Introducing astronomy to developing countries (like Mozambique)

Friday, June 12, 2009

There's an interesting PDF here on introducing astronomy to Mozambican society, just a few pages long but worth reading. 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy and a big part of this event is increasing interest in astronomy in developing nations too (and giving them the tools to do so as well). Developing Astronomy Globally has classified developing countries based on the potential for the creation of a strong community of astronomers within them.

The development of astronomy in developing countries is a very important task considering that astronomy is much cheaper for a country to develop than its own launch capability or space program, but at the same time there is a definite need for more people in the field given the huge amount of data that needs to be sifted through by qualified people. Galaxy Zoo is one good example, as is the discovery of an extrasolar planet using old Hubble data.

As for Mozambique, the plans for development of astronomy in the country right now are pretty modest, such as the establishment of an amateur astronomical society...but later on they hope to establish a full-fledged observatory.

The official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, and thus there's more info in Portuguese than English on the subject. See here and here for examples.

Now that we're on the verge of discovering Earth-like planets, astronomy has become quite the prestigious subject. Discovering a planet even close to the size of Earth for example brings a ton of attention. Now add to that the fact that the most successful planet-hunting team so far has been using a telescope of only 3.6 metres in diameter, and all of a sudden we have a nice niche where developing countries can place themselves too. Extrasolar planets have been detected by telescopes as small as 10 cm in diameter.


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