Mongolia has one of the lowest population densities on the planet. With only 3 million people spread across an area three times larger than France, Mongolia has some of the most pristine dark skies in the world. Since 2008 several astronomy education and public outreach activities have been implemented in the country, initiated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). More information about the past programmes can be found here.
Invited by NAOJ, the Universe Awareness programme participated in the 2014 project. The activities started on 1 July with a workshop for primary school teachers, pupils and community leaders in Bayan-Ölgii province in the far west of Mongolia. Forty participants learned about the dark sky and assembled a 'You are Galileo!' telescope. These telescopes are kept in the school, so the local teachers and pupils can use them for their own activities.
Later that day an observing session was held in a remote herder community around the lake of Khoton Nuur. Fifty participants (children with their parents) had the opportunity to observe through a telescope the Moon, Saturn, Mars and some globular clusters. This was the first time for many of them to look through a telescope. The local nomadic herders also shared some of the local stories about the dark skies, making this a truly cultural exchange experience.
Back in the capital city, Ulan Bator, the activities continued with the 1st East Asian Astronomical Education and Outreach Workshop with a series of overview talks of EPO activities in Mongolia, Japan, Nepal, etc. The UNAWE International Project Manager, Pedro Russo, gave a workshop about Universe in a Box to around 30 teachers from different Mongolian provinces. The workshop empowered the teachers in the use of the toolkit in informal and formal learning settings, like classrooms and community activities. UNAWE also donated three Universe in a Boxes, through funding from Kickstarter, which will be provided to schools.
This activity also marks the official start of the UNAWE programme in Mongolia. Mongolia becomes the 58th UNAWE national network member. The activities will be lead by Prof. Tsolmon, who will add UNAWE to the existing on-going astronomy education activities that are happening across Mongolia.
UNAWE would like to thank NAOJ (namely Prof. Agata and Prof. Sekiguchi), IAU OAO (namely Mr. Sze-leung Cheung) and the National University of Mongolia (namely Prof. Tsolmon) for the unique opportunity to participate in this activity.