Internet connections and other issues continue to keep me from posting in a timely manner I’ll get them online slowly but surely!

After my Tabriz excursion I returned to the congestion and pollution of Tehran. The weather was pleasant enough but the congested traffic of Tehran makes Los Angeles freeways feel empty by comparison. There’s only one rule of the road in Tehran – “There are no rules.” I have always though a video game named “Tehran Taxi” would be the scariest game ever if it’s anything like the real thing.

tehran astro class

What pollution did form the next was just enough to spoil the view from Milad Tower, the highest building in the Middle East at more than 400 meters, where I hoped to photograph the Sun setting over the mountains. Instead, after a promising morning, the Sun simply faded into a yellow haze. The view from the “Sky Dome” was similarly uninspiring in the building overcast.

But an astronomical breath of fresh air awaited later that evening when I visited a class given for advanced amateur astronomers by a local telescope store run by good friend Behrang Tafreshi. Behrang is the brother of Babak Tafreshi, founder and director of The World at Night, and on this night Babak was the instructor. The 31 students in attendance represented a cross-section of Iranian society – from students to a medical doctor – just as in astronomy gatherings in the US and other countries. Astronomy casts a wide demographic net.

These advanced amateurs were a bit older overall the national average, averaging perhaps 25 years old with several middle-aged students, closer in composition to a typical US class or club meeting. As always where astronomy enthusiasts gather, it was diverse group. Women in the most conservative Muslim dress sat beside women with heavy makeup, dyed blond hair flowing from under loosely-wrapped scarves. As always in Iranian astronomy, women greatly outnumbered men.

The last half-hour of the class was given over to questions for me and another guest, Dr. Mansour Vesali, a friend since my 1999 visit who teaches science education. As usual, I was asked about the level of Iranian amateur astronomy in comparison with the rest of the world and what could be done to raise it. These are educated, ambitious people who work hard and want to do the best they can. You can’t compare Iranian amateurs to countries where equipment and expertise are easy to come by but on scales of activity, enthusiasm, and organization there are few countries that can compete with Iran. My answer always surprises them. I just encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing. They’ve made such tremendous progress in the 13 years I’ve been visiting Iran I wouldn’t want them to change anything!

It’s 12/12/12 as I write this. I have a nagging feeling there’s something that’s supposed to happen today but I just can’t recall what it is. I’ll think about it tomorrow, the 13th.




    You need to be logged in to leave a comment