New Academic Observatory Opens in Managua

Named in honor of legendary NASA astronaut, Neil Armstrong, a new observatory was recently inaugurated at the Pierre & Marie Curie high school in Managua. International astronomers, foreign dignitaries and government officials joined educators and students at the opening ceremony on February 22, 2013, where it was made known that, as the first observatory in Latin America dedicated to education, the observatory will be open to all schools and universities. The Neil Armstrong Observatory will be run by distinguished Nicaraguan scientist, Dr Jaime Incer.

With its powerful Orion telescope housed inside an impressive 15-foot dome, the observatory forms part of the school’s new science center, which includes new physics and chemistry laboratory facilities. The aim of the high-tech learning center is to encourage students to become curious and explore the marvels of science. Nicaragua is particularly suited to star-gazing because its skies are not polluted by city lights. Light pollution is defined as the introduction by humans of artificial light into the environment. In addition to interfering with astronomical observatories, excessive light pollution can disrupt certain ecosystems.

Among the guests at the opening of the observatory, were two members of the team of five Nicaraguan students who identified a new asteroid during the Astronomers Without Borders-sponsored Global Astronomy Month last year. Temporarily dubbed ‘2012 FE52’ the asteroid was traveling between Mars and Jupiter when discovered. If ‘2012 FE52’ maintains its orbit for five years it will receive a permanent name, which Othman Alkhuffash and Andrea Rodríguez, along with the other three members of the team, will have the honor of choosing.

In an interview reported by the Nicaragua Dispatch, Andrea Rodríguez expressed her hope that the new Neil Armstrong Observatory in Managua will spark a new interest in astronomy in Nicaragua, as now there is an opportunity to observe the night sky in a way that was never before possible.