A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Egypt and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and its Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE), according to which Egypt is to host the Astronomy Education Center for Arabic-speaking countries. The centre is to be based at the Egyptian National Institute for Astronomical and Geophysical Research (NIAGR) in Helwan some 15km south of Cairo.
The IAU was represented by Jose Miguel Esponosa, Secretary-General of the Union, and the OAE represented by its director Marcus Boussel.
Gad al-Qadi, head of NIAGR, presented Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar with a report on the matter.
The report indicated that NIAGR was chosen from among the national institutions of astronomy and solar and space research to host the Astronomy Education Center for Arabic Speakers, one of four astronomy education centres worldwide in China, Italy and India. It will cooperate directly with the IAU’s Astronomy Education Office (AEO) based at the Max Planck Institute in Germany to participate in global projects developed by the Office, also at the national and regional levels by supporting initiatives in neighbouring countries. In addition, the Egypt centre will contribute to the development of astronomy teaching methods and assessment tools for preparatory and secondary school students and teachers.
The report pointed out that the Astronomy Education Center in Egypt will adopt the analysis of astronomy, science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula, teacher training, and will set a plan to develop educational resources in Egypt and in neighboring Arabic-speaking countries.
The report indicated that NIAGR possesses the largest optical telescope in North Africa and the Middle East (74 inches), a solar telescope, a telescope for monitoring and tracking asteroids and space debris, satellite tracking stations, a science museum, a centre of excellence in astronomy and space science, and programme training rooms. astronomers, as well as distinguished scientific cadres in this field.
The institute also hosts the Arab Association for Astronomy and Space Sciences of the League of Arab States, where it is currently constructing the large Egyptian astronomical telescope with a mirror diameter of 6.5 meters, in addition to building a station to monitor satellites and space debris in cooperation with the Chinese Space Agency, to be the second largest station of this type in the world.
It is worth noting that the International Astronomical Union has accredited the Office of Astronomy for Education (IAU-OAE) since January 2020 and is based at the Max Planck Institute in Germany (MPIA); This is to support the mission of the Union in promoting research, communication, education and development in astronomy through international cooperation in accordance with the Union’s strategy (2020-2030), provided that the office represented by the Max Planck Institute bears the responsibility for implementing the strategic tasks as agreed between the International Astronomical Union IAU and the Institute of Astronomy Max Planck MPIA.
The tasks assigned to the OAE office require great resources and efforts, creating a necessity to support societies based on astronomy and its education at the global level, using its own resources.
2 January 2022