Science

The stars look down: Mango Education’s online star gazing session teaches people about the night sky

A file photo of the night sky

A file photo of the night sky   | Photo Credit: M Sathyamoorthy

There is so much time to stand and stare and that is exactly what Mango Education is encouraging the young and old to do

At a time when most people are looking up in prayer, another group in Coimbatore was watching the sky for a different reason. Last Sunday, they were busy star gazing and studying the night sky through a webinar conducted by Mango Education.

“This was open to all and we did not charge an entry fee,” Obuli Chandran, science educator and co-founder of Mango Education, explains. “By 8.00 pm on Sunday, we had 187 registrations.”

The idea behind this session was two-fold: to give parents and kids a fun way to spend some time together and to teach them to find directions using the night sky. “Often we use the sun’s position in the sky as a reference point,” Obuli says. Since “the sun rises in the east and sets in the west” has been dinned into us, most of us have a rudimentary sense of direction to know where we are facing. But the night sky is a whole new ball game. Even if you don’t have a compass, you can track your route with the help of the stars, says Obuli confidently.

On Sunday, all participants were on their respective terraces and connected through the Zoom app. Obuli says they chose Zoom “mainly because of the ease of access for the attendees. They just needed the meeting ID and password to join the group.” He also mentions that other features like screen sharing, whiteboard and remote access are very convenient for online education. To identify stars and constellations, “we had asked them to download the GPS-enabled Star Walk app. Point it at the sky and it will tell you what stars and constellations can be seen in your vicinity.”

Kids Ask App
  • “A learning community driven by the art of questioning,” is how Obuli describes it and explains that, through this app, children will get to interact with scientists from different fields and get their questions answered.
  • There will be a discussion of some scientific topic each day. There will be an annual subscription for this.
  • For more details call 9952243541 or email hello@themango.co

Everyone managed to see three major constellations: the Orion, the Canis Major and the Ursa Major. “Orion is also known as the Hunter. Ursa Major is known as Saptarishi in India and also as Big Dipper. The Canis Major contains Sirius, also known as the Dog Star. It is the brightest star in the sky because it is quite close to the Sun,” Obuli offers extra information, adding that Orion and Canis Major will be visible for the next few months.

Ready to look up Obuli Chandran

Ready to look up Obuli Chandran   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The three major requirements for a good night skywatching sessions are clear skies and no light pollution. “It is also better to schedule it closer to new moon days rather than full moon days,” he adds. “Our programme was on a new moon night, so we didn’t have even the light of the moon. I had asked all participants to switch off their terrace or house lights so that they got a clearer unimpeded view.” And one of the reasons he wanted parents to be around; he didn’t want children running around on the terrace without lights.

Learn via WhatsApp
  • Another initiative is Mango Science Radio, which will offer short audio bytes via WhatsApp. Arumugham Sankaran, co-founder of Mango Education, says that they felt that the medium could be used as a means of learning “instead of just reading forwards and fake news.” And they wanted to keep it simple, “so we ended up using WhatsApp audio message.”
  • The subscription for this is free and every evening, subscribers will receive short stories on history of science and learn concepts taught by passionate educators and scientists.
  • To subscribe, type “TUNE ME INTO MANGO SCIENCE RADIO” and WhatsApp it to 9952243541. For more details call the saame number

Those who had doubts sent in their questions in the chat box and these were answered instantly, making the session an interactive one. Asked what they felt about the session Ranjani Gangadharan mentioned that her son “thoroughly enjoyed it”, while 11-year-old Siddharth wanted “many more sessions like this”.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:01:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/mango-educations-online-star-gazing-session-teaches-people-about-the-night-sky/article31160690.ece

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