People from all walks of life have been able to draw inspiration from the night sky. It is not open to everyone to observe the planets and stars and study the mysteries of the Universe. There is still a problem of access when it comes to astronomy, which mirrors other issues.

When it comes to developed and developing nations, there is a persistent disparity between urban and rural communities. In the Atlas Mountains, the disparity is felt by public schools. Thanks to the Asif Astronomy Club and its founder, children in these schools are getting the chance to use a professional telescope to observe the stars and planets for the first time.

The Asif Astronomy Club is a scientific community initiative that began as part of the Telescopes for All campaign. This effort was one of many legacy actions that arose from the 100th anniversary of the IAU.

El-Mehdi presenting an astronomy workshop in ait bounouh. Credit: Asif Astronomy Club, El Mehdi E

The program seeks to broaden the horizon of children, parents, and educators alike, to spark an interest in science, and to promote equal opportunities for pursuing a career in astronomy.

BRESSER donated a telescope to the Asif n Ait Bounouh Association for Culture and Awareness (AABACA), which was selected as one of seventeen underserved communities. The Asif Astronomy Club, led by AABACA member El-Mehdi Essaidi, has provided astronomy workshops with this telescope to school districts in southern Morocco since 2020. El-Mehdi told Universe Today via email.

“[The] Asif Astronomy Club is a scientific club affiliated with the Asif n Ait Bounouh Association for Culture and Awareness. It was established after the association won a telescope from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in an international competition for astronomy partnerships.

“One of the goals of this club is to work on simplifying astronomy for children and involving them in introductory workshops and lectures to develop their scientific skills – especially in the regions of Ait Bounouh and Tafraoute in southern Morocco. It was created to become the first official club in those areas affiliated with the association, and also to bring children closer to the culture of astronomy and facilitate partnerships with other associations in the Tafraoute district.”

El-Mehdi was a summer student at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. He launched the Asif Astronomy Club after winning the telescope from the IAU to share his love of astronomy with children living in southern Morocco. The Club's latest workshop took place in Ammelne, a remote town in the Small Atlas mountain chain at the southernmost tip of Morocco.

The main objectives of this workshop are listed.

  • Identify scientific and methodological approaches related to astronomy
  • Get to know the Solar System to which we belong and the planets in it
  • Learn about the telescope and its role in analyzing astronomical objects om a logical and material way

There are two parts to the workshops: theory and practice. The Solar System, its planets, its most important characteristics, and the position of the Earth in it are the first part of a theoretical presentation. The students will perform activities where they list the planets in order and present about them, followed by a Q&A session. The students are using binoculars in the schoolyard. Essaid explained:

The students used the telescope to look at the moon and sun. The students can look at the Moon and Sun directly with the telescope after getting to know about them theoretically from the presentation of the workshop.

As part of their workshop, children use an IAU-awarded telescope to observe the Moon and Sun in their schoolyard. Credit: AABACA/SSVI/IAU/Asif Astronomy Club, El-Medhi E.

The Telescopes for All initiative has led to community scientific initiatives at public schools in the provinces of Tafraout and Tiznit, where the number of students who were trained exceeded 150. The Afla Aghir community is located at the extreme southern tip of the Small Atlas chain and Moad is a community activist from the Kedourt area. He shared this during an interview with Al Jazeera Net.

“These workshops provide an opportunity for children who suffer from a lack of non-school activities in remote areas, and provide them with opportunities to open up to scientific fields outside the school curriculum, and to understand the horizons of other sciences, to search for more information that would support and highlight their talents.”

The Asif Astronomy Club and AABACA have created partnerships with local associations, educational institutions, and art festivals despite the lack of funding. The Club is not associated with any international astronomy and education initiatives, but they hope to establish this soon. The partnerships will allow children in Morocco to share their experiences with children in other countries.

One of our plans is to establish a partnership with the Tafraout region, which promotes the amazing local culture, to make astronomy a part of this festival and share it with children.

Students observe the Sun and Moon using the IAU telescope in their schoolyard. Credit: AABACA/SSVI/IAU/Asif Astronomy Club, El-Medhi E.

Outreach initiatives like these allow for partnerships between international organizations and community-based efforts, which are helping to make astronomy and space more accessible. The future of space exploration will be characterized by cooperation between government and industry, as well as nations worldwide, due to the growth of the commercial space industry and the emergence of new space agencies.

Modern technology is being used to bring astronomy education to underserved communities around the world. Encouraging young people to pursue careers in the field is helping to foster the next generation of researchers, astrophysicists, and astronauts.

The Asif Astronomy Club is on Al-Jazeera Net.