KARACHI: World Space Week celebrations are in full swing in Karachi as the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) looks to inspire the country's young, impressionable minds and give them a platform to showcase their space science and research skills.
World Space Week is celebrated annually by the national space agency in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly declaration of 1999.
Every year, Suparco enthusiastically embraces the spirit of the week and organises activities in 16 different cities of the country simultaneously, which cater to a specific, space-related theme.
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As humankind looks forward to investigating new heavenly bodies and discovering planets, the week has been aptly branded 'Exploring New Worlds in Space' this year.
As part of the celebrations, the Pakistan Air Force Museum played host to a Space Fair and Exhibition, held at the behest of the Suparco administration, which concluded on Sunday evening.
Be it high-tech micro-gravity experiments to ground-breaking radio telescopes, or short-range water rocket competitions to simple, cardboard models of the solar system, there was something of interest for children of every age at the fair.
Universities, colleges and schools took part in the event, open to the general public, as academics and teachers gathered to educate visitors and promote the cause of space in Pakistan.
The exhibition also offered a chance for families to come together and share an experience filled with wonder and excitement.
More than 30 high schools from all over Karachi participated in a variety of competitions this year. The winners were also awarded prizes.
One of the major attractions at the fair was the space performing arts, in which students explored their creativity and created awareness about space by staging short skits.
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Interspersed with interesting facts about galaxies and stars far away, which were wrapped inside an enthralling tale about alien spaceships and exploding supernovas, it seemed as if the crowd was being treated to a mini, albeit localised, version of Hollywood's finest science-fiction thrillers.
A few feet away was a kid’s section, where middle-school students had set up colourful models of the solar system, and stood alongside to narrate the story of planetary evolution to every willing ear.
The spacious PAF Museum also housed food stalls, joy rides and jumping castles for visitors, so that everyone could enjoy the day in its entirety and take happy, fun-filled memories back home.
Space enthusiasts were not disappointed either, as university students displayed their innovative take on micro-gravity simulators, robotic manipulators and refractor telescopes. Projects relating to phases of the moon and unmanned aerial systems were also presented.
Hakim Awan, from the Institute of Space and Planetary Astrophysics at the University of Karachi, was especially eager to demonstrate the significance of the work that his group had accomplished.
"In the telescope we built, we used a convex lens capable of magnifying up to 10 times, enough to detect the famous spots on the sun,” he said. “We also take advantage of the Ds9 astronomical image processing software for enhancing pictures in order to extract information about energy levels from them. This telescope was featured this year in the National Space Science Conference," Awan explained.
"My group is currently working on developing an Armature Radio Telescope (1.4 Ghz) as well, which can detect nearby galaxies. Using a simple dish antenna, we are close to perfecting our design,” he disclosed.
“If we succeed, this will be the first radio telescope manufactured in Pakistan, a proud and historic moment for all of us," he added.
Awan's was a familiar story. Everywhere you looked, students were eager to explain to visitors the science behind developing telescopes and micro-gravity experiments.
"It is crucial that science fairs like this are held every year. The public needs this and the children need this too," a parent said.
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The organisers had arranged a water rocket competition for students wanting to adapt their engineering skills for applications in aeronautics and aerodynamics. As part of this initiative, there was a glider contest as well. Intending to demonstrate the general principles of physics, dozens of schools registered and took part in the competition.
The celebrations of World Space Week are far from over. Suparco has arranged a declamation and space vocabulary contest at its headquarters today and tomorrow. The Pakistan International Airlines Planetarium is also holding daily sky simulation shows and lectures, which will run tomorrow.
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