Maldivian Science Society screening Carl Sagan's Cosmos

I got news today from Ajmal that the Maldives Science Society had finally received permission from Druyan-Sagan Associates to go ahead with its planned screening of Carl Sagan's award-winning science documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. MSS has been, far as I know, planning this event for well over a month now and was to be their very first event before the lecture on astronomy event slotted in. I think it is admirable that they went about obtaining permission before screening it, especially since it's all too common a practice in Maldives to hold no regard whatsoever for intellectual property rights.

Cosmos is truly a brilliant series; a bit aged (first broadcast in 1980!) yet still very relevant and informative. It tells the story of the universe and us humans through a wide range of scientific topics. It's content is not at all technical and is extremely accessible to everyone, which, I think, makes it a very suitable choice to jump-start conversations in the science-cafe'ish type of informal event MSS is after. MSS is only screening episode 1 out of the 13 episodes that make up Cosmos. The event is scheduled for 8:30pm, 12th Feb at Bankai Coffee Shop (see the MSS announcement).

Carl Sagan was and still is perhaps one of the best science popularizers the world has seen. The famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth snapped by NASA, at the suggestion of Dr. Sagan, using the Voyager 1 spacecraft when it was a mind-boggling 6.4 billion kilometers away from Earth is one of the most moving and humbling things I have ever seen. It really does give a sense of our place in the universe, as a planet, as a species and as a person. At that distance, so far away from Earth, the Earth is seen as nothing more than a mere insignificant speck of dust, occupying less than 0.12 pixels, set against the darkness of the rest of the universe. The fact that a man-made object made it that far, snapped a picture and sent it back to its home (taking on a journey almost 6 hours travelling at the speed of light!) makes me shudder with excitement. Even more exciting is the fact that the Voyager 1 spacecraft is still operating, currently located around twice the distance Pluto is from the Sun, and ready to exit our solar system into the interstellar space! I can't imagine a more fitting choice of words than Sagan's to describe the picture...

International Year of Astronomy event by the Maldives Science Society

As you may already know, this year is being celebrated worldwide as the International Year of Astronomy. The effort, an initiative of the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO, intends "to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery". And now, thanks to the hard work from the newly formed Maldives Science Society (MSS), Maldives will be joining in too.

MSS has organised for Dr. Kavan U. Ratnatunga, a Sri Lankan astronomer and Senior Research Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University (US), to travel to the Maldives and deliver a presentation. His presentation titled "The Universe as viewed through the Hubble Space Telescope" will center around the Hubble Space Telescope. It is a topic he is very much qualified to lecture - he has worked at NASA and has authored numerous research papers on various analyses and investigations of Hubble's snapshots of the universe.

The presentation is scheduled for 8:30pm - 11:00pm, 11th of February at the MCSE Seminar Room, Male'. If you are in Male' and interested in science and astronomy then it probably will be worth your while to attend the presentation. More details of the event are on the MSS Facebook event page and I presume updates will appear on the MSS website as well.

I commend the guys at MSS for putting so much of their time and their own money into making this event a reality. I hope they can make arrangements to participate in atleast some of the IYA cornerstone projects. The IYA Galileoscope project, which has developed a high-quality low-cost telescope kit, holds a lot of promise for MSS to make it possible for the public, especially kids and teens, to truly experience the universe through the lens of a real telescope. I, for one, had tears well up in my eye the first time I saw the rings of Saturn up close on a telescope... how will you react?