Lebanese Astronomy Group - A Short Overview & the Great News

posted Jul 17, 2010, 6:23 PM by Bob Merhebi   [ updated Feb 20, 2011, 12:28 PM ]

A Short History of the LAG^

Early in the year of 2005, a couple of university & school students who share the interest in astronomy and the night sky gathered on a university campus in an event on astronomy. Between 50 & 100 individuals gathered in one small auditorium for a lecture on a narrow topic in astronomy. During the event, a handful of those guys & gals met and introduced each other. A further meeting was arranged a couple of days later which resulted in a decision by those handful to form a small group of astronomy enthusiasts in hope of sharing the passion and interest in the night sky. At the time the group called it self the "Lebanese Astronomy Club - LAC".

Every now and then, the Lebanese Astronomy Club would meet up and arrange an observing night at some university campus or outdoors in the wilderness using humble personal & university equipment. In one of such meetings and still no more than 1 year old, the club (at the time) decided to organize a public sidewalk observing event in down town Beirut. In total, the club was able to attract 30 individuals for help in the organizing. In a matter of a couple of days (and when I say a couple of days i mean 3 to 4 days), th club was able to get necessary equipment (6 telescopes, projector and screen, & others), print thousands of fliers on the go, announce the event, contact local authorities for permission, attain permission to turn off the area's street lights; besides of the other many little stuff that seem minor but most similar events would not be successful without. This event was not any event, its wasn't just the first public one but it was the " International Day of Astronomy 2005 - IDA'05 ". It was both a big day, a first & big event, & the first time in public. The date was April 16, 2005. The success of the event amazed us. At least 2000 people either took a look through the eyepiece, or asked what that picture was on the screen; others of course asked who we were & others asked some astronomy questions. It was a great start.

Later the founders agreed that the LAC should be renamed as the Lebanese Astronomy Group - LAG & that it shall be a group that unifies all astronomy clubs in Lebanon as well as individual amateurs and professionals.
So basically, the LAG turned out to be one of its kind in Lebanon, if not in the region. Up to our knowledge no such "functional active" group exists in the region.

Thus the LAG had a great responsibility towards both it self & the Lebanese community. So the events (both public & private) continued to unfold as the days, months & years passed, but the highest rate of events that the LAG played a major role in were the events of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 - IYA09, and here comes next topic.

The LAG & the IYA09

Early in 2009, an astronomy committee was formed as part of the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research - LCNRS. The committee was lead by professional astrophysicists. The main aim of the committee was to arrange events, publicize astronomy in Lebanon throughout 2009 as well as attain the IYA goals.

The LAG was the major volunteer in this committee. Other volunteers were mostly schools. Some of the events arranged by the committee were countless sidewalk nights, talks, public & private lectures, & hands-on projects specially aimed for kids and school students. One of such events was the participation in the Lebanese Science Days 2009 (the second round after a successful 2008 version). The Science days, which span 3 to 4 days, aim at shortening the gap between science, students & the public. Its worthy to note that in 2009, the Astronomy part of the Science days was the largest of any other part * will hopefully be larger in the LAG's 3rd participation in 2010.

The LAG played a major role in the IYA09 events. Actually the greatest number of those who volunteered for the events were LAG members, specially when it came to logistics & hands-on work. The IYA09 Closing Ceremony was set for May 14~16, 2010 which as obvious was beyond  2010 & its not for any random decision, but because the year & events were so successful that other events were still being asked for & the list kept on going.

BOB Merhebi & the LAG

Now comes the question of how is BOB Merhebi related to the LAG ?

BOB has been involved in the LAG since its early beginnings. At the time (2005) he was the only school student among the founding members. All other founders were either university students or graduates. Since then BOB has always been participating in the LAG & its events, helping in logistics & organizational stuff as any other member has been doing besides sharing the joy of the participation & its results. It didn't stop at this only, but once a high school graduate & later a university student he founded the Lebanese University Astronomy Club - LUAC - at the Lebanese University - UL. Although faced with major obstacles, nevertheless the LUAC was able to continue for several years.
The LUAC made a great contribution to the LAG in terms of new members whom have ever since & specially in the most recent 2 years been working hard for the LAG to attain its first goal (that's the Great News below).

The Great News

Its of utmost of pleasure and honor to share with you this great news. A couple of months ago, the LAG finished & submitted all paper work needed to the appropriate Lebanese local authorities, requesting an official proof of presence, otherwise more appropriately described as a legal notice of founding. A couple of weeks ago a reply was received by the current president of the LAG at head quarters - HQ, stating a positive confirmation to the request; that is the Lebanese Astronomy Group is now officially recognized & noticed by the Lebanese government.

Mentioning this great news, the LAG is now accepting membership applications for those interested in becoming members of the LAG. As an LAG member you benefit from at-cost or discounted rates for attending events, receiving the bi-monthly newsletter of the LAG (or any other future publications). The official but "temporary" (until the official website is launched) page of the LAG is now hosted on the IYA09 Lebanon official page. To check the LAG page please click here. For more details about the membership, the bylaws & the constitution you may check the "Membership & Benefits" page.

To stay tuned about the LAG & its events & announcements in the time being until the launch of the official website, you may join the official facebook group.

Lastly, a special thanks is dedicate to all those individuals who teamed up in the midst of volatility & un-stability that the country has passed through and to those who worked so hard for the LAG to become what it currently is & to attain its current goals. I personally would also like to thank you all for accepting me among you & allowing me to be part of this. I am truly inspired when I look at how we started & what we have come to achieve, though we have just started. I'd like add, that I have been having two pictures in mind when thinking of the LAG, though I am not sure why. The two pictures are the LAG of course, & the Phoenix bird.
The Phoenix is the fire bird which was mentioned in Gibran Khalil Gibran's (a great Lebanese writer who is most known in the US more than he is in Lebanon) writings, Saed Akel's writings & which is also related to Beirut, Lebanon symbolically (Wikipedia (2nd paragraph): "Lebanon, and Beirut particularly, is often depicted symbolically as a phoenix bird having been destroyed and rebuilt 7 times during its long history.")
Another dedication is to the Lebanese astronomical community & the public for their continuous support which we hope to sustain. The LAG has always been in need of your support in one way or another & it is your support which will elevate it further beyond & thus be able to elevate Lebanese astronomy along the way. I'd like to express this as "Every member of the LAG is important, whether just a casual member, an active one or a volunteer."

^ For a visual tour of some images of the LAG, its events & participations, I've created a dedicated set (Lebanese Astronomy Group - LAG) on my flick account: www.astrobobalbum.tk

Thank you for reading

Clear Skies & Good Observing

UPDATE (20 Feb 2011): The LAG recently launched its website: sites.google.com/site/lebaneseastronomygroup

Note: This article is written by the Astrobob Group & solely represents the personal opinions & views of BOB Merhebi. It does not in any way represent any opinion, view, or statement of the LAG, any of its members, or any of its founders but myself, BOB Merhebi.