Unam continues to grow and strengthen the country’s education sector
Unam collaborates with University of Oxford for astronomy online course
26 October 2021 | Education
Astro-tourism is a night-time activity that complements traditional tourist activities. Fixed or mobile observatories that can be set up with good quality telescopes. Astro-tour guides can be trained locally and monthly night sky updates can be provided to highlight local delights. Astro-tourism is increasingly becoming the next frontier of nature-based tourism, however, with light pollution on the rise, finding dark and starry skies is slowly becoming a great challenge, a subject area the Universities of Namibia and Oxford online course focuses on.
Astro-tourism will allow the Unam group to become globally competitive in the field of very-high-energy (VHE) astrophysics. The astro-tourism course at Unam, titled ‘Introduction to Astronomy and Astro-tourism’ took place between 24 August and 21 September 2021. The e-learning provided several hundred participants with relevant and theoretical information on astro-tourism in the context of Southern Africa, mainly for local guides to implement and to educate the general public.
John Haufiku, the acting director of Unam, said: “We see the importance in astro-tourism being a low-cost means to increase tourism experience and, hence, revenue; even at grassroots level. The pristine night skies of Namibia are still an underutilised natural resource.”
The development aspects of the project arise from the capacity-building that will follow from growing the size and capabilities of the physics department at Unam, as desired by the Namibian authorities, along with specific targeted activities by the postdocs that will guarantee short-term impact, in high-school education and tourism.
This project was led by Prof. Garret Cotter (University of Oxford), Prof. Michael Backes, and Dr Eli Kasai (both University of Namibia), and the course was facilitated by Dr Hannah Dalgleish (University of Namibia and University of Oxford) and Dr Meghan Hughes (University of Oxford). The project was funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund and Exeter College, Oxford in the UK and supported by the International Astronomical Union Office of Astronomy for Development (IAU-OAD) and the Namibia Scientific Society.
Astro-tourism summarises activities like stargazing, sharing indigenous star lore, visiting observatories and other astronomy-related sites, and doing astrophotography.
The online course covered the topics of:
Introduction to astronomy;
Astronomy facilities and research in Southern Africa;
Astronomy and astro-tourism for development;
Stargazing and indigenous astronomy; and
Light pollution and dark sky conservation.
The course received 864 registrations, including 295 from Namibia and 77 from South Africa. The majority of registrations came from a tourism (35%) or astronomy (28%) background. People residing in Namibia and South Africa retained a high participation throughout.
To obtain a certificate for their attendance, the participants had to complete some homework assignments and 231 participants were awarded certificates.
“Overall, the course reached the desired audience and was thoroughly enjoyed by many,” said Dr Backes, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Material Science.