GAM 2012 Blog

April 20

By Siramas Komonjinda

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In the past, Astronomy was mistakenly taken by people that it is about stars and the universe that we are not part of them.

Today, in the year 2012, many people are fully aware of astronomical phenomena. Pitifully, it is not about the beautiful of the sky or the mystery of the universe evolution but there are on the coming end of their world. Movies, documents, news, and many types of information come to people to show the disasters and linked them to the doomsday.


As an astronomer, most of us know that today’s phenomena, such as the solar cycle or celestial alignments, are normal but how we can communicate this to public. Simple but clear communications to the public are needed.


In 2009, the new astronomical agency, the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) was established.  NARIT’s mission is to develop, support, and strengthen astronomy research in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia region with its main facility, the Thai National Observatory. The observatory is at altitude 2,457 m above the mean sea level. It is the house of a 2.4-m reflecting telescope.

NARIT also aim to support formal astronomy learning programs and to promote astronomy in informal learning. Many astronomical activities were host by NARIT or together with other organizations, including observations of astronomical phenomena, star parties “Look for a star”, exhibitions and activities “Stellar Winter Festival”, etc.

One activity that was involved by many young astronomers, press and public is the competition-based project, “Thailand Young Astronomy Ambassador – Twining Stars, Uniting Hearts”. This project was started in 2010. It aims to broaden the perspective and enhance the awareness of astronomy among the young Thai students. The winner wins a prize of opportunity to explore the world of astronomy by visiting the sites where astronomical activities are abundant and telecasting the life-time experience of such splendid excursion to accelerate the public awareness on astronomy back home. He or She will act as a news reporter, reporting the activities and relaying the knowledge obtained to public via a public TV program created by the Thai Youth News. During the year, they will participate in many public activities of NARIT.
In 2010, the first young astronomy ambassador was selected from smart student countrywide. Competitors send in their video clips introducing themselves and explain their idea about astronomy. The winner of 2010 was shared between Mr. Nakarate Inthana and Mr. Wachirakorn Asasujarit. Nakarate was a high school student in northern Thailand. He felt in love to the mystery of the universe since he was young and it inspires him to build his own backyard telescopes. Wachirakorn is from the southern Thailand where there are a lot of activities of ethnic separatist insurgency. But that cannot stop his interest to the sky.

The winners went to Yunnan Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.R. China in November 2010. They had a chance to visit Fuxian Lake Solar Station and Gao Mei Gu Observatory together with Dr. Virachai Virameteekul, Thai astronomers, school students, and reporters. Dr. Virameteekul was the Minister of Science and Technology of Thailand. He is a fan of astronomy. He support a lot of astronomy activities with a great hope that they will fall in love with astronomy as he do.


The success of the first year activity expands the project to a wider target group. Two competitions were created in 2011 for the primary school level “Astro Kids” and the high school level. The first selection of Astro Kids is from the presentation of astronomical idea in their drawing. Later, ten competitors had to come to the National Science Expo for an on-stage performance in the final round, including one girl from Setsatian School for the Deaf. These Astro Kids went to Hong Kong for their enjoyment time with an edutainment experience at Hong Kong Space Museum and Hong Kong University’s observatory. They also have a chance to make friend with students from Ying Wa College. The trip was accompanied by Mr. Nat Sakdatorn, a Thai famous singer. He shot short question-and-answer TV program with Astro kids. The feedback of this program is very good. Kids and parents are happy with this program while they learn a lot of astronomy.


I just back from a trip with the high school winners. This year, the competition was difficult also as the selection. The students have to create an idea for an astronomical teaching material. The talented winner, Mr. Pondet Ananchai, introduced a laser pointer and paper cup constellation with his smart presentation. We went to the Republic of Korea together with the two runners and TV and newspaper reporters. We visited many sites in Korea including the oldest observatory Cheomseong-dae, Bohyunsan and Sobaeksan optical astronomical observatory, Nha Il-seong museum of astronomy, and Yonsei station of Korean VLBI network. The team has a great opportunity to meet the president of Korean Astronomical and Space Science Institute, Prof. Pil-Ho Park. The student also had an incredible opportunity to control the 21-m KVN Radio Telescope. “Feeling indescribable excellent that as soon as my finger was touching a keyboard, the huge heavy metal plate moved so quickly and smoothly. Korea is very advance (this KVN system was developed by Korea as the first time in the world).”, said Pondet.

The telecasting shot in Korea is now broadcasting every morning on public TV. Even the rating cannot be as high as other entertainment program; it should motivate some students to be interested in astronomy and also let the public learn more to the job of astronomers.
It is regret that the project will not be continuing in 2012 due to many problems. We hope that in the future we can continue this project. By this time, we hope the public to look up in to the sky and see how beautiful it is and think about the nature, the world, and the universe. The aim of this project is not to persuade student to become an astronomer but to have a universe awareness society.


I would like to thank many organizations and people including NARIT, YNAO of CAS, Hong Kong Space Museum, Mr. Cheung Sze-Leung of HKU, KASI, Prof. Nha Il-seong and many other people that supported this project.


Siramas Komonjinda was born and raised in Bangkok, where the stars are hidden under the bright city light. She could have a chance to see the beautiful of the night only when she went to suberb for holidays. After finishing her BSc in Physics from Mahidol University, she decided to move to Chiang Mai, the home of Sirindhorn Observatory, Chiang Mai University. Siramas did her Master in Physics here and decided to spend the rest of her life in this beautiful city. She obtained her PhD in Astronomy from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Siramas love to do research in Astronomy as well as to teach astronomy for students and the public. She is now a lecturer at Chiang Mai University and a coordinator of many astronomical activities in Thailand.