Bhutan takes giant leap into space exploration

Establishes the Bhutan Astronomical Society


Bhutan has come forth and taken a giant leap towards the formation of the Bhutan Astronomical Society (BAS). Established under the guidance of the GovTech Agency, the BAS aims to ignite a passion for astronomy and space exploitation among the Bhutanese people. 

The exciting new initiative was announced on the 44thBirth Anniversary of His Majesty The King on 21 February. The BAS aspires to foster a thriving astronomical community in Bhutan by offering educational resources, workshops, and training programs for students, teachers, and enthusiasts interested in astronomy.

Public outreach is a cornerstone of the BAS’s mission. The society plans to organize strategizing sessions, public awareness by renowned astronomies, and educational outreach programs to stimulate public interest in the wonder of creation and its existence.

Additionally, the BAS intends to collaborate with local international astronomical organizations to share its knowledge and resources and drive Bhutan’s contribution to the global astronomical scene.

The press release from the BAS states that the most significant impact of the new initiatives of the BAS will be on the younger generation of the country. By establishing partnerships with educational institutions and encouraging active participation from the students with available resources like online classes, especially for those students who are willing to participate but can’t manage it personally.

Moreover, the BAS hopes to inspire young minds to pursue careers in astronomy and related fields by organizing membership meetings and seeking international partnerships. So, this aligns perfectly with Bhutan’s commitment to fostering a culture of scientific literacy and technological advancement in the coming generations.

The BAS recognizes the importance of a strong foundation for its operations and securing financial resources from the GovTech Agency, their parent organization, is crucial.

However, society doesn’t feel intrigued of exploring other avenues, establishing partnerships with private entities, and encouraging active participation and volunteering from its members, states the press release. “This multi-pronged approach ensures society’s long-term sustainability.”

The BAS has several planned activities for a thriving astronomical community. Their inaugural year promises a plethora of exciting activities, starting with a grand inauguration ceremony during Bhutan Space Week on February 17–23, 2024.

“These events had been an excellent platform to introduce the BAS to the public and showcase its vision for the later generation,” said an official from the BAS.

But this is just the beginning. Throughout the year, the BAS will conduct a series of astronomy seminars, stargazing sessions, and even public lectures featuring the most essential astronomers who will share anonymous experiences and knowledge-flourishing sessions.

The press release further stated that the heart and soul of any society lie in its members. As of March 2024, the BAS boasts a diverse and enthusiastic membership of 144 individuals. The membership is evenly distributed across genders, with 53 female and 91 male members.

Another noteworthy aspect is that the BAS membership is entirely Bhutanese, fostering a sense of national pride and ownership of the society. The membership pool encompasses a wide range of professions, including students, teachers, civil servants, private and corporate employees, and even some unemployed individuals seeking to rediscover their passion for the cosmos.

The level of involvement in astronomy-related activities within the membership varies. Currently, 17 percent are actively engaged in astronomy clubs, competitions, or challenges, demonstrating a dedicated core group. An additional 14 percent are self-motivated learners, conducting research or independent study in their pursuit of astronomical knowledge, as per the press release.

However, a significant 50 percent of the membership hasn’t yet participated in any formal astronomy-related activities. This presents a tremendous opportunity for the BAS to nurture their interest and guide them on their astronomical journey. The remaining 19 percent are categorized as expressing “interest and exploration,” indicating a burgeoning curiosity about the universe that the BAS can cultivate.

Finally, the BAS recognizes the importance of the study and started organizing a virtual public lecture for members of society on NASA’s Dawn mission by Dr. Marc Rayman, NASA JPL, on 29 February. These sessions allow for the exploration of Vista and Ceres, offering unparalleled insights into the inner solar system.

Additionally, on March 1, 2024, their very first telescope, a Celestron CPC 800, arrived in Bhutan. According to the press release, just a few days later, on March 12th, the BAS held its first training session in Paro with three officials from the Department of Telecom and Space (DoTS), an entrepreneur, an early childhood care and development (ECCD) educator, and students.

This session provided a valuable opportunity for a selected group to learn about the new telescope and its operation. Joseph Wise is a passionate astronomer and member of the Santa Monica Astronomy Club.

The BAS’s dedication continued with its first official stargazing session held on March 16th, 2024, also in Paro. While partially cloudy skies limited the view, participants were still able to observe the moon and a few stars.

This event marked a significant milestone for the BAS, showcasing its commitment to bringing the wonders of the night sky to the Bhutanese people.

The future looks bright for the Bhutan Astronomical Society; with a passionate membership, a powerful telescope, and a commitment to public outreach.

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