Ailanga Physics Class visits MMAO

MMAO - Ailanga Physics class visits

Zacharia shares the following, “This week, the Ailanga Form 3 and 4 physics teacher asked me [to] help him find a video about Astronomical telescopes and how they work in comparison to microscopes, to show his students in our observatory. Yesterday night we [brought] students to the observatory to show them the video which led us into a very good discussion. [T]heir teacher was there together with me to lead the discussion. It was awesome because students were so excited and more engaged in asking questions!”

MMAO - Ailanga Physics class visits Tonight they watched the 5th episode of COSMOS. They learned about light, and Isaac Newton’s experiments with a thermometer and prism. Now, the students want to duplicate the experiment. There are many prisms and a few thermometers, but we may look for a higher quality, digital unit to get high quality results.

Stay tuned!

Observation – 28 September 2019

MMAO - Aligning the 12" Cave-Cassegrain telescope

Last night MMAO Astronomy Ambassadors Zacharia Mjungu and Pendael Nassary were successful in conducting a third drift test, this time noting all parameters to make certain we can effectively interpret the results and align the telescope more accurately.

In short summary, they selected a star almost directly overhead, which at MMAO is close to the celestial equator. They rotate the reticle eyepiece such that when slewing the telescope East and West the star tracked parallel to one of the two cross hairs. They then centered the star and with the RA motor engaged, allowed the star to drift from center to edge.

With a 25mm eyepiece, it took 23 minutes for the star to move past the edge. This is very good for a hand-aligned telescope and perfect for public star parties, but for astro-photography we want to do better.

Now, they will interpret the results using the guidance provided on this website for the Southern Hemisphere, and suggest how we can make very small adjustments to the polar and/or equatorial axis.

Stay tuned!

NASA spectrographs

MMAO - Studying sunlight with NASA spectrographs

Today the MMAO hosted the assembly of NASA spectrographs. These simple, effective tools enable us to “see” the composition of our Sun in a safe and effective manner, combining chemistry, physics, and astronomy in a cohesive understanding.

Zacharia writes, “… students come over to our library and they were looking for different kinds of materials including reading books. Later they wanted to know about [the] spectroscope. We didn’t even plan to do it. Then we started to discuss together and started building them under Eliatosha’s guidance because he did it before. Students were able to make four spectroscope and connect them with prism glass–it was awesome! I am so impressed with the way students are eager to learn and engaged.”

Visitors to the Observatory – 19 September 2019

MMAO - Visitors from the United States

A small group of Americans visited the Ailanga school and were pleasantly surprised to discover a fully operational, astronomical observatory on campus! They didn’t have much time, but Eliona, Zacharia, and Pandaeli gave the a quick tour. We look forward to the day when we open to schools, safari tourists, and the general public on a regular basis.

An Ambassador’s Story, by Eliatosha

MMAO - Eliatosha's story

This just in from Eliatosha Maleko, instructor at Ilboru Primary School and Astronomy Ambassador for MMAO, his summary of the month working on the completion of the observatory and installation of the telescope.

“I am very happy to express my sincere gratitude and happiness to you since I started my participation in the Astronomy about 10 years since … It is amazing and Astronomy [has] changed everything in my life and the people surrounding me, especially my students.

Through my learning all those years I have learned how to work with people of different areas and especially to show passion [for] Astronomy [and this] makes my students to love to learn as their curious to know more and more.

In my three weeks astronomical participation with Mr Kai, I have learned many things and especially, culture of different people all round the world, learning especially on how to take very small and minor measurements … I have learned to take things seriously and never to ignore [the details].

Moreover [we worked in] time management so that every thing should be done in time, and [to share] passion and humbleness to to people of different ages and to listening to them as through them we learned many things.

I have learned to say “I don’t know” as a way to learn more … it doesn’t matter you’re title, the only thing to say [is] “I don’t know”.

Finally I thanks everyone especially Astronomers Without Borders, UNAWE, and their facilitators and donors for their support … especially to Telescopes to Tanzania Pastor Chuck, Sue, Dan, Mike, Kai, and Mponda for their great, great support, encouraging and participation to make sure that students enjoy learning and to explore more our sky.

Together we can enhance learning and improve Astronomy in Tanzania.” –Eliatosha

MMAO - Eliatosha's story

An Ambassador’s Story, by Elineema

Elineema Nassary describes the thirty days of our working together as follows. “I experienced many things during the mounting of [the 12”] telescope at MMAO. I learned that we are all learning, and no one knows everything. I learned that a good scientist knows three words ‘I DON’T KNOW’. Let us learn together. [W]e all shared knowledge during mounting the telescope and sometimes we engaged students to work with us.

“I also experienced that I have to work for the future generation and not for my benefit. Therefore we volunteered our time and even our liquidity in order to fulfill the mission of our beloved, late Pastor Chuck and mama Sue to come true. Yes it has happen. What is following is living in the Chuck’s idea of inspiring our students to love science.

“[F]rom my fellow who we were together during mounting the telescope, especially from Kai, [I learned] to be very careful on everything I am doing, not to answer direct question if you are not 100% sure on it, [and] also reading and do[ing] more research on what you are learning. Moreover, be clean and keep everything on its position and be slow in fixing things.” –Elineema

Observation – 4 September 2019

MMAO - Aligning the 12" Cave-Cassegrain telescope

On Wednesday, September 4, Zacharia and Pendaeli opened the observatory for a survey of four stars. The goal was to establish how far off the RA axis of rotation is due to the remaining, incomplete alignment of the telescope. If we had just one night with more than an hour of clear skies after sunset, we’d have this done and move on. But such is astronomy. For all the understanding of the workings of the world, we do not (yet) control the weather (which is probably a good thing).

I have included the observation notes (top), as an example of how important it is to record data points for every experiment, no matter how seemingly simple or irrelevant to the long-term goal, as that history helps us prepare for the future endeavors.

MMAO - Aligning the 12" Cave-Cassegrain telescope The starting position (not noted) was the star Antares. As such, the RA and Dec coordinates were a perfect match. They then moved the telescope through 3 other stars before returning to the Antares again, all remaining on the Home side of the pedestal.

Clearly, we have a misalignment for the RA values do not match. This is not a drift test, rather a pointing test, but it does give us clues. The smaller errors are within the expected tolerance of a hand-placed telescope before advanced alignment techniques. The substantial error on the final measurement is likely a misreading of the RA setting circle or the circle was not set tight and slipped.

When next we have a clear night for at least one hour, we’ll conduct our final drift test and then determine how to adjust the mount alignment accordingly.

I want to emphasize on behalf of my colleagues at MMAO that this represents their first scientific experiment of any kind outside of the classroom, perhaps at all. With my being half the African continent away, I am little more than a guide through email and instant messaging.

Therefore, I extend my pride in the instructors and students of Ailanga Secondary School who in just one month went from having used a relatively simple telescope (if at all) to operating a sophisticated instrument while working toward professional alignment in order to be more equipped to see deep sky objects such as distant nebulae and galaxies.

Great work!