Dang Tuan Duy: Vietnam
By Peggy Walker

duy1
Ho Chi Minh City coordinates - 10* 46’ 10” N 106* 40” 55” E
Bao Loc City is 180km from Ho Chi Minh City

The country that is newly represented in AWB in 2012 was in the limelight of the world just a short forty plus years ago. As a young child, all I saw on the evening news were reports of the Vietnam War, with no idea where this country was located. This narrow country wraps around the borders of Cambodia and Laos and meets up with the Chinese border in the north. In the south, it extends to where the Gulf of Thailand and the East Sea converge, and it reaches north into the Gulf of Tonkin. With a history reaching back before the 1st Century BC, Vietnam was birthed by the leader of the Trieu Dynasty in the 2nd Century.

Now a growing center of commerce, Ho Chi Minh City—or Saigon as it was known before the war—is home to about 7 million people. This 809-square-mile area is just 62 feet above sea level and hosts a tropical climate with the traditional “rainy season” that is experienced in this part of the world. This city with some of the most ancient traditions and rich history has now become a most modern commercial city—a paradox of sorts.

It was at year’s end of 2011 when a foreign exchange dealer by the name of Dang Tuan Duy made himself known to Astronomers Without Borders. Another paradox: a twenty-six-year-old, sharp, go-getter business man, who loves the most ancient of sciences—that of astronomy.

duy2
Duy (in white) at an outreach event.

Born in Bao Loc City, about 180 km from Ho Chi Minh City, Duy has a younger sister and set of parents who still reside there. With a father who loves the night sky, he was told about the constellations and was encouraged to pursue his interest in the sky. Duy said that, “At thirteen years of age, I started to get my hands on anything to teach myself about astronomy—any avenue I could find, TV shows, books, websites and magazines.”

Duy is now a degreed Chemical Engineer and works as a foreign exchange dealer and a market analyst in the Gold and Foreign Exchange Department of a bank in Ho Chi Minh city. Starting out as an employee at the company, his great work ethic and dedication was soon seen by his supervisor, who recommended him to become a market analyst. Although he excels at his job, Duy’s only true passion is astronomy.duy3

In 2007, the year Duy graduated from college, a group of astronomers from another area came to Ho Chi Minh City and hosted a star party. The impact from this event alone sparked something in the group of college-aged students in attendance that night, and soon after that, about 20 of them formed the Ho Chi Minh City Astronomy Club. When Duy joined the club, he had never seen or known how to use a telescope—and it wasn’t until the club received some telescopes that he got his first “hands on” experience. He currently does not own a scope of his own, so he uses one of the many scopes available through the club.

Now just a short five years later, the Ho Chi Minh City Astronomy Club has 150 members, whose ages range from 15 up to 30 years of age. However, they do have an 8-year-old sister of a member who attends the Astronomy Camps and comes to the club’s functions. Duy is quite proud of this little girl, since she can identify quite a few objects in the sky for herself.

duy4 duy5

As the newly elected Chairman of this very active club, Duy and the membership understand the need to learn about astronomy so they can share it with the community. “There is little to no astronomy knowledge here in Vietnam, and so I want to popularize astronomy here,” Duy says. So they have had the physics professors from the local college as guest speakers. Duy continues to pass this information along through their basic astronomy programs developed for children, students and astronomy enthusiasts. The club also partners with teachers at the local high schools by conducting practical astronomy and astrophysics sessions.

As for the community, the club hosts special workshops and seminars covering subjects like Black Holes, Kepler’s Laws, Stellar Evolution and many others. At these sessions, Duy will often translate the Web-based information (typically in English) into Vietnamese for the 20 to 40 guests at the workshop.

duy6 duy7 duy8

Because of its tireless efforts, and some media attention, the club has gained public recognition from several organizations—including the Vietnam Association of Astronomy and Space, the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, the Ho Chi Minh City Institute of Physics and the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Union, Center for Science and Technology Development. These local organizations have helped to fund many of the programs that the club coordinates for the community.

duy9
duy10


When asked about how he became involved with Astronomers Without Borders, Duy replied that “Ho Chi Minh City Astronomy Club was one of the first affiliates to join back in 2008.” The club had participated in IYA 2009 activities such as 100 Hours of Astronomy and Galileo Nights. Last year the club participated in GAM 2011 events, partnering with N.C. Armando Lee from the Philippines and N.C. Avivah Yamani from Indonesia for the “30 Days of StarPeace” program. Duy adds that right now the priority is to learn more about sky phenomena like eclipses, meteor showers and transits so they can be ready for the events in 2012.duy11

What attracted the club to Astronomers Without Borders was the motto, “One People – One Sky,” since they too have a similar motto. As Duy puts it, “We all see the same sky, and we all participate in celebrating and popularize astronomy by connecting with astronomy enthusiasts all around the world. It is a global network based on common interest—the same objective.”

Welcome to AWB, Duy!

Read about other National Coordinators featured in National Coordinator Spotlight.