Beside my professional research work I deeply enjoy doing science outreach activities. Unfortunately being an astrophysics graduate student is already very demanding, and I don't usually have much time for this. For now I am involved in following few long term projects, mostly in my home country, Mongolia, and some in U.S. In the next year or two I might join a project to develop astronomy in Ethiopia.
Any comments or suggestions regarding any of these would be very welcome!
Bringing local 0.4m telescope back to Life
In general the professional astronomy in Mongolia has never been competitive on the international level. There is one small observatory built during the soviet times (some information can be found here), and currently there is very little or no scientific work is being conducted (in astronomy). In 2001, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona had installed one 0.4m schmidt-cassegrain telescope as an extension of their Spacewatch program. It had tracked asteroids successfully until 2004 when it got struck by a lightning (see some more info here).
Only the telescope mount is completely damaged, but everything else is in a good working order. The original small team of local astronomers are available to start working back as soon as the telescope gets operational, but they've been waiting for almost a decade now. Thus in this project I am aiming to bring this telescope back into operation by changing it's mount. I have managed to get a partial funding from IAU in 2013, unfortunately the government backed down in the last moment to provide the remaining funds. Now I am researching possibilities of using the Shoemaker NEO grant from the planetary society along with donations from private business owners in Mongolia.
International Conference in Ulaanbaatar
In order to promote professional research back home, I am organizing an international conference + summer school in Ulaanbaatar with the help from IAU. It will take place in September of 2014 under the topic - "Binary Stars and their Environments". The invitation for the conference can be found here. This is not my topic and there is no one in Mongolia who works on this. In fact, currently there is no one with enough background to use such an opportunity to develop a collaboration. Thus my main goal here beside the general organizational work, is to assist few local researchers and students beforehand and during the summer school with their English, coding and physics skills, so that hopefully few collaborations between Mongolians and foreign researchers take off after the conference.
Small Telescope for each highschool
In this project I am aiming to provide small educational telescope for each highschool in Mongolia. The IAU's OAD has allocated 4,400 euros (roughly $6,000) for this year. Since there are more than 300 public highschools, I am aiming to provide at least 40 telescopes by the summer of 2014.
I am still researching various options. So far the best one looks like to buy bunch of 4-6" f/6-8 Newtonian reflectors on a dobsonian mount from one factory in China.
A small astronomy handbook along with the telescope user guide will be developed with the help of few local amateur astronomers.
It is very hard to find a astronomy modern, up to date textbook material of a reasonable quality in Mongolian language. In this very long term (4+ years) project I am aiming to provide a set of textbooks that cover amateur, highschool and college level astronomy/astrophysics.
Every other day I update this blog with a short post about astronomy and other sciences in Mongolian language. Mostly very basic stuff about news, APOD etc. I have started it in late 2011, now on average it gets about 15,000 hits per month.
I am one of the telescope czars at the department, along with several other graduate students. Roughly once every other month we take few of department telescopes ranging in size from 2-12" to organize public starparties. Last few occasions included UCSC students, elementary schools in Santa Cruz and in the greater bay area and also workers and their families of the IBM corporation.
Prof. Mark Krumholz has founded this project several years ago, which aims to provide basic mathematics education to local inmates in the Santa Cruz county jail. I am not involved in this project right now, but planning to join it very soon.