A family visit to MMAO

Nanette and family visit MMAO

“What a wonderful surprise it was to learn that we have an observatory in Arusha–near Arusha National Park–that has the largest telescope in East Africa! It’s a small but well-equipped and well-maintained facility directed by the charming Mr. Elineema Nasarri, a gifted, enthusiastic, and very knowledgeable teacher.

The goal of the Mount Meru Astronomical Observatory is to provide science education to students and others. Elineema hosted our small group–my husband and myself and our four local “sons” from the nearby village where we live. Soon he had everyone asking questions and laughing and in awe of the grandeur of the planets, stars and galaxies.

We look forward to visiting again and working with them to share the marvels of the Universe with our local villagers. We are feeling very grateful to Telescopes to Tanzania who built the facility, and to the Organization for Science, Education and Observatory which operates it, for bestowing this gift on Arusha.” —Nanette

A Christmas visitor to MMAO

David Tan and friends at MMAO for Christmas 2023

On December 23, 2023 Kai, Elineema, and Mponda simultaneously received an email from the contact form on this website. It was from David Tan, an engineer who owns and operates a cafe in Dar es Salaam. He asked for a visit to the MMAO observatory. Given the close proximity to Christmas, Kai attempted to relieve Elineema from the transit to and from MMAO with a polite dismissal, but David was persistent and Elineema was excited to observe too! Perhaps they’d catch Santa’s sleigh in the telescope or another Christmas supernova. Nonetheless, they came together for a very special observing session, as David describes.

David writes, “It’s not at all often I come up to Arusha, so when it came to me that I had once read about an observatory at Mt. Meru, I felt strongly that I had to visit – lest it take a few more years before a next first visit and connection with the observatory.

The night we spent at the observatory was full of magic. There was a full moon rising exactly above Mt Kilimanjaro. We were all spellbound. I’m extremely impressed with all the work that’s been put into the observatory and the team who brought us to the observatory that night. Thank you!

Shaw-IAU Workshop Summary

MMAO Director Elineema Nassari at the South African Astronomical Observatory

Elineema Nassari, Director at MMAO, was awarded travel, lodging, and attendance of the African regional Shaw-IAU meeting hosted by the International Astronomers Union Office of Astronomy for Development on the campus of the South Africa Astronomical Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa. The workshop was from November 3-5, 2023.

Elineema writes, “This was a unique opportunity to share astronomical knowledge with a variety of teachers who came from so many countries, including Botswana. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya and South Africa.as I mentioned above.

“We participated in many presentations with both in-person and virtual speakers. Teachers asked many questions, helping all of us to build an increased capacity for teaching astronomy in our respective schools. I discovered that some countries have included Astronomy in their curriculum, making it a part of the total education in their school systems. This is not yet the case in Tanzania. We have much to do to advise the government, to include Astronomy in the [national] curriculum. Upon return from South Africa to Tanzania, I immediately implemented the knowledge gained in the workshop with my fellow teachers and students as well.

Moreover, I was given an opportunity to remain at SAAO for one week more, to learn how to run an organization and observatory as well. I met with IAU-OAD and OAE staff from the Office of Astronomy for Development where I learned a great deal. Also, we discussed the development of an astro-tourism program at MMAO.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Sutherland where massive telescopes survey the Southern Hemisphere. This was my first time to see such kind of big telescope. Imagine, the largest I had used was 12 inches. And now I have spent time observing in a telescope that is more that three building stories tall! I spent nights with astronomers from, SALT, SAAO and from Japan too. This time is for me an unforgettable history.

Also, I visited the science center at Cape Town whereby I learned a very crucial thing—that MMAO can establish a science center [to engage] young children in experiential education, that is, learning by doing small experiments. This beginning experience with science, while they are still young, [initiates] the spirit of enjoying and engaging science for a lifetime.

Now I have seeds in my hands to plant in Tanzanian, with teachers and students ready to grow.

Good things are coming!

Inspiring Teachers visit MMAO

Inspiring Teachers visit MMAO!

Today MMAO was honored to receive teachers from Inspiring Teachers, an innovative nonprofit helping teachers fulfill the promise of education. Inspiring Teachers designs programs for rollout across systems. Their programs equip school and system leaders with tools that enable them to systematically support teachers so they can make greater impact in their classrooms.

Inspiring Teachers in the photo (top, left to right): MMAO Ambassador Pandaeli, Coretta, Kelsey, Katya, Reggie, and Mary; then Lauren, Jamie, Cassie, and Rachel. MMAO Elineema Nassari is on the far right. Catherin is taking the photo.

Q&A about Meteors

asteroid impact

Eliatosha writes:

> Many greetings to you and your family, I and my students & my family we are well and they greet you very much.
> On Friday 01/10/2021 the students of Ilboru Primary School had a period about meteor show and they were very happy to listen to some podcast about meteor show which gave them more thirst to know more and the various pictures I downloaded on the internet that makes them to be very happy because they see meteor every day during the night.
> In addition to their curiosity, they had various questions:
> Joyce Peter asked:
> 1. Why do we see meteors at night but during the day we cannot see meteors, does it mean that the meteors are not present in our atmosphere during day time?.

Meteorites plummet through the atmosphere at all hours of the day and night. But by day we cannot see them in comparison to the bright light of the sun. This is similar to shining a torch by day, it is very difficult to see; but at night it is quite bright.

> 2. What are the objects made of meteors? what makes them looks like a fiery stone?

They are in fact fiery stone! Meteors are made of rock and dust. Comets too are made of dust, but with more water ice. They are the original building blocks of our solar system, left-overs from the very early time when gravity brought the dust of our solar system together to form small nuggets, clumps, asteroids, comets, and eventually planets and their moons (many of which are asteroids captured by the gravity of the planets).

Just as when you drive a car at high speed you can feel the wind pushing against the front glass, slowing the car, the air resists the movement of the meteor through friction. Friction produces heat. So much heat that the rock melts and glows. This is what we see.

Keep in mind that while a car moves as 100 or more kilometers per hour, meteors are traveling at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.

> 3. What effect do meteors have on living organisms if they fall to the ground?

Most meteors are the size of a grain of sand and never touch the ground. They burn-up completely. Yes, a grain of sand so hot you can see it from far away! But the bigger meteors (size of a baseball or football or more) can reach the ground and impact.

We know that the dinosaurs were wiped out due to a massive meteor impact 65 million years ago. It would have caused a massive fire to spread across the planet, followed by years of dust that blocked the sun.

Article: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/02/new-theory-behind-asteroid-that-killed-the-dinosaurs/

Nearly all of the dinosaurs died out, leaving the birds we have today (yes, birds are the last remaining dinosaurs). With the dinosaurs gone, the mammals were allowed to diversify and prosper.

Much of the water on our planet arrived (and continues to arrive) through the impact of meteors (very little water) and comets (more water). If the meteorite is small, it only adds trace amounts of iron and other elements to our atmosphere, maybe to the ground if it impacts.

Meteor Crater, Arizona

I have attached two images:

a) An artist painting of a meteor impact. If in fact one this large were to hit our planet, it would destroy the entire planet. (top)

b) A photograph of Meteor Crater, Arizona (just north of where I live) is a world-famous impact site of a meteor. It is famous because it is so well preserved. The rock that made this giant hole was only a few meters in diameter, but traveling at incredibly high speed.

Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_Crater

While meteors enter our atmosphere every day, the most recent, note worthy impact was just a few years ago:

Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelyabinsk_meteor

> Miriam John asked:
> 4. When a meteors falls to the ground it stays on the ground or there are objects that sink into the ground and why ?.

Upon impact it breaks into many small fragments. You can find these pieces if you know what you are looking for!

> Peter Elieta asked:
> 5. What are the benefits of meteors in the lives of humans or other living things?

They add iron, water, and excitement and joy to our lives. Without meteors, you would not be asking these great questions! 🙂 They also teach us about the formation of our solar system and planet, and have even given us samples of Mars. Yes, some of the rocks on this planet are from Mars. A long time ago, in the early formation of our solar system, there were far more asteroids moving between the planets. One or more of them struck Mars so hard that it sent debris into space, some of which arrived to Earth.

> 6. How big are meteors? And why do the burning particles not fall to the ground as the mineral contains what minerals?

(see above)

> 7. Why do meteor showers occur in December each year and not other months? What is the secret in that month?

There are many meteor showers, happening all year long. As the Earth is moving in its orbit, it passes through dust and debris fields, year after year, decade after decade, just as you might go to visit a certain relative for particular holidays 🙂 This debris is sometimes the tail of a comet or the remnants of an asteroid.

Here is a full explanation and list:

> 8. Belinda Allen asked:
> What is the significance of meteorites in our world?

(see above)

> 9. We hear in various news that a meteor is about to hit our planet? Did it not burn itself out of the way to the earth? Where did it threaten ?.

Astronomers are tracking tens of thousands of “near Earth objects”, asteroids and comets that are considered close to our planet in their orbit. Some come by each year, some only once every dozen or even hundred years. By carefully tracking them in space (using telescopes and a kind of radar) we can determine their orbital path and predict if they will hit the Earth.

Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-Earth_object

There are a few we are concerned about, and so defense systems are being designed to push them just a bit (using rockets or lasers), thus changing their orbit to miss the Earth.

> With these few questions we would like to express our sincere gratitude for the great help you are giving us in collaboration with our teacher in building our capacity to know our atmosphere as well as the various objects in the sky.
> We are looking forward to hear different views and answers from you.


MMAO Welcomes New Ambassadors

MMAO Ambassador Meeting MMAO Ambassador Meeting

Dear friends,

It is my sincere hope that all of you are doing very fine. I am happy to inform you that we have managed to meet with ambassadors today. We have discussed many things including the following.

  1. All teachers who attended the meeting have agreed to become Ambassadors for MMAO.

  2. All Ambassadors have agreed to bring their students to the observatory on a regular basis.

  3. Ambassadors will prepare Astronomical subjects according to their interest. For example a study of the solar system, use of the telescope, astronomical measurements, propagation of light, etc.

This is just some of what we have discussed.


Elineema, Hamuli welcome new teachers to MMAO

New Students visit MMAO

Ambassador to MMAO Elineema Nassari writes, “Yesterday was so good day at [the MMAO] observatory, we received a group of students and their teachers from Nshupu secondary school. Students and teachers learned many things about Astronomy, how to use telescope, types of telescopes, the solar system, the moon, meaning of galaxy and Milky way galaxy and how to measure distance in space (how to calculate light years). This lesson was lead by ambassador Hamuli Majeshi and myself. One among teachers asked what is the difference between constellation and galaxy. We provided answers and show them galaxies in the Cosmos series and also use Stellarium program to show them how constellation formed. They were so happy to know the differences. We were able to answer many questions from students also.”

“Teachers promised that they will arrange trips to visit the observatory and then more students will visit the observatory in future. We are sure that the observatory is in the road to provide Astronomical education to the students and the community as well.”

The Observatory is open for business!

students observing at MMAO students observing at MMAO Mbise and Nassary at MMAO

After a long, difficult year, the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory is once again open for business and inviting schools to attend.

Pendaeli Nassary writes, “We received 41 students and two teachers from the Akeri Secondary School.”

Ambassador Mbise writes, “I was very happy to visit the observatory for the first time with my friend Elineema Nassari. I wish not many days to visit there [again] with students from our school, [such] that they can see the good things that were done at the observatory.”

Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

“Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.”

“In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto … Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a ‘Great Conjunction.'”

Read the full article at:

“From our vantage point on Earth the huge gas giants will appear very close together, but they will remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. And while the conjunction is happening on the same day as the winter solstice, the timing is merely a coincidence, based on the orbits of the planets and the tilt of the Earth.”

The distance between the two largest planets in our solar system is at their very closest positions 4.3x greater than the distance from our nearest star (the Sun) to Earth (4.3 x ~90 million miles):

A few tips from NASA on how to photograph the conjunction: