Perseverance and Ingenuity on their way to Mars!

Perseverance and Ingenuity by Dan Heim

Dan Heim, educator, astronomer, and writer has provided an introduction to NASA’s next rover Perseverance and the first aircraft ever intended to fly on another planet, Ingenuity.

Perseverance and Ingenuity — it would be hard to devise more descriptive names for this Mars rover and its drone. Their mission on the Red Planet is, perhaps, the most ambitious to date. In this post I highlight some of NASA’s ground-breaking experimental goals.

Read the full post at Sky Lights …

Comet Neowise is putting on a spectacular show!

Comet Neowise by Padraig Houlahan

Comet Neowise by Padraig Houlahan, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

The Comet Neowise (C/2020 F3), a long-period visitor to the inner solar system is giving viewers in the Northern hemisphere a spectacular show. NEOWISE was discovered by the Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) space telescope earlier this year. This icy, dirt and snowball with a gassy tail made its closest approach to the sun on July 3 and is now en route back to the outer solar system. It will be closest to Earth on July 22 but will not return for roughly 6,800 years.

To learn more, visit Scientific American

Comet Neowise positional map by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium

Comet Neowise positional map by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium

Annular Solar Eclipse of June 21, 2020 Summary

MMAO observation of the annular eclipse of June 21, 2020

As the Ailangs school is not yet in session, and the boarding students not yet returned to campus due to COVID-19, ambassadors Zacharia, Eliona, Pendaeli, OSEO Board member Thomas Mbise, and just a few local students came together at the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory (maintaining relative safe distance) to observe the Annular Solar Eclipse of June 21, 2020.

While we were challenged by the cloud cover, it opened up a few times to enable us to view the movement of the Moon relative to the face of the Sun a number of times. We were able to post a series of photos to our Facebook event, as also shared here.

During the event we enjoyed watching live feeds from astronomy clubs across Africa, as hosted by the African Astronomical Society (AfAS). And for all the resources compiled (a book and Android app translated into multiple languages, posters, notices, and more) we thank the expert hands and dedicated effort of Niruj of AfAS, Susan and Chu of the Traveling Telescope project, Dr. Jiwaji of the Open University of Tanzania; Sivuyile, Cedric, and Thembela of the South African Astronomical Observatory, and Mponda, Zacharia and the Ambassadors of MMAO, and so many more!

This was exciting for the opportunity to view such a splendid celestial event, and equally exciting to see people from so many countries working together for the celebration of science, education, and astronomy.

The final two images in this gallery are from the Traveling Telescope project in Kenya.

African Astronomical Society Eclipse Resources

African Astronomical Society The African Astronomical Society is coordinating a pan-African public campaign for the 21 June solar eclipse in collaboration with outreach experts across the continent. It has made several resources available in Kiswahili, Amharic, and English.

All resources are free for download and to be shared widely. MMAO is proud to have played a part in translation, orchestration, and weather permitting—a live broadcast from the observatory in Meru, Arusha, Tanzania.

Find here a summary of the resources available to learn about and then safely observe the annular solar eclipse Sunday, June 21. As noted on the website Time and Date, “The annular phase of this solar eclipse is visible from parts of Africa including the Central African Republic, Congo, and Ethiopia; south of Pakistan and northern India; and China. Weather permitting, people in these areas will see the characteristic ring of fire.”

Local Type: Partial Solar Eclipse, in Arusha
Begins: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 6:46 am
Maximum: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 7:46 am 0.62 Magnitude
Ends: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 8:55 am
Duration: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Live Broadcasts
If you live in a part of the world that will not be able to see the eclipse, or if the weather in your region is not cooperating, you can watch the eclipse live

Handbook for Africa: Annular Solar Eclipse 2020
This project was made possible by the Science Stars Magazine in design, Mponda Malozo and Zacharia Mjungu of the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory and Ingo Koll for multiple language translations, and Dr. Noorali Jiwaji in proofreading. Download the book for free!

Android App in Kiswahili
The Annular solar Eclipse App in Kiswahili is available for free download from the Google Play Store. This app is useful to learn about the eclipse timings and visibility for your location or anywhere else in the world, as well as provide some basic information on eclipses in general and safe ways of viewing it. Download the app from Google Play Store

How to Make your Own Solar Viewer
This DIY video on how to make a solar viewer from Susan and Daniel-Chu with the Traveling Telescope project can be viewed at YouTube.

Podcast about the Annular Solar Eclipse
A podcast about the eclipse by Cosmic Savannah, Alemiye Mamo, Prosperity Simpemba, and Niruj Ramanujam can be viewed now!

AfAS Press Release
The African Astronomical Society has issued a press release. You may read it now:

To learn, more visit the AfAS Annual Solar Eclipse page hosts the Handbook for Africa, a 7-poster series, an Android app that offers information about the eclipse, and a list of live webcasts from around the world.” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>African Astronomical Society webpage for the Annual Solar Eclipse of June 21, 2020.

On Observing the Solar Eclipse in Tanzania

MMAO Eliatosha with students, viewing an eclipse

Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory’s Eliatosha Maleko has prepared a brief introduction On Observing the Solar Eclipse in Tanzania. This document is presented in both Kiswahili and in English.

“Kawaida, tukio la kupatwa kwa jua hujitokeza takriban mara mbili kwa mwaka, wakati Mwezi, Jua na Dunia ziko kwenye mstari wa moja kwa moja. Wakati wa kupatwa kwa jua Mwezi hutembea kati ya Dunia na Jua, ikitoa kivuli katika sehemu ya uso wa Dunia.”

“Typically, solar eclipse event occurs about two times in a year, when the Moon, the Sun and the Earth are in a straight line. During the eclipse the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow across a portion of the surface of the Earth.”

Download the PDF for free!

Annular Solar Eclipse Android Application in Kiswahili

Annual Solar Eclipse Android App in Kiswahili

In preparation for the annular solar eclipse event on 21st June 2020, the Mount Meru Astronomical Observatory in Arusha, in collaboration with the African Astronomical Society and Alok Mandavgane for the Astronomical Society of India, have enhanced the Annular Solar Eclipse Android app for use in East Africa.

The App for the first time in history is accessible in Kiswahili to over 150 million native Swahili speakers mainly in the central, eastern and southern African countries. The annular solar eclipse event shall be visible in most of these countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda where Swahili is widely spoken.

The Annular solar Eclipse App is now available for free download from the Google Play in Kiswahili. This app is useful to find out the eclipse timings and visibility for your location or anywhere else in the world, as well as provide some basic information on eclipses in general and safe ways of viewing it.

You can download the app from Google Play Store

Annual Solar Eclipse Android App in Kiswahili

Are you ready for the solar eclipse on June 21?

Eclipse transition by Kai Staats

On Sunday, June 21, we will (weather permitting) enjoy an annular solar eclipse!

As noted on the website Time and Date, “The annular phase of this solar eclipse is visible from parts of Africa including the Central African Republic, Congo, and Ethiopia; south of Pakistan and northern India; and China. Weather permitting, people in these areas will see the characteristic ring of fire.”

Local Type: Partial Solar Eclipse, in Arusha
Begins: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 6:46 am
Maximum: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 7:46 am 0.62 Magnitude
Ends: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 8:55 am
Duration: 2 hours, 9 minutes

More information, charts, diagrams, and animations, available at:

For information specific to the Arusha location:

For further information, diagrams, and explanations visit the African Astronomical Society’s on-line resources for the June 21, 2020 Annular Solar Eclipse.

MMAO students watching an eclipse

Distance Learning Update, June 6, 2020

“I am very happy to send many greetings and appreciation from my head teacher and staff members for the great support [and] funds from [the] donors that help to facilitate learning during this hard time of pandemic virus COVID-19 for Tanzania students.

First of all my head teacher and other members of the staff are very happy and excited for what we’re doing because during this time, every one, including institutions in many countries all over the world were without knowing [how] to assist students. But for us it [has] become possible. Therefore they are proud of all of you who make this to happen.

[In a recent] staff meeting the big issue [concerned] ways that we could assist students at this time of COVID-19. We also discuss how MMAO via [various] donors managed to make it possible. Here the head teacher explained that he discussed this matters with government officials, [in particular] the District Officer where by he was very impressed with how we managed to do it. The District officer asked for the web link where by he managed to see many educational packages as we had prepared for the students. He thanked every one, [and for] himself he states he was not able to think how students could be assisted when this pandemic erupted. This makes schools to ask how they could join the MMAO website in order to gain benefit for their students too.

Further more, as from my last update [to this website], the some parents managed to link to our website and download packages for their students, [while for others] the headteacher tells them that printed packages will also be ready for them to pick-up on 4 June. [The students] came to pick them up. Therefore we promised them to prepare another package soon, if funds will be available.

Lastly but not least, send many thanks to all who make it to happen in Tanzania.

Asante Sana.” –Eliatosha Maleko, MMAO Ambassador and teacher at Ilburo Elementary School

Distance Learning summary, May 24

Five weeks ago, on April 19, the MMAO Ambassadors held our regular weekly Skype call. And in that call we initiated a distance learning program, starting with a web page and experiments with Google Drive and WhatsApp. We initiated a fund raising campaign for which we received an overwhelming, positive response —thank you. With those funds we were able to support four MMAO Ambassadors, enabling them to focus on reaching their students through an evolving Distance Learning program.

It has been three weeks since our last update, a summary from Elineema, Eliatosha, and Zacharia provided in the following (as with previous posts, the use of [brackets] denotes minor edits for clarity).

Dear colleagues,

Through distance leaning my students have been sending their feedback of the homework through WhatsApp as many of them have failed to submit through the website. So what they did was copy questions to the papers and solve it, then took pictures of their work and sent it to me. Very few of my students who have knowledge on computers have managed to submit their work through website.

I am still encouraging my students to visit MMAO website and continue with more questions. Others in Chemistry at Ailanga [have sent] photos of their assignments to me so I have forward it to their chemistry teacher. Also I found that some of the Kikatiti students have no internet access. What I have done is printed [home] packages from my office at Makumira and then deliver it to them. Moreover I am still sending more questions to my students from Kikatiti and Makumira. Those who are receiving my packages are responding positively. Later on I will share with everyone the reactions of my students on distance learning program.

The challenge I have faced is that many students from Kikatiti and Makumira are not responding. This gives me room to think, What may be the problem? This is when I printed home packages for them instead. Next, I will [post] new subjects to the MMAO website because not all subjects assignments have yet been sent.



Dear Kai and Mponda,

It’s my pleasure that you’re all okay and well proceedings with your daily activities, I am also fine and well, proceeding with our distance learning very carefully during this COVID-19 situation. Also I am happy to informe you that I managed to send a few home packages to parents who have WhatsApp so that they can download and print for their students. For sure parents and their students are very happy for that. Every day they are calling asking for more work for their students. According to them, they have finished the works and are asking for more.

Furthermore for those parents who have no smart phones I managed to print a few copies and left them at a nearby stationary [a store where office supplies are sold] where they managed to pick them for there children. Therefore, according to my list, I managed to print and send the package to 70 students. I was waiting [to learn] if we could have extra [financial] support , I could manage to reach all students and a plan to share with my staff members so that we can prepare a big package that will consist of all seven [principal] subjects. Therefore I have managed to [send] feedback to the parents and students while at this moment I am still marking some [remaining] homework.

Finally, I just want to share with you that many parents are sending and calling me every day here. I receive more more calls demanding for more packages while others express their happiness for the assistance they received from MMAO and the [financial] donors within this hardship of COVID-19.

Thank you all who managed to make this happened in Tanzania, from all parents and students too.

Many thanks,
Maleko Eliatosha.


Dear all,

The distance learning program has been a great opportunity and experience for us to learn and adapt to new ways of teaching and learning [away from] the physical classroom for the past two months. On my side, all students received the assignments. I have been constantly receiving feedback from them, for any assistance they need from me through WhatsApp. Sometimes they call me directly which is a good thing [as they are] involved.

The only thing I’m working on is receiving feedback from [the students], where most of them are responding through WhatsApp and few through Google form. The challenges with this is that, some of them are unable to use and make attachments to Google forms but I’m still working with them and instruct them how to use the form.

Also, parents were given instructions by the administration to supervise their kids to conduct their homework where the deadline is 25 of May [with] no need to submit for review ’till opening of the school to avoid COVID-19 transfer through papers.

Then I suggested the use of Google form instead but not yet officially accepted by the administration. This could be the reason for the students not sending [completed homework] through Google form; I can’t force them to do it now because it could be taken as it is contrary to school administration instructions. Otherwise, I am personally very impressed by the way those students I’m in touch are actively working on the assignment at home. Looking forward to prepare another homework assignment!


Distance Learning update, May 6, 2020

Per the previous posts, the MMAO Distance Learning program has reached all students who have internet at home, in the immediate schools where our Ambassadors teach. We are now working to reach the hundreds of students who do not have access to the internet via smart phone.

As the Tanzania government has closed the schools to reduce infection by COVID19, solicitation of funds from parents is not permitted yet many schools do not have the funds without tuition to pay for printing supplies.

Through our fund raising campaign we are able to supply paper and ink and in some cases, use of a printer where the school does not have one appropriate for the job.

Eliatosha, MMAO Ambassador and teacher at Ilburo Elementary School for the hearing and seeing impaired writes, “Yesterday I was discussing how to prepare and to deliver ‘home packages’ to the students with the Ward education Officer and Headteacher. For sure they were having many many questions such as, How much will a package will be cost? and how this can be done?

“I told them that parents will not be allowed to pay anything as per government rules and laws is concerned. Also we agreed that the package will be disseminated at the Ward office where by all village government and other leaders and Education officer will also be present. Therefore for sure they were very very happy for such big big assistance been given to the students during this hard period, also they promised me many support to make sure that things are moving well by calling parents and to post information as soon as possible.”