Science teacher’s essay wins in global astronomy project

Big win: Vadivelan with some of his pupils before the pandemic started.

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian teacher who has been reaching for the stars, even though he has never owned a telescope, can finally get a close-up of the celestial bodies that have inspired him his whole life.

Astronomy buff Vadivelan Sinnasamy, a science teacher from SJK (Tamil) Jugra, Kuala Langat, Selangor, recently bought something online that he thought would achieve the magnification required to observe the planets and stars.

“However, when the equipment arrived, I was so disappointed as it was not as advertised,” he told The Star.

However, Vadivelan is now at his happiest after being notified by the National Planetarium that he was the Malaysian winner of the Telescope for All 2021 project.

In a statement, the Planetarium said Malaysia snagged one of the 12 telescopes donated by the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) global outreach project to spur interest in the subject.

The Telescope for All 2021 project was launched worldwide under the leadership of IAU, the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach (OAO), in collaboration with Stars Shine for Everyone (SSVI), Leiden University/Universe Awareness (Unawe), and telescope manufacturer Bresser.

A joint effort between IAU and National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) under the auspices of Japan’s National Institutes of Natural Sciences, IAU’s Office for Astronomy Outreach aims to engage the public in astronomy by providing access to astronomical information and communication of the science of astronomy.

At the country level, the National Planetarium acted as Malaysia’s national outreach coordinator by collaborating with the National STEM Centre and Universe Awareness Malaysia to organise the Telescope for All 2021 project from May 3-24.

The programme aims to cultivate and expand the interest of Malaysians, while promoting a level playing field for those wishing to pursue a career in the field of space science.

The project received 225 applications from 54 countries with the support of outreach coordinators.

Vadivelan, 42, will soon receive a Bresser 90/1200 refractor telescope, complete with a digital camera, eyepiece and solar foil, which will possibly be the most expensive piece of equipment for his primary school with 150 pupils.

The Planetarium, in its statement, said Vadivelan caught the attention of the judges with his essay that talked about opening up opportunities for the under-served community to own a telescope in order to attract students to astronomy.

A teacher of 15 years, Vadivelan said he looks forward to receiving the telescope.

“I am more than happy to share this piece of equipment with the surrounding schools so as to spread the benefits of having the telescope around,” he said.

The other 11 recipients of the prize are Kayhana Astronomical Group (Afghanistan), Machana Satellite School (Botswana), Leva Ciencia Institute (Brazil), Tetteh-Ocloo School for the Deaf (Ghana), Open Space Foundation (India), a lecturer from Al-Muthanna University (Iraq), Jordanian Astronomical Society (Jordan), Hindu Girls’ College Astronomy Club (Mauritius), The Black Ironworks Astronomical Education Group (Poland), Tiapapata Art Centre (Samoa) and Knua Sentral ba Pratika Siensia no Matematika (Timor-Leste).

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