Roger Hambleton


AWB Report

On August 31st 2018, Astronomers Without Borders UAE organized a “Meeting with the Planets” for residents of the Mira Community in Dubai. The event was free and attracted over 70 participants (with a split of roughly 60% children vs. 40% adult participants). The event started promptly at 7pm, and the last guests left at midnight.

Apart from general encouragement of participation to learn about Astronomy, this meeting was unique in that we reached out to people who own telescopes, but had not used them (for various reasons).

The specific goals were as follows:

  • Popularize the hobby of astronomy via telescopic observations of the planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars (in that order).

  • Advise people keen on entering the hobby on what kind of equipment is best to start with.

  • Teach people with astronomical equipment how to properly use the tools they have to enjoy views of the night sky.

Overall, the event was a big success. The weather was clear, and the planets cooperated fabulously as we had expected they would.

More people showed up than anticipated, but we managed to accommodate despite only bringing 2 scopes for viewing, as 3 more telescopes became available thanks to event participants eager to learn how to use their equipment.

The key learning from this event was telescope tutorial sessions are key in retaining people’s interest in the hobby of astronomy. All 3 participants who brought telescopes had the same issues:

  1. They did not understand the purpose of the finder scope / red dot finder. This is of course meant that when they had used it before, they were unable to observe anything in the telescope’s eyepiece.

  2. They did not understand how to focus the scope. 2 out of the 3 tutorial participants thought that they were focusing the telescope when the image in the eyepiece was getting bigger- of course, the opposite is true. This persisted when they changed eyepieces.

  3. They did not fully understand how to align their automatic mounts, or what alignment means. Here it is important that people understand how to align to find planets vs. just being aligned to the stars (if their mount in fact makes this differentiation). The main alignment we covered was 2 star alignment as it was the easiest and quickest to learn.

  4. They did not understand what their telescopes were good/weak at. None of the tutorial participants understood the differences in telescope builds, or what the telescope they have is best at. Their expectations had to be managed a bit.

I highly encourage everyone reading this report to ask telescope owners to bring their equipment and participate in tutorials. Follow-ups with tutorial participants showed that they are now using the equipment regularly. One participant and his 11 year old son even made a trip to a dark site a week after the event to try their luck at deep space observations and bagged their first Messier Objects!!

As for the more casual observations, Saturn stole the show (as usual) with people amazed that they could actually see the rings and moons around the planet.

Jupiter also stunned with people mesmerized by the 4 Galilean Moons, and the Great Red Spot which was luckily situated right in the middle of the planet for easy viewing.

Venus surprised many participants who at first confused it with the moon (*chuckles* - but at the end of the day, that’s why we do this right!?).

Mars was underwhelming as the dust storm obscured details on the planet’s surface – but people were still happy to have that observation crossed off of the list.

Anybody who has joined Astronomers Without Borders as a result of our Mira Event should look out for future events.

If you have any questions or comments regarding our event, please feel free to contact me.

Roger Hambleton

AWB National Coordinator - UAE


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    About Me

    Living in Dubai - AWB National Coordinator for UAE. If you live in the UAE, and have a passion for astronomy, and want to share that passion with others - please contact me. If you live outside the UAE and are interested in an international collaboration, also please contact me. I have been passionate about astronomy since I was a child. Like most children, I had no possibility to explore the stars except for with my naked eyes. Now as an adult, I take the science very seriously, and enjoy popularizing the hobby of astronomy for free (especially among the...


    Location:Dubai, UAE
    United Arab Emirates (the)