Physics educator Dan Heim attends MMAO Ambassadors call

For more than 30 years retired high school physics instructor, amateur astronomer, and professional writer Dan Heim provided students with the joy of learning the fundamentals of physics, both here on Earth applied to the skies above.

In the fall of 2018 Dan was instrumental in rebuilding and upgrading the 12″ Cave-Cassegrain telescope now in use at the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory, Tanzania. He has since remained engaged with MMAO, working to guide applied science instruction at the observatory and in the classroom.

Dan guided MMAO to the freely available Harvard Project Physics text books (https://archive.org/details/projectphysicscollection), the same used in his own classrooms. Having read Unit 1 of the Physics Handbook, the MMAO Ambassadors invited Dan to join in a live SKype session, to answer questions invoked by what they had read.

Thank you Dan!

200 Students visit the observatory!

MMAO - 200 students visit the observatory After a long, seemingly endless three months of rain, the sun has come out and the students have arrived –in droves!

Zacharia writes, “Today, Pendaeli and I received 200 Confirmation students and 15 teacher from Mulala Parish which is made of three sub-parishes, Kilinga, Kyuta and Mulala itself. They came for a youth conference hosted by Ailanga and led by the Bishop of the Diocese of Meru. This is the first big group we ever received–and it was really big!

“They visited our observatory and we were able to give a short tour for them, explaining what [astronomers] do. The kids were so exited to see such a big telescope, something they never knew it is existing. For example one young boy didn’t want to leave the observatory until he could see through a telescope. So we provided him a small telescope and in the end he left with a great memory.

“The teachers promised to come back and make appointment for night observation.”

What a day!

A Discussion of Generations

MMAO - a discussion of generations

MMAO Astronomy Ambassador Zacharia shares the following …

Eliona Miley and myself, we opened the observatory and we were able to conduct general cleanness with the help of students by removing cobwebs, dusts, lizards feces and all kind of debris. During and after cleaning we held a discussion with students on different matters in life, especially from their tribes’ culture and tradition.
For example, [we discussed] inter-family and inter-tribal marriage restrictions and the relationship between youth and elders. We realized that many of them, they don’t know much about their culture’s history.

This raised several questions as to why the young generation is not interested to ask questions, to learn from the elders. Instead you are seeking only answers among themselves. We asked, “Why do you think you know everything?” Do elders have nothing valuable information that you can learn from them?

The youth have a Swahili phrase, to discourage old ideologies and teachings or any kind of advice, when parents and society think it’s against our traditions and culture. For example clothing styles, hair styles, and other kinds of behavior like engagement in sexual relationships (being boy friends & girl friend openly before a certain age), etc. They say, “TUNAKWENDA NA WAKATI” which means “WE ARE GOING OR ACTING TO THE CLOCK”.

After a long discussion they admitted that its true, that they are not asking questions from their elder brothers, sisters or their parents about issues concerning general life skills. This has brought a great concern to us as to why this barrier between the elders and the young generation is happening and continuing to increase everyday. This is affecting even the classrooms where students are not asking questions, so the learning process has become difficult.

There are several reasons as to why this is happening here in Tanzania and even globally. We asked, “Who or what is the source of all this? Are parents guiding their children? Or are they too busy to pass tradition to their children?” This conflict between the former and next generation has two sides, as elders are not wanting to change and youth do not see value in the elders heritage, [essentially] wisdom outdated.

There is a feeling that the breakdown in the communication between the generations is resulting in a loss of knowledge, and what could be the most powerful generation in Tanzania is instead lost. The youth are instead going to the internet, social media, and movies for their education.

There is a need to seal this gap in order to make a generation which values the need for change and embrace it with positive attitude without losing momentum by creating barriers between the elders and the young generation.

MMAO - a time for cleaning MMAO - a time for cleaning

Creative DIY solutions prevail!

MMAO - creative DIY solutions

On Wednesday December 11, 2019, ambassadors, Zacharia, Eliona, Elineema and Pendaeli were successful in fixing the roof leakages which allowed dust and tree leaves debris to enter the observatory, using pieces of mattress stuffing. We are now looking forward to find permanent solution for water leakage which is currently fixed only temporarily by pushing iron sheets from the inside up, using a small telescope tripod stand and a plastic bar.

MMAO - creative DIY solutions MMAO - creative DIY solutions

Ambassador Eliona visits Star High School

MMAO - Miley at Star High School

Last week Astronomy Ambassador and middle school instructor Eliona Miley visited the Star high school, roughly 23 km south of Usa River. He met with Form Five and Form Six students to introduce them to the the use of a telescope, MMAO, our the observatory at Ailanga. He has invited them to visit (as soon as the rain stops!

This week he introduced the Star High School Science Club to astronomy! Great work!

Camera Test, Observation, Movie Night

MMAO - lunar photos

Yesterday afternoon I reinstalled Windows on the observatory laptop, as we had issues with a virus. It is working much better now. I also re-installed the Orion CCD camera software, then attached the camera to the Celestron spotting telescope for a test run. It is the first time we have been successful in getting quality images.

[The same night] we opened the observatory and we were able to observe the Moon, again testing our CCD camera. I was able to capture some decent images. Thereafter [we] hosted movie night with my students on the COSMOS series, with a reading session in our library. We enjoyed a good conversation about the Episode 6 story, especially [on] the issue of the photosynthesis process, and how it is important to our life on earth. The students [expressed] concern for the “Tardigrade” and its high survival rate, ability to live anywhere in any environment. The questions were How is that possible? How did it survive all five mass extinctions on Earth? This make them to be [a] very special species, among all living things ever existed in the universe.

Other topics of interest were the supernova explosions and the law of conservation of energy. In the students’ physics classes, they study only the theory, so they were so surprised to see the way Tyson bet his nose, just letting the hanging stone/ball go and swing back without hitting his face! Then, they could see that the law of conservation of energy and other scientific laws are real!

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.”