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Dec 04

Ambassador Eliona visits Star High School

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - November 25, 2019 at 9:23 PM Last week Astronomy Ambassador and middle school instructor Eliona Miley visited the Star high school, roughly 23 km south of Usa River. He met with Form Five and Form Six students to introduce them to the the use of a telescope, MMAO, our the observatory at Ailanga. He has invited them to visit as soon as the rain stops! This week he introduced the Star High School Science Club to astronomy! Great work! View Kai's Facebook page here . View Kai's web blog page here .

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Aug 29

A Busy Day at Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 22, 2019 at 11:28 PM Yesterday saw a whirlwind of activity, morning 'till night. Zacharia was successful in his first installation of Ubuntu and installation of the ExFAT 'fuse' driver. You know you have a true geek in the making when you get a high-five following first use of the command line! He then copied ~200GB of data from a shared backup drive and is up and running, with LibreOffice a welcomed replacement for Microsoft's monopoly on this part of the world. Thomas, Zacharia and I went to Arusha to purchase a plastic tarp to protect... Read More...

Aug 26

Kai Rebuilds More Telescopes

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 21, 2019 at 12:55 PM Today Eliatosha, Eliona and I rebuilt the 3" Celestron refractor and a smaller, longer focal length Meade refractor telescope. It took a few hours to fully disassemble, clean the lenses, and put them together again. But the end result, the Celestron in particular, is stunning. The quality of the image is simply magical. Then we tested a dozen eye pieces in each telescope, finding the ideal combination. For the Celestron, in fact, the Celestron brand 25mm and 12mm eye pieces delivered the best image. In the Meade, with a noted lower... Read More...

Aug 26

Group Completes Work at Organization for Science Education and Observatory at Ailanga Secondary School

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 20, 2019 at 11:53 AM Today we completed the sorting and cleaning of the Organization for Science Education and Observatory (OSEO) at Ailanga Secondary School, taking all tripods, telescopes, and eye pieces to the observatory for cleaning and repair. We watched three videos on using the "drift method" to complete the alignment of our telescope, but were once again foiled with cloud cover this evening, only a few start pushing through from time to time. We cleaned and validated operation of all four OSEO laptops, and will tomorrow install Ubuntu Linux on one of them, one... Read More...

Aug 23

Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory Hosts Astronomy Ambassadors Meeting

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 19, 2019 at 11:39 AM Today was a big day, from sunrise to sunset. Eliona arrived to my lodge a bit past 7:00 am to engage in a review of the agenda for the ambassador meeting. We printed copies here at the lodge, and by 9:00 am were knee deep sifting through a half dozen suit cases in the OSEO office, the accumulation of years of donations to science education. For me, it was the first time to witness the incredible array of chemistry, biology, physics, and astronomy material that had been brought to this school,... Read More...

Aug 23

Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory Is Becoming a Warm and Welcoming Place

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 17, 2019 at 1:06 PM Today Elineema, Zacharia, and I applied a water-based polyeurethane to the observatory floor. It took three weeks to find a shop with this product, and the cost was ludicrously high (more than $80 USD per gallon). We purchase four gallons, but could have used six. I was nervous for the application, for I have worked with similar products on wood, but not terrazzo. As anticipated it soaked it up like a sponge. We did our best, working with what we had, and in the end, it is a vast improvement, giving... Read More...

Aug 22

Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory Gets a New Floor

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 16, 2019 at 10:14 PM Yesterday was ... challenging. We emptied the entire observatory, including removal of the telescope from the Dec arm to make way for the sanding and washing of the terrazzo floor. The original contractor failed to apply the correct seal, using wax instead of polyurethane or epoxy. Over the past three weeks, the wax has collected dirt to the point of being impossible to remove. While this was happening, I set up shop on a table outside and rebuilt a 5" reflector, removing and cleaning, then collimating both mirrors. When I learned... Read More...

Aug 16

Group Focused on RA Gearbox and CCD Camera

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 15, 2019 at 9:57 AM Today was a slow day focused on just two objectives: getting the RA gearbox to chatter lessus and learning to use the CCD camera software. We have known that the RA gearbox "chatters" quite a bit, the sound of the meshing of the teeth of the stepper motor axle gear to one of the two former planetary gear boxes (the planetary function reduced to a simple rotation). When I loosened the mounting bolts and manually hold the drive gear, it was perfectly quiet. What's more, the RA axle gear has two... Read More...

Aug 16

Today: Observatory is Truly Operational

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 14, 2019 at 1:26 PM While I was in town, all five astronomy ambassadors Eliona, Elineema, Eliatosha, Zacharia, and Pendaeli dove into a book of Messier deep sky objects, making a list of those we should be able to see from our location at 3.25 degrees south of the equator. They then prepared a whiteboard sketch of the Earth to determine the most likely maximum view of the night sky, in order to give bounds to their continued Messier object search. We also installed a DC power switch and cabling to the 12V car battery that... Read More...

Aug 16

Problem Solved! But Fixing Not So Easy

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 14, 2019 at 1:11 PM Today we discovered the reason why we have play ("slop") in the RA axis. The friction clutch has four through-holes that pass four bolts from the outer most plate through the large RA gear and to a fixed back plane attached to the RA armature. Springs provide the tension. The through-holes are a bit too large. So when RA motion is engaged, <1mm on the plate translates to ~5mm travel at the telescope before a solid connection is made. While this does not affect the guided function of the RA motor,... Read More...

Aug 16

Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory is Coming Together and Looking Smart!

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 14, 2019 at 1:04 AM Yesterday saw the attachment of new red carpet to the top of the two mobile work benches (built from the shipping crates) and the "carpeting" of the computer workstation too. The observatory is really coming together looking so smart! with intent to seal the floor this weekend with an epoxy finish. View Kai's Facebook page here . Read More...

Aug 16

Movie Night at Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory!

AWB Update - August 14, 2019 at 1:03 AM Movie night at the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory! We are watching the COSMOS series with Neil deGrasse Tyson. For the first episode we enjoyed the company of four Ambassadors to the observatory and a dozen students, all but one girls. Last night, we had standing room only with more than sixty students in the Observatory. It was awesome! The first episode tells the story of Bruno, a priest who conceived of a universe far larger than that accepted in his time. He shared his vision for the Sun at the center... Read More...

Aug 14

The Quest to Seek Polar North Continues

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 12, 2019 at 11:55 PM With my family Lindah and her son Liam, Bernard and Truphena again in their home in Nairobi Kenya, I returned my focus to the setting the telescope in its final position. I was joined by Telescopes to Tanzania Ambassadors Eliatosha, Elineema, Eliona, Pendaeli, and Zacharia, and Ailanga students David and for this effort. While we had three times before attempted to find polar north using "high noon" and the shortest shadow of the sun as defined by this website ( https://heavens-above.com/ ), we feel it is important to obtain this... Read More...

Aug 14

Work Continues on the Telescope's Alignment

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 10, 2019 at 1:04 PM Not much to report this past two days, as I was mostly away from the observatory spending time with my visiting daughter and son from Kenya. We got the TV and whiteboard hung and disassembled the telescope again to perform what we hope to be the final high-noon drop shadow test to determine polar north and south. With this, we will align the base of the telescope, set the bolts once and for all, and then make fine adjustments with the head. But alas, no sun at noon for several days.... Read More...

Aug 14

Students Show Much Promise

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 8, 2019 at 12:21 AM Yesterday saw a multitude of tasks. I worked with students to mark the spots on the wall West wall where the new TV and white board will be mounted. Another group working with Ambassador Eliatosha disassembled an AWB Galileo reflector telescope, cleaned the primary and secondary mirrors, and reassembled it fully while another, in parallel, cleaned and rebuilt a Celestron refractor. It is imperative to take note that none of these students have ever done anything like this before, most having never used a hex wrench or screwdriver. Without instruction, without... Read More...

Aug 13

Mr. Miley's Class Visits the Observatory

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 6, 2019 at 11:23 PM Last night Mr. Miley and his Form Four class of the Ngongongare Secondary School visited the observatory. Following Miley's introduction the observatory and the use of a telescope, I provided a lecture for the 3 axes of the equatorial telescope and the function of the concave and convex mirrors in our primary telescope. I asked the students to calculate the rotational velocity of the Earth, given its circumference and then we moved into conversations about why we cannot feel the Earth spinning as compared to that of, say, riding on a... Read More...

Aug 12

More Students, More Telescopes, More Observatations

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 5, 2019 at 10:45 PM Last night we engaged our second observing session at the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory, from 7-10 pm. Again, we enjoyed a full house, with what was easily 60 or more students. This time both boys and girls from the Ailanga secondary school (and the boys were clearly more well behaved :) We introduced three additional telescopes, two mounted on a table, one on a tripod. With these, the students engaged in their own exploration of the night sky overhead. First, we observed the Moon as we had Saturday night. After everyone... Read More...

Aug 12

The Telescope's First View: The Moon!

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 3, 2019 at 3:16 PM We saw first light! Today was a whirlwind of activity, with more than 40 students actively engaged at the observatory from shortly after noon 'till well after 10 pm. I juggled management of a half dozen projects, all perfectly executed by the students and two of our ambassadors-teachers. Today we got the drive motors mounted and the cables attached to the base after thorough testing of all possible directions the telescope moves. One student group built the cap for the telescope tube from the high density, shipping crate foam while another... Read More...

Aug 10

Girls Shine at Nigeria-Astronomers Without Borders Astronomy Camp

by Jessica Santascoy Community Engagement Manager, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) Imagine you are a 10-year old female and you love looking at the sky. You want to learn more - what is the Sun made of, what is a spiral galaxy? You find information on YouTube, at the library, anywhere you can find it. You tell your teacher you want to learn more, but you notice the teacher ignores you. Boys get more attention when they talk about science! You feel sad, frustrated, and wonder if you should give up. Girls across the world feel this frustration when they can't... Read More...

Aug 09

Kai Works on Balancing the Telescope

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 2, 2019 at 11:53 AM Today Eliona and I spent from 10 am until after 3 pm with a delegation from the US ( https://www.schoolandcollegelistings.com/…/Ailanga-School-P… ), learning about their programs and history with the school, and sharing our own experience in the development of the observatory. From 4-6 we worked with Zacharia and a number of students to balance the telescope before applying the motors. We were confused as to the behavior of the telescope at various angles, but with some diagrams on the white board we recognized that the center of gravity is not symmetrical... Read More...

Aug 08

The Telescopes to Tanzania Story

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 2, 2019 at 10:49 AM In the summer of 2010 Sue and Chuck Ruehle traveled from Wisconsin to Northern Tanzania, and brought with them three 50mm Galileoscopes. Traveling and living between six and eight thousand feet they stayed in the villages of Mulala, Kilinga, and Kyuta. From this location on the side of Mt. Meru (4,566 meters) they enjoyed viewing the dark skies, they also visited Ngarenanyuki and Songoro secondary schools, sharing their passion for astronomy. These two schools and the Mulala community each received a telescope and tripod, two modern eyepieces, and other astronomy materials.... Read More...