Earlier this year, UNAWE Student Ambassador Surender Ponnalagar organised a night sky observation programme in the urban slums located at Vellore District, Tamilnadu, India. Kids and students experienced looking through a telescope for the first time in their lives. This is the story of Surender, taking slums and villages in India on a ‘Journey to the Universe’.
“We organized a night sky observation programme in the urban slum located at Vellore District, Tamilnadu, India. The main agenda of the programme ‘Journey to the Universe’ is to create a platform that gives the opportunity to observe the night sky, especially for children and young people.
The programme started with the interactions and questions, and students and kids participated very enthusiastically. During the programme we showed them the Moon and Jupiter through our Celestron 114mm EQ Powerseeker telescope. That was the first time in their lifetime the kids were seeing through a telescope."
"For the last four years, I have been doing this kind of activities with children in their own community, because they have no access to learn about their planet and the Universe. The inspiration for this started when I was studying in school, where I discovered my interest in night sky observation.
But I also had no access and also didn’t know how to operate a telescope. So I inspired myself to do this kind of part-time activity with children using my telescope. Whenever I meet these children, new learning opportunities arise because of their questions about the sky and the Universe. That gives me great enthusiasm to inspire more children.”
Surender Ponnalagar is a Student Ambassador for Universe Awareness. His work in astronomy outreach in slums and villages has received attention of local media. He was also the National Contest Organiser for the Space Scoop Comic Contest in 2016.
To see more photographs of public outreach with astronomy in India, take a look at our India Flickr album.