As the youngest of seven growing up in a two-family just south of Boston, I shared a small bedroom with four other boys. I found some space for myself by looking up to the stars.
With so many mouths to feed, my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a telescope. So I started by simply gazing up at the sky, and tracking the five visible planets, and connecting the stars into constellations. Like most amateur start gazers, the first constellation I found was Orion with its distinctive three-star belt.
After washing enough pots and pans at my sister’s restaurant, I bought a Jason telescope at a department store. I gazed more deeply into the stars and planets. During the day, I read the myths behind the constellations, and learned the adventures of the Greek gods and heroes by heart. Star gazing led to reading, and reading led to writing. I owe the writer I am today to a cramped bedroom, and a wide open sky.
I was lucky to find astronomy.
A California-based organization, Astronomers Without Borders, is improving the chances that people all over the world–especially children–will find the stars, and enrich their lives by looking up to the thing we all share: the sky.
Astronomers Without Borders is working in some of the poorest countries in the world. Just one of their projects is Telescopes to Tanzania. I didn’t even know where Tanzania was. But when found it on a map, I knew the region where it was located: the Horn of Africa–home to some of the most dangerous and poorest countries in the world.
Tanzania schools teach astronomy without telescopes. Naked eye star gazing is rewarding, but every child deserves to see the rings of Saturn and the Orion nebula. Last fall, Telescopes to Tanzania led two weeks of classes for 80 secondary and elementary teachers at the Mwangaza Partnership for Education Center. The equipment they brought with them will help teach thousands of students about the universe. This is vital to the children of Tanzania as child labor is common, especially for girls. Education may be the only way out.
An important partner with Astronomers Without Borders is Celestron, one of the top manufacturers of scopes. (When I was a kid, I used to read Sky & Telescope Magazine like others kids read comic books, and would linger over their ads and dream of owning a Celestron telescope!)
Of course, Celestron donates some of its best equipment to support AWB’s mission. But in speaking with the President of AWB, Mike Simmons, it was exciting to learn the two organization are working on a branded telescope that will benefit AWB. This represents a major step forward in their partnership and I hope it becomes a reality!
Everyone who looks up to the sky won’t become an astronomer. But they will learn to dream. Astronomers Without Borders just isn’t training the world’s next generation of stargazers. Dreamers are also in their sight.