Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pakistani astronomers shine during the International Year of Astronomy

I have reported multiple times about the phenomenal effort of Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS) in organizing large scale Astrofests (Falakyati Melas) to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) [for example, see here, here, and here]. Now they have an article in the Physics World that provides a summary of their activities, Pakistani Astronomers Shine a Light on the Skies. Here is a note about one of the Melas:

Perhaps the most memorable event took place on 30 May, which saw a gathering of about a thousand local residents and tourists at the historic Rohtas Fort in Jhelum, a couple of hours' drive north of Lahore. The fort, which was completed in 1547, is a blend of Indo-Afghan architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the gates inside the Fort is the Suhail Gate, named after the star bearing the same Arabic appellation (it is known as Lambda Velorum in modern catalogues). Interestingly, there is a saintly dervish with the name Suhail Bukhari who is now buried at the gate, epitomizing the confluence of science and tradition that has shaped the country.
I was amused to read that at another place they had an impromptu poetry reading about the Moon while waiting for the telescopes to be setup. This is not odd at all in the Pakistani context as Urdu verses are often quoted in conversations - from politics to gossip. This is from the Mela in Okara District Public School in Punjab, which drew over 2000 people:

While the astronomers – led by Umair Asim, an astronomer by passion and school teacher by profession – were setting up their equipment, Okara's headmaster Mazhar Hussain arranged an impromptu competition in which attendees were invited to recall verses from Urdu literature about the Moon, which is a popular poetic icon and used as a simile for the beloved.

Once their gear was up and running, the audience were delighted at what they saw, although the lunar craters surprised many who were used to the Moon's established literary image!
Read the full article here. Perhaps more importantly, due to an overwhelmingly positive response, KSS has decided to continue their activities in 2010 as well, and have added an optical microscope to their public sessions - to introduced the other of the invisible universe. A fantastic effort - through and through.


Dr. Muhammad Akbar Hussain said...

KSS is doing a great job in promoting astronomy in Pakistan. Thumbs-up for their efforts.

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