An African Boy's Heavenly Dream




August 16 podcast for the 365 Days of Astronomy Project:


An African Boy's Heavenly Dream by Abraham Samma (read by David Ault)

·  What is 365 Days of Astronomy?

The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is a project that will publish one podcast per day, for all 365 days of 2009. The podcast episodes are written, recorded and produced by people around the world.

An African Boy’s Heavenly Dream

Date: August 16, 2009

Title: An African Boy's Heavenly Dream

Podcaster: Abraham Samma

Organization: None

Description: This is an account of my experience in Africa with astronomy and a message of support for young scientists in developing nations.

Bio: Abraham is an African youth of 18 years studying in college in Tanzania.

Abraham's podcast was read and recorded by David Ault. David trained originally in astrophysics and astronomy, before taking a job as a planetarium presenter and a degree in acting, then jetting off to India to perform Shakespeare for five months. His goals in life are to bring together science communication with acting, both in scriptwriting and performing. He is a prolific voice actor online and co-presents the Jodcast, Jodrell Bank's twice-monthly podcast. He is currently planning Astrotour 2010, a year-long tour of America's planetaria.

Today's sponsor: This episode of "365 Days of Astronomy" is sponsored by the American Astronomical Society, the major organization for professional astronomers in North America, whose members remind everyone that One Sky Connects Us All. Find out more or join the AAS at


Hello and welcome to yet another 365daysofastronomy 2009 podcast. I am Abraham Samma from Tanzania in East Africa and today I am going to share with you my experiences in astronomy and science in general in an African milieu.

As a young boy of eight years, I was an avid reader. Our home library was stuffed with books of all kinds that opened up whole new worlds of learning to me. But nothing really compared to the wonders of science! Astronomy in particular had a special place in my heart. I remember reading about astronomers of the past; how the Inquisition accused Galileo of heresy, the story of Tycho, Kepler and all the others. The scientific endeavors particularly in astronomy burned brightly in my childhood imagination. In fact I used to question many of my relatives and friends almost to the point of annoyance as to why they preferred business and economics to the opportunity of seeking new frontiers in the universe!

From my home in Dar es Salaam the sky is relatively less polluted with city lights, so many major constellations are visible. Staring up at the night sky for hours on end was and still is usual for me. The most enchanting time in my star-gazing life came in August 2003 when a family friend invited my father and I to view the planet Mars through his Meade cassegrian telescope. It was the first time I had ever seen a telescope up close! I had never imagined seeing one in my life. Then came the viewing of Mars…that was definitely an ‘aha!’ moment for me. What I was so used to seeing in astronomy textbook images (I started reading such things when I was only eight) I could now see live and up close. I could not believe how lucky I was.

But the pinnacle of my astronomical life came two months later in October 2003. I was ten years old at the time and my father had obtained internet connection for the house hold. And thus began my life as an armchair astronomer. There was a whole universe to discover on the web and I gorged myself in all the new findings that came in daily. The internet also allowed me my first encounter with the now famous Mars Exploration Rovers and I’ve been following their adventures ever since. They have been my inspiration and motivation in pursuing the science subjects to date.

Six years later, I am now 18 years old and about to graduate from high school and am majoring in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I am still a devoted armchair astronomer with a keen interest in Earth sciences and now own a 6 inch refractor. I am also part of the forum and I must say that I am humbled to meet and discuss with people who share the same passion and joy of uncovering the secrets this universe has kept under wraps for so long. And now with the International Year of Astronomy underway, it is the perfect time for the scientific endeavors in astronomy to be shared with the whole world and especially the next generation of scientists.

Many people question the benefits of having such branches of science like astronomy in developing countries like Tanzania. People seem to take them as a sort of luxury that can only be afforded by those with the time and resources. Indeed the only sciences that seem to have any support in our countries are medical science and engineering. This to me is tantamount to commoditization of education; only going for what gives us marketability in the job sector. Although this isn’t bad, I think this is too narrow minded a view. Every branch of science and indeed any field of knowledge have an important role in any active and forward-looking society. Having a scientific diversity in a country stimulates a rich source of innovation and motivation especially for the next generation. To cite an example, take India for instance. With a now powerful economy and a thriving academic force, the country has gone from a third world state to a now developed state with hope for its own future. All that can be achieved by simply encouraging diversity in the education sector.

My time as a student under the Tanzanian Education System and as an amateur astronomer has taught me one important lesson about science.
Science is not just simply acquisition of facts and scoring results in exams. Science is organized knowledge with room for wonder and adventure even as it grows in new discoveries. Science is dynamic and it is this dynamism that demands the ability to learn new things and unlearn obsolete theories. Wisdom, logic and above all, the power of appreciation and imagination are the aspects of a true scientist. An education system that lacks any of these aspects will not bring new inquiring young minds to love science. And sadly, this is the case in many countries, particularly Africa. Does this mean there is no hope for countries like Tanzania? The answer depends on whether or not we are going to wake up to see the importance of all branches of science to our country. Africa is losing its young scientific minds to the rest of the world, leaving it poorer than ever due to this lack of appreciation. This is not mere speculation. That is one of the aims of the IYA in Africa; to alleviate this problem by showing the teaching force how to not only teach science i.e. astronomy to students but also engender a love for it by engaging them actively in scientific endeavors.

My boy hood dream is that my country, Tanzania, can one day have great learning centers that are on the cutting edge. That the country may have a body of youth who are eager to learn and exchange ideas that may propel us forward to new frontiers; that we may break free from the shackles of despair and poverty and the pettiness that breeds war and bring ourselves to the rank of developed nations and serve as an example to the rest of Africa and the rest of the world. And maybe, one day, we will have a Tanzanian astronaut or a Tanzanian payload on a space craft and become part of the human spirit of exploration. This dream is possible but is not without the price of willingness to work. The heavens beckon only those who dare to walk that extra mile.

And this concludes today’s podcast. I would like to thank my parents for their invaluable support that has allowed me to follow after my dreams however insurmountable the odds. I have still a long way to go but every journey starts with one small step.
I would also like to thank Dr. Jiwaji from the Open University in Tanzania who has spent so much of his time (and money) to bring the spirit of astronomy to the country.

As we say in Tanzania, asanteni sana for listening in to the 365daysofastronomy podcast and I wish you clear skies during the IYA 2009.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the New Media Working Group of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at Until tomorrow...goodbye.

Tags: podcast iya 365

One Response to “August 16th: An African Boy’s Heavenly Dream”

  1. Nigel Aug 16th, 2009

I really admire your passion in your field. There is nothing great accomplish without it!