Mr. Simmons reports from Ayaz Conference

Mike Simmons - AWB

در پی برگزاری موفق همایش بزرگ نجوم با حضور چهره‌های بین المللی نجوم آماتوری، آقایان مایک سیمونز، مدیر و موسس انجمن منجمان بدون مرز (AWB) و بابک امین تفرشی ، مدیر و موسس پروژه بین المللی جهان در شب (TWAN) در 17 آذرماه 1391 برابر با 7 دسامبر 2012 در تبریز ؛ آقای مایک سیمونز پس از بازگشت از ایران گزارشی از این همایش را در سایت AWB منتشر کرده‌اند که در ادامه آمده است.

نقل قول از آقای مایک سیمونز منتشر شده در وبسایت رسمی انجمن منجمان بدون مرز:

The following is about my activities in Iran on 7 and 8 December.

The province of Azerbaijan is one of the many ethnic regions in Iran’s tapestry of cultures.  Located in in Iran’s northwest abutting Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, and the separate country of Azerbaijan, the predominant language is Azeri, a dialect of Turkish.  The culture reflects its Turkish roots but, as throughout Iran, it melds with the Persian culture to form a unique identity.  Iran’s extraordinary diversity – unequaled in any other country I’ve visited – is one of the country’s primary attractions for me.

I was invited by the Ayaz Astronomical Society to Tabriz, the region’s largest city, to attend an international conference.  As I’ve seen many times, the conference was “international” because of the presence of this lone American.  With the exception of the president of the society, the only speakers were me and Babak Tafreshi, a close friend and founder of The World at Night, who flew with me from Tehran.  We were honored to have a large gathering just to hear our thoughts, meet us, and have a chance to chat.

It was quite a welcome.  Large banners around the city announced the conference, adorned with photos of Babak and me.  As we drove through the city I was occasionally startled at the sight of my own image smiling at the passing traffic in busy intersections.

I gave a presentation on Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), which was a sort of homecoming since the idea for AWB grew in large part from my earlier visits to Iran.  I often recap the history of AWB’s founding in presentations, showing how international relations through astronomy proved to transcend other issues and differences, but it was more fun than usual to talk about my earlier trips to Iran with this audience.  I described some of AWB’s current programs and some big plans in store for the coming year.  The reception was enthusiastic, with questions about how they can get more involved.  This dynamic young club would be a great partner in a planned program that will pair US clubs with clubs around the world.  I was also delighted to meet some young Iranians I’ve had contact with through email or Facebook.

Youth is a hallmark of amateur astronomy in Iran.  Most of the members of Ayaz I met were college students, in line with the average age of 20 for amateur astronomers in Iran, unlike the aging generation of American amateurs I belong to.  I noted this on my first visit to Iran 13 years ago, and the fact that the average age remains low means young people are still coming into the hobby.  How young people can be brought into astronomy has been a hot topic in the US for years, and groups like Ayaz and clubs in other countries – most of whom have relatively young amateurs – might have something to teach us.  Amateur astronomy in Iran is dominated by women, too, unlike in the West.

As on every other trip to Iran I was asked where Iranian amateurs stand in comparison to those in other countries, especially the more advanced amateurs in the West.  It’s hard to compare because of the huge difference in available resources and opportunities.  I have seen tremendous progress in Iranian amateur astronomy through the years, though, which is what I expected since my first trip.  They have nothing to be concerned about.  The lack of resources is more than offset by enthusiasm and commitment that I doubt is matched anywhere.

The day after the conference I visited a small exhibition of astrophotographs taken by Ayaz members.  These were the first attempts at astrophotography for most of them, and the results were surprisingly good.  No doubt a great deal of credit goes to their teacher, Oshin Zakarian, a member of The World at Night team of photographers, who had given a recent workshop.  But Hanieh Amiri, a nuclear physics student at the local university and an active society member, stood out.  Hanieh is never without her camera and her work shows that dedication.  Her landscape astrophotographs of the recent penumbral lunar eclipse, showing the Moon hanging above a building and courtyard, showed a very keen eye for composition and the play of light.

Since this was my first time in Tabriz, some sightseeing was in order.  I enjoyed the huge, historic central bazaar, a UNESCO World Heritage site located on the ancient Silk Road that is reputedly the world’s largest covered bazaar with seven square kilometers under a single roof.  There’s something about window shopping in a place Marco Polo visited almost 800 years ago that sets it apart from the usual American mall.  Shops displaying the famous Tabriz silk carpets really caught my eye, as I’m sure they must have with Marco Polo as well.

The visit ended with relaxing conversation over tea and a “hubble bubble” (water pipe) in a traditional tea house.  I’m sure we’ll have more contact with the young, enthusiastic members of Ayaz in the future.

AWB Founder/President; Mike Simmons

AWB Founder/President; Mike Simmons and TWAN Director; Babak Tafreshi at the Ayaz Astronomy Conference - Tabriz, Iran.
عکس منتشر شده در صفحه رسمی AWB در فیسبوک