The 15th Gulf Astronomy Colloquium
The 15th Gulf Astronomy Colloquium organized by the Sharjah Academy for Astronomy, Space Sciences, and Technology (SAASST) during the period Sep. 27-29, 2019, has been a great success. During three days, amateurs and professional astronomers, and teachers were presenting, exchanging, and working together to advance the field of astronomy in the Gulf area. Nineteen papers were presented during the three days: three by the amateurs, eleven by the professional, and five for the teachers.
For the amateurs session (Sep. 27), the discussion was about how to teach astronomy to school children and how to use the available tools (planetarium and astronomy centers) to attract students to the field, especially the very young ones. An open discussion concluded the session where all the participants exchanged ideas and means to improve teaching astronomy. The participants emphasized the use of technology (media, tablets, etc.) to attract students to astronomy.
For the professional session (Sep. 28), HE Prof. Hamid Al-Naimiy, the Chancellor of the University of Sharjah and General Director of SAASST opened the meeting with a talk about the five-year strategic plan of the University of Sharjah as well as about the different units (planetarium, research, academics, IT, and administration) of the academy. HE Dr. Eng. Mohamed Al-Ahbabi, the General Director of the UAE Space Agency (UAESA) presented the space sciences vision of the UAESA, emphasizing on the launch of the first Emirati astronaut Mr. Hazza Al-Mansouri, and also the Mars Hope mission of 2020 as well as the Martain City program of 2117. The remaining interventions were related to the different research areas of astronomy, black holes, binary stars, Gamma-Ray Bursts, stellar evolution, and exoplanets. It is to be said that in the Gulf area, astronomy is well covered in terms of all of its research fields and also in terms of instruments. The audience was delighted to see that SAASST was able to build several tools to do space sciences research, i.e., a 5-m radio dish to observe at 1.4 GHz, an optical observatory with three different telescopes (45, 18, and 10 cm) to observe in the visual, a GNSS station to check the GPS signals, a CADI ionosonde to study the ionosphere, the UAE Meteor Monitoring Network to observe space debris, and a 20.1 MHz decametric radio telescope to observe the Sun, Jupiter, the Milky Way background radiation.
The last day (Sep. 29) of the colloquium was the Teachers Workshop. More than 90 teachers from the public and private schools attended a full day of presentation (theoretical and hands-on experiments). The teachers were exposed to the motion of the Sun and Moon, stellar evolution, the use of telescopes, astronomy misconception, and also about digital astronomy and mobile learning. The presentations were given by astronomy professors from the University of Sharjah and by the SAASST planetarium staff. The teachers found the workshop extremely informative and were surprised to see that SAASST has all the tools for their students to come and learn space sciences. A request to see more of these workshops at the academy has been suggested by the teachers.