TAMUQ student club concludes Space Science Week
April 17, 2017
A discussion on astronomy in the Arab world, painting foam balls as planets and looking at nearby planets through a telescope were some of the activities of Space Science Week, a series of events organized by the Space Science Society at Texas A&M University at Qatar.
Held from April 9 to 12, the newly established student organization organized the week’s events to raise awareness about the group’s activities and to extend a platform to all Education City students to be a part of and learn more about space science.
“We hope we can get more people to see [space science] the way we see it, as it is truly electrifying and humbling experience,” said Munazza Sayed, an electrical engineering alumna and a research assistant at TAMUQ, who is serving as the faculty organizer of the club. Sayed was also one of the speakers at the club’s first event of the week, an interactive presentation and discussion entitled, “The History of Astronomy in the Arab World: Where did We Go Wrong?” The presentation highlighted the contribution of Muslims to astronomy during the medieval period, and how the critical and creative thought required for such contributions has ceased over time.
“We used to have an astronomy club before, but we did not have people to run it. And then we found out that there are more students in TAMUQ who are enthusiastic about the space science society, but there was no platform for them to get together and do fun stuff. We wanted to inform people more about space science and then we decided to start this club again,” said Iresha Poonahela, a senior at TAMUQ and vice president of the club.
Other events included “Paint Your Planet,” where participants colored spherical objects as their favorite planets, and screening of “Sunshine,” a space themed movie about reactivating the dying sun.
On April 12, the club celebrated International Day of Human Space Flight by disseminating cards containing trivia about astronomy around the campus. “A lot of people I believe, particularly at TAMUQ, have their heads in their books and it is kind of difficult for them to get the time to look up. So we are trying to create sort of an atmosphere and niche within TAMUQ, and then hopefully we can reach out to the wider EC community from there,” said Sayed.
The week ended with stargazing. Four different telescopes were set up for people to admire the moon, Jupiter and it’s four moons, as they orbited in the space. “My favorite event is the astronomic observation because the ability to see the stars and the moon with so much detail, makes you feel like you are a part of the [outer] universe,” said Dr. Alfredo Hernondet, a postdoctoral researcher associate at the Science Department in High Energy Particle Physics Group at TAMUQ, who attended all of the club’s events throughout the week.
Students, faculty, and even custodians joined the stargazing activity and expressed astonishment and wonder.
“This is actually my second time to see Jupiter. I saw it once in the U.S. when I went for a trip in the summer, in the observatory in Los Angeles. But it is really good because there are only few people here, so you get a good chance to look at it and take your time, and they brought it to us to the university,” said Abdulrahman Al-Musleh, a chemical engineering junior at TAMUQ.
Although the club is new, the organizers plan to increase and strengthen its base and collaborate with nationwide space related programs such as QEERI.
“If we can get more people to enroll, then we could have some course at TAMUQ. We do not have a major that is related to space science, but then we do have a lot of researchers who are working on space science, so we can get someone from the academic science community [who] could offer a course,” added Poonahela.
According to Sayed, there are not enough space science related activities offered by student clubs in EC. That is why the Space Science Society is trying to establish a fun and informative platform for space enthusiasts to share their passion.
“People do not look up the sky and see the stars and go wow – which blows my mind as someone whose heart and soul is into this,” said Sayed. “So, our task as an organization is to go ahead and inspire people.”