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.

Bridging Education Gap with Teachers’ Astro-Science Training

Between 9th and 11th February 2023 at the foot of Mt. Meru in northeastern Tanzania a total of sixteen teachers participated in three days of training on an integrated approach to astronomy education in Tanzania.

A range of topics including the importance of astronomy in our daily lives, a tour of our local neighbourhood including our place in the universe, the difference between astronomy and astrology covering both faith-related and scientific aspects of astronomy, understanding the working principles of optical telescopes and other types of telescopes, an insight into what is life on planet Earth and beyond, what is composed in our solar system, the potential of harbouring life in the moons of Jupiter, how to make use of the internet in searching and composition of our solar system, the search for exoplanets and
how all these contribute to science learning and understanding by both teachers and students were covered.

This wasn’t ordinary training as previously attended by most of the participating teachers.  It benefited from the use of technology by bringing in facilitators from different parts of the world including South Africa, the United States, Tanzania and Kenya. The conference employed video conferencing to engage both facilitators and participants in a quality distance learning experience. To some of the participants mainly participating teachers, this was their first experience with distance learning with international facilitators. 

Some sessions had to start earlier than usual in the morning to accommodate speakers and co-organizer residing in different time zones, especially those in the US to not stay up all night. This by itself was a unique experience for participating teachers who have never interacted with colleagues from other time zones apart from theirs at the same time.

Interactive Q&A and discussion sessions with trainers from different parts of the world brought a new way of learning. Teachers were able to understand that it is OKAY not to know everything and it is OKAY to say that I don’t know and let’s find out the answer together. Teachers and participants also understood that it is okay to ask a colleague or even students to help explain and understand some of the things that they are not sure of.

The participating teachers learnt these and much more just by looking at how the workshop facilitators from different parts of the world were working together in responding to some of their questions, but also admitting to not knowing where they are not sure.

The teachers and participants also understood that not every question can be answered with a RIGHT or WRONG or YES or NO, but could be explained to comprehend understanding and learning. Pushing out of our comfort zone was also understood to be okay by questioning everything, even the things that we feel to understand better and take them for granted like our SUN being a start, what is LIFE and that Earth is a small point in the Universe. Understanding and responding to these questions made participants think that maybe we are not all alone in the Universe.

It is at this point, participants found that these lessons were mind-blowing and made them have more and more questions with discussions cutting across one scientific discipline to the other. It is at this point that their thirst for knowledge and to know more couldn’t be quenched in just three days of training. It is also at this point that the participating teachers were introduced to the world of the internet, where they could source information and help them quench their thirst. 

Knowing that the internet could also be a source of wrong information, participants were also trained on how to identify credible sources of information, how and why it is important to reference source of information and use it in teaching, what and how to use a search engine, how to make use keywords in searching for information and how to identify credible information from the internet and make an informed decision on what to use for teaching. To some of us these could look normal and practice, but for teachers who seldom use computers let alone the internet this was a much-needed lesson in starting to use the internet to learn more about science, astronomy and many other interesting things that they can use in their classrooms.

Of course, this training wasn’t all about sitting, participants participated in hands-on activities that helped them to engage more sensors including touching and feeling. To some participants, this was the first time they touched a prism and use it to split the white light to see a rainbow, the first time that they used a glass jar and beaker to see the refraction of light through bending illusion, first time to use the lenses to burn dry leave, first time to use a concave mirror to start a fire, first time to use a magnet and pull iron filling from sand, first time to burn chemical elements in the chemistry laboratory and understand that they burn in different colours and the list goes on… 

Though it is located in the same region and at the foot of the most noticeable Mount in the region, most participants never had a visit to the Mount Meru Astronomical Observatory. Being there for the first time at dusk was the most outstanding and memorable experience that will stay in the minds of most teachers. To most, this was the first time that they visited an observatory and the first time that they saw a big telescope let alone that it is in Tanzania and perhaps the only one among the East Africa Community countries.

There was a lot of AHA!  moments being the first time most realized that there are planets and stars in the starry night that we take for granted. Realizing that stars are twinkling and planets are not, seeing satellites passing for the
the first time, looking at constellations for the first time, identifying the different types of stars and also determining their ages based on the colours of their shining lights.

There were also many more questions including why no white light at the observatory at night, why we take off our shoes before we enter, and why we have red lights at the observatory. It was so many questions that one led another without end. This was fascinating, not just to participants but also to the trainers and observatory attendants who were taking part.

Knowing that it isn’t easy for everyone to pay a visit to the observatory at night with students, participants were also introduced to the mobile planetarium that can to schools and has more students taking part. In The planetarium shows took the participants even further beyond their current on the night sky in understanding and seeing nebula, supernova explosions, space telescopes, black holes and processes for the birth and death of the stars and starry night observation using Stellarium software. Stories of Greek mythology based on their observations of the night skies were also told by nine years old child, Aryaq Mponda Malozo who is fascinated by the starry night sky and mythologies. 

The organizing team appreciates the OAD financial support that was key to the success of the training and will forever be indebted to Kai Staats, Mike Simons, Graham Lau, Zara Randriamanakoto, Susan Murabana, Musa Mishamo, Elineema Nassari, Hamuli Majeshi, Thomas Mbise, Aminiel Mungure and all participants their active involvement that made the event a success. 

Following this successful experience and feedback from the participants, the Mount Meru Astronomical Observatory is looking forward to replicating and repeating this training with interested stakeholders and teachers within and outside Tanzania.  Please use our contact page to stay in touch. 

What is the colour of the Sun?

Mr. Rashidi Mkwinda with his students at Nshupu Secondary School in Tanzania were observing the sun using a Telescope as shown in the pictures and videos.

It was indeed a beautiful afternoon,  with about two hundred students participating in observing the Sun 🌞 .

The main debate was however why the Sun appeared to be yellow using the Telescope, but in hindsight, the sun appears to be a mixture of blue and white and some said it was colourless.


To clear the confusion and enhance understanding, participating students were instructed to seek answers from various books and articles. 

As these observations are going on at Nshupu secondary, we hold on to what these students will find to be the true colour of the Sun. 

Rashidi Mkwinda
Ambassador’s chairman

A new Astronomy Club at Makumira Secondary School

Curious young minds in love with science at Makumira secondary school have decided to form an astronomy club, a platform to learn more about science beyond what is taught in the classroom and asked in the exams. 
The club has started with 14 members including both girls and boys as of the 24th of June 2022. The club expect to have more members with time as more and more students are expected to be inspired by new ways of learning and understanding science.
Visiting the nearby Mount Meru Astronomical Observatory is among the planned activities as none of them has been to an observatory or seen a big telescope before. 
This astronomy club, in close coordination with their teacher Mr Elinmeema Nasari is looking forward to collaborating and exchanging experiences with other schools and astronomy clubs in the area including those at Nshupu, Kikatiti and Ailanga secondary schools. 
As it has been for other students in Astro-science clubs, these students are expected to enhance their understanding of science and improve their critical thinking and ability to ask questions as they embark on a new way of learning. 

A Young Tanzanian Architect

By being a member of the Astro-Science club at Ilboru Primary School, a thirteen years old Izack Kika Tulo has been inspired to create 3D building models using locally available materials. 

The young architecture is detailed enough not to forget key details, including the placement of dustbins, functioning stadium lights,  broadcasting room, display screen, spectators’ bench, VIP rooms, net goals and many more. 

A full-functioning stadium isn’t Izack’s first job, he once created a 3D house out of cardboard that was fully wired with functioning security and interior lights. This work was in the National Competition on Science, Technology and Innovation. Though it did not win, it got him to be even more inspired to come up with this igneous idea of building a stadium.

According to various national education surveys,   there are many students who are unable to read and write at his age and level of education. Surprisingly, this young architect knows how to install functioning electric wiring in a model house and the stadium.

Being a voluntary science educator, I am privileged to have close collaboration with his teacher Mr Eliatosha Maleko who has consistently been helping his children in learning and practising science at an early age. 

If you are moved and wish to support our young architect in his endeavour please get in touch with his teacher through eliatosha@gmail.com or +255 629 589 122.

Students in Tanzania Learn about James Webb Telescope

Happy New Year to you all,
It is our hope that you are doing fine and proceeding well with your daily activities.
We, students from Ilboru Primary School in Tanzania with our teacher in our science club have learned about the James Webb Telescope that started its journey last year on December 25th and finally reached its destination on orbit, where it carries a mission of replacing the Hubble Telescope that was sent from Earth since the 1990s.
Also, students were very very happy to receive the News about the James Webb Telescope that was sent on the space last year and that they were able to see a short recorded video of that telescope when it started its journey to space till it reached its final destination on its orbit system.
Furthermore, students also saw still pictures of the telescopes and they were able to draw some pictures of it and that of the Hubble Telescope.
Students had a lot of follow-up questions following the session. Some of these questions were answered and clarified by the teachers, but there are some that might benefit from your assistance so that they can have good and precise elaboration from different scholars all around the globe. This will enhance their learning curiosity about astronomy and science in general. 
These questions are:-
1. What are the advantages or benefits of James Webb Telescopes to humans?
2. What is the real weight of the James Webb Telescope?
3. We heard from the report that the James Webb Telescope will replace the work of the Hubble Telescope in space but where will that Hubble Telescope go? will it not affect living things when it may fall or blast on the air?
4. We have learned that the Hubble Telescope since it was sent to space is has been about 32 years, do we know how long will James Webb Telescope last in space, before it is brought back to Earth? 
Thanks very much again and also do not forget to comment on students’ drawn pictures.
By Eliatosha Maleko
Science Club teacher at Ilboru Primary School in Arusha.