By Dr. Noorali Jiwaji
Astronomy is an exciting subject for many people. This interest arises from the fact that human beings are inherently curious about anything mysterious or unreachable. If this interest is allowed to develop fully, one can be immensely rewarded in many ways. The normal curiosity in astronomy arises from our awe and admiration of nature: its bounties and its splendor. If this innate interest is allowed to develop and expand to its fullest potential, many more people, both young and old would find this a truly fulfilling pursuit.
Astronomy offers a glimpse of nature from many viewpoints, from microscopic to cosmic, from scientific to aesthetic, from the obvious to utterly baffling. This explains the popularity of daily “star” columns in our newspapers where the positions of stars in the heavens is professed to determine our character and fate. The changing phases of our Moon evoke deep thoughts of how an obviously spherical body changes shape daily. Mere mention of “black holes” inspires hot discussions about what would happen to any body unlucky to fall into it. Can you imagine a world where time would go backward; where a cold cup of tea can becomes hot of your own accord? This scenario has been proposed as a distinct possibility as a future of our Universe.
Only the particular preference of each individual will determine how he or she will view the heavens. Once curiosity is aroused, our limitless imagination will take over to allow us to enjoy this remarkable field to its fullest.
In Tanzania the bounties of nature that surround us are in pristine, unspoilt condition. This is truly something that we can be proud of. When this fact is combined with the peace and tranquility existing in our country, the stage is set to exploit all our natural resources to their fullest potential. Besides the material resources, we should not forget the intangible wealth that we possess. This is: the beauty of our natural environment. These include the vast expanses of untouched savannah plains and tropical forests which harbour myriads of plants and animals many of which are found only in Tanzania. This beauty attracts many people from within and outside Tanzania.
The beauty that Tanzania has to offer does not lie on the ground only. One forgotten area is the view of the heavens as seen from here. Tanzania is uniquely positioned to offer the best viewing conditions for stargazers. Firstly, the temperate, cold climates that most of our tourist come from are not at all conducive for watching the stars because of constant interruptions by clouds, rain and snow. In Tanzania the climate is balmy and the weather is conducive for outdoor activities almost the whole year round. Secondly, being close to the equator, we can observe almost the entire sky, a feat not possible in western countries.
Promotion of this heavenly natural resource is a feasible option because it would involve only minimum financial outlays. Many of the exciting sights in the sky can be seen with the naked eyes, but investment in relatively modest equipment would bring numerous thrilling objects into view. Besides encouraging tourism, promotion of astronomy in Tanzania would spur the development of science for our own population. The wonders of astronomy are quite amazing, and learning about every aspect of this subject will raise queries and inquisitiveness in young minds about nature and how it works.
Numerous activities planned for the International Year of Astronomy - www.astronomy2009.org