On 1 September 2017, Saif Ullah Khan, Universe Awareness’ newest Student Ambassador from Pakistan, organised an astronomy outreach activity from his own house, to share his passion for space science education. Along with a lecture on the Sun, children of 4-10 years of age were able to enjoy a solar observation activity and fun space science art activities. Saif recorded the experiences of the group, to share with the Universe Awareness network.
“We started off by observing the sun with solar glasses. As we observed, I told them about the significance of solar glasses and safety measures when viewing the Sun. Most of them were surveying the Sun for the first time with solar glasses and were awed by the splendid view. In the exercise of viewing, I even apprised them to look for any prominent sunspots (I told them what sunspots were, in a fun way, so they could comprehend the concept). They were astonished by the fact that sunspots can be very large.
Then followed an activity where I asked each child to draw, color and label a planet of the solar system. Subsequently I arranged each one of them in a queue with the planet they had drawn, colored and labelled, such as to demonstrate the fact of the arrangement of planets in the solar system.
Afterwards, I delivered a lecture on the basic concepts regarding the Sun (formation, importance to Earth, color of sunlight, size of the Sun and its size compared to other stars, and more). I even went to the extent of showing them a video on solar prominence, to which their reaction was nothing but that of wonder! As a result, I had to answer endless questions regarding the topic until they were fully contented with the explanations.
Next, I told them about The Planetary Society's project of LightSail, and conducted an activity where some of them randomly played the role of Moon, Earth and Sun. This was to demonstrate how the Earth orbits the Sun, and the Moon goes around the Earth. The reasons for the phases of the Moon with respect to the Sun were also taught to them. A telescope, which I had constructed myself, was shown to them and they portrayed the perfect enthusiasm to make one themselves too.
In the end, all of them expressed the desire to visit the Moon and other worlds, to which they were shown a video of a rocket launch, such as to make clear to them the reality of how astronauts left the Earth for outer space, and to motivate them to become astronauts.
Refreshments were served to them after all this and I distributed The Planetary Society stickers and pamphlets among them. Even hours after the activity was done, children were coming to my house, asking me to even show them the Moon with a telescope and teach them more about space, to which I lovingly agreed.
The profound notion of inspiring a young curious mind with the infinity of the cosmos never ceases to amaze me. For as Carl Sagan said, ‘We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.’”
Saif Ullah Khan is Head of the Nergis Mavalvala Astronomical Society of Lahore Grammar School Johar Town, Senior Boys Branch, as well as ambassador for The Planetary Society Pakistan. Saif is the newest member of the UNAWE Student Ambassador programme, reaching out with astronomy from Lahore, Pakistan.