he made a newtonian from scratch as he figured and polished a quality mirror all by himself and used it to make a small telescope that gives good views and fantastic astrophotographs. Thank you Salman for posting it.

Akbar said...

Here is another example of talent that went unappreciated:

These girls made a computerized 6" refractor from a locally assembled lens. They even made a working astronomy software for guiding their telescope.

Gary said...

Congratulations to all of them. I still have buried in my garage a partly ground mirror for a 200mm reflector which I started in my teens.

It was abandoned when I got a good pair of binoculars and spent my time star-gazing with those.