Sky's Up Summer 2016 - Page 8

rising star Astronomy ambassador How does the AOK organization practice astronomy outreach? At AOK, we organize activities at schools and colleges, and we work with the public by setting up telescopes in the squares of different cities. In one year, we managed to organize more than 35 events and shared 1,600 pair of solar glasses for free at different places, including our neighbor countries of Albania and Macedonia. We also have participated in the NASA Space Apps Challenge twice with different projects. Our largest event until now was the solar eclipse occurrence on March 20, 2015, which was visible even from Kosovo. We invited people to join us at our public event in Pristina, to observe the eclipse in a safe way from our solar telescopes. We handed out hundreds of solar glasses, and the event was attended by around 1,000 people. Other extraordinary events we have participated in include Star Party in June 2015, AstroFest in August 2015, Star Party 2 in March and a lunar eclipse observance. In January, our club was visited by German astronomer Daniel Bockshecker. He honored us by being part of our first anniversary. University student leads outreach efforts in Kosovo As a 4-year-old in the war-torn Republic of Kosovo, Pranvera Hyseni witnessed what would become her own defining event — the August 11, 1999, total solar eclipse. As the sunlight dimmed, her passion for astronomy sparked to life. “I remember very well how my grandfather showed the eclipse to me by looking at the sun’s reflection in a bucket of water through dark glasses,” she said. “That event really made me think a lot. Why it is becoming dark? What is in front of the Sun? Why does that happen? How do celestial objects move? Immediately, I started showing an interest in this field.” Now 20, Hyseni lives in Vushtrri, Republic of Kosovo, and is in her last semester at the University of Pristina. As the founder and director of the nonprofit Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo, she is driven by a desire to encourage others to find their own inspiration in the sky. “Our mission is to spread astronomy and science to the people — especially young people — by providing opportunities to observe celestial objects with different kind of telescopes, giving lectures and teaching skills like how to read sky maps.” Even though it only began in January 2015, the organization Hyseni founded has become the largest nonprofit astronomy outreach program in the Republic of Kosovo and has received some impressive accolades. One of the most recent was from NASA’s Night Sky Network. “We couldn’t believe that we got recognized from NASA for doing lots of outreach and inspiring the youth about NASA’s missions,” she said. “Truly, this made us hope much more for the future.” In this “Rising Star” Q&A feature, Hyseni discusses how her organization started and where she sees it going. 8 What kind of equipment does AOK have? At the center, our optical equipment includes an 8” f/4 Newtonian telescope, a 102mm refractor, a 90/900mm refractor, a Lunt LS50 H-alpha solar telescope, a 7” Maksutov-Cassegrian and a Solarscope. We also have planetary cameras, solar filters, sky maps and more. All of this equipment was donated to us from different international astronomers and societies, and I want to thank them very much. This has taken us a big step further. In every solar outreach event we do, we always hand out solar glasses for free, which are supplied from Stephen Ramsden, director of the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project. He named AOK as his chapter in Kosovo. COURTESY OF Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo/Likimedia Photography Above, Hyseni lectures fellow students at the University of Pristina. Left, Hyseni conducts a solar outreach event in Shtime, Kosovo, while representing both Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo and the Kosovo chapter of the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project. COURTESY OF Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo/Likimedia Photography Pranvera Hyseni, 20, founded the Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo organization in January 2015. How did you come up with the idea for the outreach organization that you founded? In Kosovo, there is not a university offering an astronomy degree. We do not even have enough astronomy books in my native language. Gradually, after learning English, I could use English astronomy books and even the Internet to search for more. By necessity, I am self-taught in astronomy. I don’t have any other hobbies except astronomy. I try to introduce astronomy into everything else that I do. I love astronomy and that’s what I’m born for. After I got my first telescope — a 76/700mm reflector — as a gift from astronomer Dragan Radmilovic, I began bringing it to school nearly every day. Students loved observing, I participated in lots of fairs using that small telescope. On January 10, 2015, an idea came up about founding a club of astronomy. I named it Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo, and it has now become the largest program here. Sky’s Up COURTESY OF Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo/Likimedia Photography Sky’s Up 9