Astronomy in Central America
Lic. Eduardo Xavier Amador
MSc in Theoretical Physics
Dept. of Physics, Center for Research and Advanced
of the National Polytechnic Institute, D.F., Mexico.
Depto. of Physics, University of Panama, Panama, Central America.
August 21, 2001
|We present global and summarized
vision of the activities that are been developed at this moment in the
area of Astronomy in the region of Central America, at professional and
amateur level. We expose with clarity the
necessity to continue the effort for the development of this science
in our countries with the aid of support programs like
the European Project ALFA, northamerican Project
TWAN and TAD Program . We raised the work
of the amateur astronomers whose valuable aid can be used for a fast establishment
of the bases on which Astronomy can lean.
In order to have a solid base to judge the possible development of Astronomy
in Central America in the next 10 years, first we must know the present
reality of this science in our region and our relation with the developed
countries that support this branch of knowledge.
This report is not exhaustive and it only has as a modest objective
to present a global view of the current situation of Astronomy in
The Social Aspect
Since the beginning the humanity has been fascinated by astronomical events
and outer space. Without concerning about educative
level issues, people always have found interesting the subject of Astronomy, nondaily, but attractive. Nevertheless, in our countries
there is a clear and noticeable lack of interest for the development of
any type of branch of science.
Why a government must invest in Astronomy?
It's just like ask: Why to invest in culture and education? Why to
invest in art? Why to invest in philosophy, entertainment, sport, humanities,
sciences? It would be better then that all these disappeared and to
invest only and exclusively in commerce, administration of companies,
architecture and civil engeeniering, in medicine, engeeniering, in agriculture, armament, military service, public security! It would be best to invest only in everything that generates money in short and moderate periods of time ... In other words, invest to satisfy
the immediate necessities of the human being: food, house, health and
security... period! We know that the solution of the social problems has a high priority and that the budget is relatively low to be invested trying to develop any type of "academic" activities. But this is not a problem without solution! Developed countries also have equal or similar problems, in relative proportion, and even so they invest in basic sciences!
We already know all that the history teaches about Astronomy and why this played an important role in the development of the economy, the culture and the knowledge of our civilization!
We already know that Astronomy has given, and still is giving, its fruits
and that the developed countries have known how to exploit such fruits... but,
What about the underdeveloped countries? In what benefits Astronomy to Central America? Is this relevant for the development of the countries of the region?
The answer is in the FUTURE: we must see What are the developed countries doing concerning Astronomy? Then, we must reflect on How are we going to prepare, we the not-developed countries, before such challenges? Answer:
qualification, education, training!
Otherwise we will continue
being the retarded ignorants poor people of ever, of low cultural and social level, the cheap manual labor we have been since remote times... our children will continue being the 3rd category employees who are in charge of the manual labors... we will continue being the eternal employees depending on the development reached by others... Perhaps as individual countries we cannot aspire to reach
great goals, but if a union for a cooperative support settles down, acceptable results
can be obtained faster... The intrinsic nature of Astronomy forces us to use
very sophisticated and advanced technology [communications satellites,
opto-electronics devices, networks of computers, Internet, etc.], which
is an advantage since it allows to train scientists in the knowledge
and usage of such technologies, which are applicable in ALL the areas of theoretical and practical knowledge. Some of the benefits revert to the country
in form of education, which allows, as well, to transmit such knowledge and to train more professionals!
Besides, We are not Alone! ... Aid Programs from developed countries towards the Central America region exist... the support is real ... advantage
of this can be taken and be exploited to the maximum. This opens the doors to many opportunities.
First Astronomy, and soon other areas of science and technology. The creation of an advanced scientific center [a radio telescope, for example] in, at least, 1 Central American country can open the doors towards more investment from other developed countries! This type of investment soon
paves the way to another type of investments, more oriented to the financial areas! Why foreign investors are cautious when investing in underdeveloped countries? Precisely due to the subdevelopment!... When these investors observe
that reliable people, such as the scientists of developed countries, invest in science in our region, that will send a message to them that Central America is "stable" and that the corruption and the bad governmental managements have
diminished to such a degree that is relatively safe to canalize investments toward these countries; now they are safer to invest... are good candidates to invest! It's a common sense question: an investor will prefer to invest
in a country whose level of intelligence and knowledge is high; education provides the knowledge which help to develop intelligence, intelligence
attracts more intelligence, and an investor will trust his money to intelligent people that have knowledge, for this will cause that their investments will be used effectively, making him gain more money!...
Some think that Astronomy in Central America cannot be done. Nevertheless,
the reality is different. We already have many things that we didn't have before: specialized bookstores, networks of computers and their power of calculation,
Internet, scientific collaboration with other astronomers of developed
countries, the support to obtain postgrades in Astronomy exist, economic support for trips to conferences can be looked
for and obtained; videoconferences also exist
... There are support of international organizations dedicated to the development
of this science in underdeveloped countries, etc. Then, why not to give more support to those who want to work for the development of this science? Astronomy can be used too as a mean to make contact with the general
public. The fascination by the aspects and characteristics
of outer space is a powerful magnet that can attract people of diverse
areas; such situation must be exploited to put public in contact with science in general. The own nature of Astronomy
forces us to depend on high technology and, therefore, it can be raised an interaction between small and medium industries in areas like the electronics, optics, precision engineering , etc. High level research can be done in Astronomy using the immense astronomical data bases
 that exist in Internet. It is enough to buy a suitable processing software to make the work, and even
there are many free softwares in this network that are used for the data mining and analysis. There is no longer any excuse!
Recently, a amazing effort is being made to continue with the
program of established development. In 2001, it was carried out the VI CENTRAL AMERICAN COURSE OF ASTRONOMY and ASTROPHYSICS[CURCAA
] and the VI Meeting of the ASSEMBLY OF CENTRALAMERICA ASTRONOMERS and ASTROPHYSICIST [AAAC] in Costa Rica [http://www.astro.unah.hondunet.net/Poacs-actCA.html
The current president of the AAAC is the astrophysicist Dr. Jorge Pãez(Costa Rica), and Professor
Alina Ortĩz (Nicaragua, firstname.lastname@example.org
) is the current Secretary of this organization. The following course, in 2002, will be held possibly in Honduras. In the AAAC meeting the possibilities for fellowships to get a MSc degree in Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico and a PhD in
Costa Rica and Mexico were discussed; also were discussed the possibility of the integration
of the Central American Network [CAN] and the realization in this way research projects, in collaboration with other centers, and the possibility that the Irazũ Volcano, in Costa Rica, could be the place for the future Astronomical Solar Observatory. The event was sponsored by theInternational Astronomical Union [IAU], the European Space Agency [ESA], the O.E.A.and UNESCO.
The Technical Aspect
The area of Astronomy and Astrophysics has come developing in the Central
American countries to a rate every greater time.
The fort impulse that is receiving Astronomy and the Astrophysics at Central
American level must to thanks to several Programs of Development [ R &
This it reunites to several European countries
Germany, England, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal) and Latin
American (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay,
Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua,
Panama ) to develop a goal in common: to offer scholarships and to
train Astronomers and Astrophisicists so that these, when returning to
their respective countries, promote the development and the education of
so exciting science, aside from the implementation of programs of joint
investigation between the countries members.
Prorange America-Latin Alpha Academic Formation [
The Program ALPHA is born thanks to an initiative of cooperation
economic, scientific and technological between the European Community
the countries of Latin America , with the intention of improving
the potential of growth of our region. This program arises from the experience
of the European Community in the accomplishment of networks of cooperation
of similar nature ( ERASMUS, MED-CAMPUS, TEMPUS, COMETT
tries to help to eliminate the deficiencies existences and to less surpass
the inequalities and imbalances between the countries of both regions,
improving the academic, scientific and technological potential of the developed
countries. Also it is persecuted to develop the academic cooperation by
means of networks of institutions of superior education (Universities and
Research centers) of Europe and Latin America, as much at educative level
as at level of development of joint investigations. The Central American
countries that comprise of the Program ALPHA jeopardized to implement an
Agreement of Cooperation for Formation of Astronomers and Astrophisicists
for the Central American Isthmus . The European Coordinator for
this project was the Dr Jaime Zamorano ,
of the Department of Astronomy of the Physical Faculty of Sciences of
the Complutensian University of Madrid. Lamentably, the required financing
could not be able to remove ahead this project and one of the reasons that
it was not obtained that so necessary economic support was that the sufficient
enabled human resources did not exist like so that the investment it was
productive. Another reason but for which we must make an effort to us to
more create such human resources in the area of Astronomy! [www.ucm.es/info/vicrint/UCM/International.htm
Another program under the sponsorship of the IAU, much more the ample protection
of the ICSU and with support of UNESCO has seted out.
Program Twan [ Third World Astronomy Network ] [
It went thanks to this program that took place sig. activities: VII the
UN/ESA Workshop on BASIC Space Science in Honduras, and was inaugurated
the Astronomical Observatory of Suyapa in this country, in 1997; it was
made in Panama, in 1998, during the Total Sun Eclipse the 26 of February,
IV the Assembly of Astronomers of Central America (IV-AAAC), and IV the
Central American Course of Astronomy and AstrofÃsica (IV-CURCAA);
[ occurred II to the Course of observacional Astronomy in the OACS of Honduras
15 January to 15 Feb, 1998 ] on acquisition and reduction of photometric
variable star data using the telescope of 0.4m of the observatory and a
photometer CCD; the Astrophisicist, Dr Armando Arellano Ferro (Mexico)
gave a special course in El Salvador, Sept. 22, 1998, with a small telescope
of 0,3 m and a photometer of the IAU, and emphasized on the physics of
the radiation and the Astrophysics. The participants to this course were
students of the University of El Salvador and members of the Salvadoran
Association of Astronomy. The intention of this program is to help to the
development of this science in underdeveloped countries.
PROGRAM TAD (for Teaching Astronomy Development) IN 5 POWER STATION
The development in the Central American countries has been the following
Costa Rica: It
is the country that more advanced is in this area. The
University of Costa Rica
( http://www.efis.ucr.ac.cr / ,
either has within its programs of studies the matter of Astronomy and Astrophysics,
and or is professional astrophisicists costarricences (graduated in Germany)
developing its science to excellent level. It at the moment exists a program
of Masters and Doctorate in Astrophysics [ Dr
rer. nat Jorge PÃ¡ez P ., email@example.com,
firstname.lastname@example.org ., Director Program of Posgrado in Astrophysics,
Lela Taliashvili , email@example.com
charge of the Laboratory of Investigations in Astrophysics ] that offers
to the students the opportunity to be developed in this area, with the
support of the University of Postdam and Dresde, Germany. Also a project
of international investigation at very good level exists, where these astrophisicists
work with the obtained data of satellite IUE- International Ultraviolet
, first observatory of sent ultraviolet radiation, was a project
THAT / NASA / UK
[ with centers of contros in the Station of
Tracking of Satellites of THAT, Villafranca, Spain, and in the Center of
Space Flights Goddard and the NASA, Maryland, the United States. With the
IUE observations with the possibility were made of reacting quickly to
discovered astronomical events on the march, and of changing the course
of the mission according to the new discoveries. Between the investigations
made with the IUE they are: black hole in galaxy 3C390.3; molecules of
cometarios nuclei, I commit near the Sun; stellar winds; evoluciÃ³m
of superNova SN 1987Âª and the identification of the star that
underwent the explosion: the supergiant Sk-69 202; it took more than 110,000
phantoms from 11,000 different objects. Astronomical data are obtained
to analyze them through the INES: IUE Newly Extracted Spectra [
system of distribution of data and astronomical archives ], of
Space Agency [
]. INES contains the complete assembly of
data obtained throughout 18,7 years of ultraviolet spectroscopy from the
space with satellite IUE. All the data are in a format that allows the
scientific analysis of direct way, with no need of a special reduction
In 1992, in this country it took place II the Factory of the United
Nations and the European Space Agency on 6 Basic Space Science
[ ] , where Costa Rica contributed enormously to the planetary atmosphere
study, where they presented/displayed works such as: variations of the
Earth's magnetic field, the termperatura of the air and the change in winds,
the changes of the solar irradiance and the atmospheric turbulence, during
the Total Eclipse To pave in Costa Rica the 11 of July of 1991 [ works
that we can take as example from what we can make like works of investigation
in our respective countries, and thus to contribute to Astronomy ]. The
production and the scientific quality of the astrophisicists costarricences
can be verified in the Proceedings of the second United Nations/European
Space Agency 7 Workshop, Bogota,
Colombia [ ]
University Nacional Autonoma of Honduras ( UNAH ),
through the Dr Ferrufino Conception, of the Direction of Postgrado and
Dra. Maria Cristina Pineda de CarÃas , Director of the
Observatory of Astronomy of Honduras
and Ex-Presidenta of the Assembly of Astronomers and Astrophisicists
of Central America [ AAAC ], already is offering a program
of Masters in Astronomy [ http://www.astro.unah.hondunet.net
In addition this University served like Center to Coordination as the activities
as the Program ALPHA. This initiative already has its fruits: Development
and Implementation of the Project of
the Astronomical Observatory of
Suyapa for Central America [ OACS ] [ telescope Meade LX200 0.4m
by the University of Madrid
]; the Assembly of Astronomers and Astrophisicists
(professional) of Central America are created and made [ AAAC ], and the
Central American Course of Astronomers and Astrophisicists
[ CURCAA ]; the Program of Formation of Astronomers is developed and
Astrophisicists for Central American Istmo (FAAIC) and
are made visits to Universities of Central America to present/display this
project to them, thus to settle down Agreements of Cooperation the International.
The UNAH asks for support to the Central American Universities so that
they conform the Network of Cooperation the International.
In Honduras, from the 16 to the 20 of June of 1997, the United Nations/European
Space Agency Workshop was given rise VII on BASIC Space Science: Small
Astronomical Telescopes and Satellites in Education and Research [
8 ] , which we had the honor to attend like member of the committee
of the Dept. of Physics of the University of Panama, along with the
Prof. Héctor Castillo , the Prof. Eduardo
SÃ¡enz , and the Prof. Jorge
Suárez , and also like representative of the Panamanian Asosiación
of Fans to Astronomy, APAA. He was in this event where we established contact
with the Dra. Julieta Iron [ famous Mexican
astronomer, Ex- President of
the International Astronomical Union -
Dr Armando Arellano Ferro [ Mexico ] ,
Dr Walter Fernandez [ Costa Rica ], Dr J.
Paez [ Costa Rica ], the Dr Javier Bonatti
Costa Rica ], the Dr Hans J. Haubold [ Austria
], the Dr Gustavo Ponce
[ Guatemala ], the
Dra. Maria Crisitana Pineda
[ Honduras ], the
Dr Alan Batten
[ Canada ]. During the event he was the
ingaurado first and only professional observatory of Astronomy, the
Astronomical Observatory for Central America de Suyapa [ OACS
in Tegucigalpa, under the auspice of the University Nacional Autonoma
of Honduras [ UNAH
]. The event was inaugurated by the president
of Honduras, Dr Carlos Roberto Queen Idiaquez, and by representative of
United Nations , the European Space Agency
and the Planetary
Society . They attended but of 80 participants, between astronomos
and space scientists of 28 countries:
Australia, Austria, Canada, Cuba,
Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras,
India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Panama, Poland,
Slovakian Republic, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tunez, the United States, Uruguay,
and Zambia. Subjects as treated the development of an international
and regional cooperation in basic space science and of how Central America
could participate in projects such as: observation of variable stars and
Objects Near the Earth [ NEONS ]. These factories must between their objectives
help to the development of Astronomy world-wide level. Examples of support
are: possibility of mounting a radio telescope in Colombia; the government
of Japan, along with astronomers of the National Observatory of Japan
their aid for the establishment of astronomical facilities in countries
1997, April 21, a course in Guatemala de AstronomÃa occurred
thanks to the initiative of the Central American cooperation between
where it attended then president of
the Commission of the TAD of the
Union Internacional of Astronomy , the Dr
John Percy ,
who spoke on Education in Astronomy and investigation on variable stars.
Books and materials on the part of the AAVSO [ American Association
of Variable Star Observers ], the Astronomical
Society were donated
of the Pacific , the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada ,
and the University of Toronto . It also interacted with the Guatemalan
Astronomical Association. During the course interest in the supposed meteorite
was had that is created fell in Honduras, in November 22, 1996 ( Sky
and Telescope, March 1997, pag. 12
). Although there were many eyewitnesses,
was not solid evidence that such event has happened. At the moment [ is
a participation of several university professors University of San
Carlos of Guatemala http://www.usac.edu.gt
and University University Francisco
/ ] in the CURCAA and the AAAC.
El Salvador: At
the moment the University of El Salvador [ http://cimat.ues.edu.sv/fisica/index.html
to the Central American network of astronomy, through some professors of
the physics area. Due to the recent earthquake undergone by this brother
country the astronomical activity has decendido poc, as much at academic
level as at amateur level. The participation has been developed through
the attendance to the annual meetings of the CURCAA and the AAAC.
Nicaragua and BÃ©lice:
the isolation that exists between these countries and the rest of Central
America, I do not know if some type of development in the field of Astronomy
in such has occurred. As we already mentioned previously, the present participation
of Nicaragua [ University Nacional Autonoma of Nicaragua,
] in astronomical activities is occurring through the attendance
to the CURCAA and the AAAC [ the present secretariat of the AAAC are nicaraguence
Panama: In 1995,
the previous Director of the University of Panama ,
Dr Gustavo GarcÃa de Paredes ,
signs an agreement that jeopardizes to this institution to comprise
of the Network of Central American Cooperation for the development of Astronomy
(Note of RectorÃa no. 1088-85, 22 of June of 1995).
Finally, after so many efforts, he manages himself to open in this same
year an area of investigations of Astronomy and astrophysics
AAF ) in the Department of Physics of the Faculty of Natural, Exact
Sciences and Technology of the University of Panama Octavio MÃ©ndez
. Funge de Coordinador the Prof. HÃ©ctor
Castillo Silva . Panama was the seat of IV the CURCAA
the AAAC , in 1998, during the celebration of the Total Sun Eclipse
took place in JaquÃ©, DariÃ©n [ http://cuevano.astro.ugto.mx/~ala/numeros/5/node15.html
a brief summary of the event can be in http://exaphysics.tripod.com/CAastronomy/Eclipse98.html
Recently, the Dr Bernardo Fernandez ,
the Research center with Nuclear Techniques
of the University of Panama
, had the initiative
to contact to the French association of fans to astronomy,
of l'ile of France [ firstname.lastname@example.org,
Bourdeille . Pour nous to contacter: Christian BOURDEILLE, PrÃ©sident
de L'uranoscope, 7 avenue CARNOT, F77220 GRETZ-ARMAINVILLIERS FRANCE Fax:
+33 (0)1 64 07 86 04 Phone: +33 (0)1 64 42 00 02 ], to make
adjustments with this university to establish an agreement to construct
in Hill Bell,
an Astronomical Park withan Observatory, a Planetarium
and a botanical Garden . The Uranoscopio will serve
as adviser to look for financing international level and in the scientific
part. The ANAM is consenting, along with the Mayorship of the city of Panama
and the SEcretarÃa NAcional de Ciencia and TecnologÃa
in supporting this activity. Present Director,
Dr Julio Vallarino , already signed an agreement with the
ambassador of France in Panama,
Bursua , so that such cooperation is carried out in our country.
Two members of the Uranoscopio will attend
the Central American
UCRso and of the ARIBE of Physics [ CURCCAF
] that will
occur in this country, from
the 10 to the 14
of December of the 2201
to participate in this congress
explaining the activities and experiences that they have had in other several
countries. In addition,
Durret , investigator of the
Observatory of Paris , financed by the government of France (
), will give two courses of astronomy, one basico
and another advancing, during the congress.
The history of the development of amateur Astronomy associations &
clubs in each country appears in the respective club's Internet webpages
Most of these associations have had contact with the Iberoa-American
League of Astronomy, LIADA ( http://www.liada.net
- Astronomical Association of Guatemala [ AAG ] President:
Adrián Urrejola Polanco
Jorge Gonzalez, vice-president,
- Star Club of Guatemala [ ACG ]
private Club founded in 1983 by the geologist Hector
Roberto Caballero Barrios.
- Eng. Edgar Castro Bathen [
Ex-president of the AAG [ 1995-1996 ] and of the ACG [ 1994 ].
Creator of the first Central American virtual bulletin of
Astronomy, the "Cyberastronomer" [ email@example.com
that is distributed by Internet to those whom want to subscribe [the last
issues are possible to be found in the mirror: http://exaphysics.tripod.com/Fysik2.html
Also founder of the society SPICA, Society for
the Impulse and Conservation of Astronomy, a virtual
society of all the amateurs astronomers in Central America
- ASSOCIATION OF NATURAL, GEOGRAPHIC AND ASTRONOMICAL STUDIES
OF GUATEMALA [ A.E.N.G.A. ]
16 Av. "A" 3-10, Zone 6, city of Guatemala.
Tel. (502) 2881102 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Honduran Association of Astronomy [ AHDA ]
President: Nohemy Rivera (
Association of Astronomy [ ASTRO/current President: Luis
Angel Rapalo Claudé] Born legally
September 10, 1991, although as organization existed since 1985.
Played a very important role during the Solar Eclipse of July 11,
1991, for their diffusion work reached national broadcasting covering,
through the Educative Cultural television channels 8 and 10, thanks to
the Minister of Education of the country, Licda. Cecilia Gallardo de Cano.
They are the ONLY ONES in all Central America
who has managed to make the dream of all astronomers come true. They
founded an Astronomical Park:
an Observatory (called 'Astronomical Observatory
Dr. Prudencio Llach'
, who was a pioneer of Astronomy in
this country), a Planetarium and Museum of Sciences
in San Juan Talpa town, La Paz department. The
Observatory is of exclusive use of the association and has a Cassegrain
of 12 ", f/16 telescope, with focal length of 4800 mm, with a equatorial
type German mount. It has several members that also are professors
in scientific areas of different Salvadoran universities, reason
why the contact of this association with the academic atmosphere is good.
- MARTIAN SOCIETY [ email@example.com
/ ) President:
Jorge Arturo Colorado .
Virtual association in Internet.
Nicaragua and Belize
we don't know at the time of writing this article if in these
countries exists some amateur associations;
- CIENTEC Foundation [firstname.lastname@example.org
(http: / /www.cientec.or.cr,
Address: PO box 8536-1000, San José, Costa Rica. Telephone:
(506) 233-7701 Fax: (506) 255-2182;
founded in 1989; organization without profit aims.
Astronomy Group of the Technological Institute of Costa Rica [
President: Felipe Rocks Obando [
- Club of Amateur Astronomers (
- AstroCharlie Carlos
- Canal Zone Astronomical Society CZAS/Panama Canal Astronomy
Club PCAC . According to the "Landmarks of Amateur
Astronomy" of this country, published by Carlos
Rodgers, Eng., this passion was born with the amateur astronomer
Hess, in 1928, when he got a 5" refractor telescope with
equatorial mount, property of the EEUU Naval Observatory, and in 1929
he founded CZAS club on the Canal Zone (Panama). This club
disappears and in 1956, another one arised, the PCAC,
in the province of Colon, which was associated with the EEUU "Astronomical League" [AL].
Association of Fans to Astronomy [
A.P.A.A. ] Founded:
September 15, 1983 ( http://www.astropanama.org
). It has also had ample contact with the Ibero'American League of Astronomy (LIADA) . in 1986, the Panama government awards the APAA emitting, for the first time in the republic history, a stamp wiht an astronomical subject, in commemoration with
7th passage of Halley's comet, based on the astrofotografÃa
taken by Eng. Carlos Rodgers (APAA/PCAC) in 1986 above the ruins of the
Cathedral Tower of "Panama La Vieja", Panama city.
APAA also played an important role during the 1991 Total Solar Eclipse,
with national broadcasting covering. Recently, in preparation for the XXIII CURCCAF
[Central American and Caribbean Course of Physics
], december 10-14, 2001, 2 members of this
club [Eng. Ivan Jaen Perigault and Dr Guillermo
Earl, M.D. , both former chairmen of this club]
have been participating with the Physics dept. of the University of Panama, giving talks on Astronomy subjects and inviting general public to attend the nocturnal sessions of astronomical observation.
In 1985-1986 we had the honor to have visit of the famous Astronomer Dr.
Carl Sagan [1934-1996], during his passage through
the Panama Canal in course to Chile to see Halley's Comet; he joined us together with other fans during a "Star Party" in Balboa, Canal Zone, and was in there that, for the first time, he saw the Halley!
A little history about Central American events indicates that amateur
astronomy is very active in our region. Eng. Edgar Catro Bathen,
provides us with the following information. Thanks to an announcement
published in the Astronomy magazine, the directive members of ACG
and of ASA decided to have a meeting May 1, 1993, in El Salvador, in which
they interchanged sevaral opinions and the idea was conceived to make a
meeting of amateur astronomers at Central American level.
More than 70 people from 4 Central American countries met that time:
El Salvador, Honduras and Panama.
Also attended the famous amateur astronomer Stephen
James O'meara [the event ws published in Sky
& Telescope magazine , May 1994, pp. 99].
In this meeting it was discovered that almost all the Central American
associations had their beginnings around the 80's, and they grew up in
membership during the arrival of Halley's comet in 1985-86
and during the Total Solar Eclipse of 1991. The PECAA
Central American Meeting of Amateur Astronomers), was held in El
Salvador, November 5, 1994, and was organized to enjoy 2 days of Astronomy.
In this occasion, a 42% more attendance than in the previous encounter
were gained. The II Central American Congress of Associations of Amateur
Astronomers (II-CCAAA) was also a success.
Also attended Tippy D'Auria,
founder of the Winter Star Party de Miami, USA,
Robert Benward of the Astronomical
Society of Long Island, USA, and Stephen
J. O'meara, who gave a talk on the Impact
of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. This congress
was important because in there was proposed to celebrate the
Day of the Amateur Astronomer (6 of
July) every year, and to give a recognition to the best amateur
astronomical works in the next congresses and also the creation of the
of Amateur Astronomy of Central America, now
settled. Due to Mitch Hurricane and to its devastating
pass through Honduras and El Salvador, the amateur encounters have had
to be suspended temporarily, but it's hoped that in coming years the activities
will be started again. To this congresses also had attended
famous astronomers like Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker,
and David Levy as
can be seen in the picture [http://exaphysics.tripod.com/CAAstronomy/Cyberas48.htm].
A great interest in establishing a collaboration between amateurs and
professionals in this area exists, since the amateurs count with resources
that professionals don't have . The amateurs have enough time to
observe and have their own telescopes and don't have to be competing for
acquiring observation time in great telescopes, reason why they can
concentrate in investigating events that professionals cannot. Of
what a serious and real collaboration would consist?
First of all, many serious amateur astronomers know that to make
a quality relevant work, it's necessary to have a good equipment
[telescopes, cameras or CCD, photometers, spectrometers, etc. ] and that
the observation must be a prolonged one, under the direction of a serious
program managed by professionals. Nevertheless, it is possible to establish
a less ambitious programs of observation.
How the cooperation could be established?
With the aid of small telescopes observations of NEOs
[Near Earth Objects] can be made, Solar Astronomy, Comets can be
discovered, and also a magnificent job of Teaching and Dissemination
can be made , and for that purpose it is necessary to be updated
with the current astronomical events that can be observed in the region
and to notify to the mass media, and also by giving talks to the general
public, etc. Also a cooperation with the American
Asociation of Variable Stars Observers [AAVSO] (http://www.aavso.org
/) can be made, in the variable star visual observation;
nevertheless, it must be considered that even though the AAVSO group of
visual observations is great, their reports are always compared with more
precise techniques of data gathering [CCD and photoelectric photometry].
In short, the cooperation possibilities are many.
The Escencial Aspect
Now that we have an ampler panorama of the development that has occurred
in Central America, we can give a look to the future. Even though the development
is occurring, this is relatively slow. Being a little
optimistic, in the next 10 years I do not believe that we manage
to advance further unless we take a firm and aggressive decision
to support the development of this science in our region.
In 20 or 30 years the panorama is more promising. It's a waste
of time to ask for support to international organizations if
we don't have still the suitable human resources, reason why as a first
step we must support the programs of MSc and PhD
in Astronomy of Costa Rica and Honduras, to fill this emptiness in
other countries of the region. Each country must have, at least,
1 or 2 astrophisicists within its university structures. With this
profit, financial support could be requested to strengthen the Suyapa's
Observatory, in Honduras, modernizing it with more observational
equipment. We are obligated to mount an aggressive program
of astronomical investigation and to seek for a collaboration between
universities and thus to produce results, even though these
were modest in the short term. We must mount aggressive programs
of dissemination and look for private institutions support
that could invest in projects like Planetaries and astronomical parks,
such as the one existing in El Salvador. The amateur associations, altogether
with the respective university centers, working united, can attract investments
of national and/or foreign private companies for the development
of such projects. Many things can be done and many thins can be obtained.
For the international support exists, the will to work is the only thing
We forgot who we are. We forgot how deeply we are
bound to the Universe. Routine occupies all our attention,
moment after moment, station after station, epoch after epoch.
We forgot that we are travelling... we travel altogether, all united, through
and dark immensity. We travel tied to a star that gave
us life and that allows us to undertake our periodic tasks.
This star drags us in its trip through the edge of our cosmic home, which
as well, along with travels other galactic dwellings through the immense
emptiness of the space. We are unconscious of that reality.
Only few, in comparison with the many, realize that we travel alone, that
our trip depends on us and on our actions. Those
few, who many label as dreamers, are the cosmic conscience of our
world. Of those few, only some undertake the task
of awake the consciousness of the many. This awakening
of the conscience is carried out by disseminating the truth.
That truth makes us to open our consciences before the reality of our trip.
The understanding of our position in the vast Universe can only be reached
if the travellers, conscious of our trip, disclose their knowledge and
teach it to the rest of the travellers.
The dissemination of such an exciting science as Astronomy requires
that the discloser has certain type of abilities. Often
we accuse professionals to have lost that sense of admiration and fascination
for their careers, which is reflected in their manner to communicate
their science, their art, to the general public.
The communication is carried out, some times, in a cold and technical way.
The professional lacks, sometimes, of that sense of motivation and fails
when trying to inject that passion to the public who listen to him.
Often this is the case, but not always. We accuse professionals
to be technical and cold, nevertheless we are forgetting that originally
that person, who decided to become a professional, has dedicated his life
to that dream; we forget that the professional is a full time
dreamer. On the other side, the professional is
so deeply submerged in technical details that sometimes forget why
he does it, what was his original passion.
When disvulging Astronomy the discloser must not stun with
technical details nor with formulas... he must transmit that motivation,
that astonishment, that fluid passion that crosses his veins, that
impels him day after day to enter in what he loves... that desire of knowing
more deeply, and that lead him through the eternal questions about
the Origin and the Being... that explosive sprouting and irrefrenable questionings
whose answers seems to be so... distant...
that understanding of why the emptiness needs to be calmed... of why
that light needs to be ignited... that fascination that leaves him overwhelmed
before each constellation, each star, each galaxy... that feeling of humility
when, from a secret place within himself, contemplates the immense
wonders of the Cosmos... that Communion that only he can feel when,
in deep darkness, glimpses that white starry road that constitute
our immense galactic home... that tremor... that shaking of emotion before
so incommensurable beautiness... that comprehension before the infiniteness,
before the smallness, before the Sacred, before the Existence itself...
that Encounter that only can arise from within the Being... that lackness
of words, that Universal Presence, that expansion of Conscience...
then, and only then, when he knows what needs to be known, understands
what needs to be understood, transmits what needs to be transmitted, only
then he'll be able... to open us...
the Doors of the Universe...
This report couldn't have arrived to a happy end without the disinterested
collaboration of many people: Nohemi Rivera [Honduras], Dr. Jorge Paez
[Costa Rica], Dr. Bernardo Fernandez [Panama], Prof. Eduardo
Chung [Panama], Prof. Eduardo Sáenz [Panama], Prof. Etelvina Medina
[Panama], Edgar Castro Bathen, Eng.[Guatemala],
Carlos Rodgers, Eng.[Panama], Jorge Arturo Colorado [El Salvador].
[ 1 ] http://www.seas.columbia.edu/~ah297/un-esa/ws1995-proceedings.html
. DEVELOPING ASTRONOMY AND SPACE SCIENCE WORLDWIDE. Hans J. Haubold. PART
FOUR: LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN. Space Sciences in Latin America:
Status and Opportunities [S. Torres]; The Astronomical Observatory of Honduras
[M.C.P. de Carias]. http://www.iau.org/IAU/Activities/publications/bulletin/IB83.html
The 71st Meeting of the Executive Committee took place in the Council Room
of Observatoire de Paris, France, on July 3 and 4, 1998, Vice-President
Catherine Cesarsky. The EC also approved an increased activity level for
the TAD programme in Central America. http://ddo.astro.utoronto.ca/ddohome/doings/sections/may97/
la revista Sky and Telescope, April 1997
, pag 100-101.
on Astrophysics from AAVSO], http://www.maa.mhn.de/Cat/cat_online.html
Donat G. Wentzel
, Secretary for TAD, Professor
Emeritus, University of Maryland]
of the second United Nations/European Space Agency Workshop
Jose, Costa Rica, 2-7 November, 1992. Walter Fernandez
of Physics, University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica] and Hans
[Office for Outer Space, United Nations, New York,
NY 10017, U.S.A.] EARTH, MOON, AND PLANETS, Volume 63, No. 2, November
of the second United Nations/European Space Agency Workshop
Colombia [9-13 November, 1992]. Hans J. Haubold
for Outer Space, United Nations, New York, NY 10017, U.S.A.] and Sergio
[Department of Physics, University of the Andes, International
Centre for Physics (CIP), Bogota, Colombia]. ASTROPHYSICS AND BASIC SPACE
SCIENCE, Volume 214, Nos. 1-2, April 1994: J.
and F. Frutos. Remark on the one-photon-pair annihilation
in strong magnetic fields; J. Paez
L. Semionova, and J. Bonatti
absorption lines in stellar spectra; L. Semionova, J.
and J. Bonatti
the natural line width of absorption lines in strong magnetic stellar fields;
Cosmological implications of COBE's results.
Hans J. Haubold
Room E0947, UN Outer Space Office , Vienna International Centre, P.O. Box
500, A-1400 Vienna, Austria. Phone: +43-1-21131-4949 (office) +43-1-21345-4953
(secretary), Fax : +43-1-21345-5830 (office)]
List of emails of centralamerican professionals and amateurs
who are directly involved with Astronomy in Central America [still in construction]:
AMERICAN NETWORK INFORMATION CENTER