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We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES Loving & Caring Each Other, YES Greatness in Humanity, YES Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
YES Great Dreams For Better Tomorrows, YES Emerging Positive Global Energy, YES National and Global Transparency, and YES Lighting Our Souls & Minds.

For the 7th Anniversary Issue
http://www.lightmillennium.org

Looking at Heavens From the Pearl in the Indian Ocean:
Web Based Telescope Controller that Accessible To All...
Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan's window to the universe", the biggest optical telescope in the Island housed at the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT) in Sri Lanka. A dual Interview with Dr. K.P.S. Chandana JAYARATNE, Consultant on Astronomy, ACCIMT & Senior Lecturer in Physics, University of Colombo & Saraj GUNASEKERA, Research Scientist, ACCIMT.

Interviews conducted by Light Millennium

Photo Credits: Light Millennium

Introduction:

The Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies was named after Sir Arthur C. Clarke in honor of his work that is also a resident in Sri Lanka. Light Millennium was very impressed with the Vision, Mission of the Institute as well as its overall accomplishments and ongoing projects which were reflected on the 3rd Anniversary of the Light Millennium: A Vision of Sri Lanka for Twenty-First Century.

Despite the major aftermath of tsunami and ongoing civil war between Tamils and Singhalese in Sri Lanka, institutions such ACCIMT and Sarvodaya Movement allow me to believe that Sri Lanka still contributes towards to peace within country, in the region, as well as globally via these inspiring Institutional and movements. Light Millennium revisited the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies in Moratowa, Sri Lanka on December 18, 2007, and conducted interviews as follow:. Interviews with Faleel IBRALEBBE, Head of Technical Division of ACC Institute for Modern Technologies; Dr. K.P.S. Chandana JAYARATNE, Consultant on Astronomy, Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies & Senior Lecturer in Physics, University of Colombo; Saraj GUNASEKERA, Research Scientist, Arthur C. Clarke Institute For Modern Technologies & Janaka ADASSURIYA, Research Scientist, Arthur C. Clarke Institute For Modern Technologies. To be recognized in the South Asian Region as a centre of excellence in modern technologies, inspired by Space Visionary Sir Arthur C Clarke.


Part - 1: Interview with Faleel IBRALEBBE, Head of Technical Division of ACC Institute for Modern Technologies.


Light Millennium (LM): How many years have you been working or in charge for this division?
Faleel Ibralebbe: I have been working in this institute for the last 2 years. I am mainly involved in the technical aspects of this Institute.

LM: Would you tell about your major accomplishment through Space Application Division?
F. Ibralebbe: Our Space Division is more to allow us to look upwards, we watch stars.  Here at the Space Application Division, we have some missions. For example, we are starting RSGIS, that is Remote Sensing, then we have a project to put our telescope on the Web so that you can see & use the telescope from anywhere in the world. That is the basic idea depending on the network connectivity. You will be able to see the pictures or there will be a storage where you can go and browse the pictures and other information. We did a good job in the Tsunami. When we were hit by the Tsunami, we did a small project to see the effects on our coastal areas-before Tsunami as well as after Tsunami.

LM: What do you consider the major contributions of the Space Application Division to people of Sri Lanka?
F. Ibralebbe: We take astronomy and educate Sri Lankans on the science of Astronomy. For example, we tell the general public the lightning, we do studies of the lightning.

LM: What do you find as the most interesting about lightning that you could share with the readers?
F. Ibralebbe: Let's say, people specially the farmers, they are in the field, all of a sudden, they get a thunderstorm. We educate them how to safeguard themselves. Now, some of their farming families, they go under a tree and they are more risk to attract by lightening under a tree. So, we advise them to go to a safer area where there is no a high tree.

LM: How did the Tsunami aftermath- in terms of growing process of the Institution, and also how did it affect your ongoing and developing projects and researches?
F. Ibralebbe: We have energy crisis here, what we are trying to do here is to substitute...

LM: Have you made a progress on Solar Energy? (Please see: A Vision of Sri Lanka for Twenty-First Century) http://www.lightmillennium.org/3rd_april_03/bu_accmt_interview.html)

F. Ibralebbe: A lot of progress we have made a lot of progress on that..

LM: Could you please explain it in more details?
F. Ibralebbe: We have made solar street lamps, now our street lightings we want to replace completely. Because, 131 Gig watts power on street lighting and we are subsidizing 4 units, I am not quite sure, say 10 units that we are subsiding. What we are trying to do is we will save this money by replacing the street lighting with solar lighting and saving some foreign currency for this country.

LM: So, when is this going to be realized?
F. Ibralebbe: We did already; the test systems are in place. If you go to the front side there is lamp, there is solar power. We are going to put, say the solar street lamps. Because in Sri Lanka, we have different weather conditions. If you go to the costal areas, you have bright sun. If you go to the central part of the country, it is the hill country where the sunlight may not be that good. So, we have made few systems and we are going to find out which parameters will be suitable for those areas. Now, talking to the energy conservation fund, Sloan Electricity, and very sub institutions, Remote Digital (RD). For example, development authority, we will help out them, we are trying to do so... Once we get those results, we will be finalizing the project. Most likely, within the next 6 months, we should be able to finish this project.. Apart from that now we have another national level project. That is called, Digital Energy Meters. Now, we have the Sloan Electricity Board, normally they use the analog meters. With analog metering, they have problems in remote areas for example. They have to send somebody for each meter. The cost of the analog meters for CED will be eliminated with the Digital Energy Meters project.

LM: What is CED?
F. Ibralebbe: Celeon Electricity Board. What we are doing now is to network these meters, wireless networking and the metering is digital, non-analog meter. So, the digital meters what we are trying to do is, we will be able to recode the consumption patterns say from 6 to 10, 10 to 12, on an hourly basis and we are trying to give the CED with a kind of information base that will be very useful for them to optimize their resources. So, they have Diesel generation of how much exactly the demand is. And we are also trying to change this consumption per ton with our solar energy replacements. We have now street lamps. In the future, we will have some houses as well. We are not concentrating at the moment on houses, because other companies, they have been successful to a certain extent. But we are trying to enhance it. And may be in the future, what we are trying is, we will be pumping energy to the national grid as well. Say, solar house, they have energy, surplus energy. They can generate 10 Kilowatts but they utilize only 1 kilowatt. So, 9 kilowatt can go into the grid. For that kind of utilization you need information. So with this digital metering, we will be able to provide that kind of information into the CED consumption database. Then, another project, something similar is watersupply port we are rafinating. They also have metering problems. We are trying to solve it almost the same kind of technology but information is different.

LM: What are the next 5 years' projects?
F. Ibralebbe: Next 5 years, we are planning to this RSGIS technology which is called, Remote Sensing Geographical Information System (RSGIS). Actually we are working with the. National Surveying department. We want to put a new high way. Now, in the future, we will be giving the right kind of route, we should chase for this role. Then water.

LM: Actually, you have the most rain and you have the water problem. I don't understand it!
F. Ibralebbe: Yes. We want to solve that by giving the right kind of information to the right authorities and parties. Let's say, they want to dig a well or they want to tap the water or may be in the future, they will look forwards to the ACC Institute. So, that is the kind of technology that we are developing now.  We have already setup our lab to a certain extent. We are getting the computers and other gears. But, in the future, may be another, next year, we will have the necessity facilities here.

LM: How many staff do you have in the Space Applications?
F. Ibralebbe: Currently, we have 10 staff in the Space Application and for the other areas I think we are talking about 3 experts. They work as consultants and we will be getting our engineers and our research stuff under .. as inventory requirements of the Institution. But we are trying to work on the project basis. The funding will come from the various private parties as well. We have a kind of funding but it will be very minimum.

* * * * *

Part II - Dual Interview with Dr. K.P.S. Chandana JAYARATNE, Consultant on Astronomy, Arthur C. Clarke Institute For Modern Technologies & Senior Lecturer in Physics, University of Colombo & Saraj GUNASEKERA, Research Scientist, Arthur C. Clarke Institute For Modern Technologies.

Dr. K.P.S. Chandana JAYARATNE (left), Saraj GUNASEKERA (right)



Light Millennium: When did the Space Application Division form?
Dr. Chandana JAYARATNE: Soon after installation of the telescope. We can say it in 1996.

LM: Since 1996, with the help of this telescope, what are the major, basic, the most essential scientific facts, information you gathered from the telescopes?
Saraj GUNASEKERA: Since 2002 we have been publishing scientific papers. You have seen some data gathered with this telescope.

LM: What is it called?
S. GUNASEKERA: We have observed galaxies, variable stars and Be stars. Be stars are very interesting to study as they shows emission lines in their spectra. We have made publications from out comes of these studies.

LM: Your own publication?
S. GUNASEKERA: Yes.

LM: What is your publication's name?
S. GUNASEKERA: There are about 6 publications we have made so far. One is “ Spectrometric Study of Stellar Objects”. The second one is “ Spectrometric Study of Stellar Objects with Special Attention to Galaxies and Nebulae, etc. Actually, in some of our research work, we were able to find some new stuff also. Recently we did some research work on Be stars. These stars are fast rotating objects and shows emission lines in their spectra. We observed several Be stars in the wavelength region of Hydrogen Alpha using our telescope and spectrograpgh. We were able to found some changes in their emission line profiles. We were also able to find some correlation between various profile parameters.

LM: What are their specialties that you recently found, or what are those new findings?
Dr. K.P.S. Chandana JAYARATNE: Newly now, actually this is highly technical. It is somewhat difficult to explain. There is a secular or elliptical disc around Be-stars. This consists of mainly Hydrogen and Helium gas. So, we have found some properties, some new properties of those elliptical discs of one of our observed Be-stars. So, it is a new thing. Still we are, we intend to continue our research on that particular property, focusing, emphasizing that particular property. Likewise there are lot things. A lot of new things you can find when you observe, when you get data from different stars.  

LM: How do you reflect those data into your daily base research at the ACC Institute for Modern Technologies?
Dr. JAYARATNE: Now, it is like this, we can contribute the enhancement of the science by, with our new findings. So, we can contribute in a way, we can contribute to the development of science in the world.

LM: With sharing?
Dr. JAYARATNE: Sharing, yes. And, it is beneficial to Sri Lanka as well as the world.

LM: Since 1996, is there any finding that let you, institution or Sri Lanka, to turn as an actual product or to develop a certain product for daily life, daily need? For instance, how digital cameras developed? How satellites developed the cell phone, Internet. So, I would like to find out if there is a, or let's say, you have some findings that might lead to such daily practical product that all be good for all, something in this line?


Jupiter,photo taken via ACCIMT's Telescope, Sri Lanka Saturn, photo taken via ACCIMT's Telescope, Sri Lanka

"Astronomy is considered as the most fundamental science of all sciences."
"In [another] 10 years you will see a boom, a scientific boom in the country."

Dr. JAYARATNE:
Well, this is a question that even NASA is facing and they have Apollo 17 program, because of this question. Apollo 17 was not sent because they thought that it is a lot of money and nothing coming out. And, it is the same question that you are asking to us. In astronomy, actually, I would say, at the moment no. Because there is, astronomy is they have to develop the knowledge and astronomy is considered as the most fundamental science of all sciences. And it contains the six such as mathematics, chemistry, then biology, physic, everything is there. So, in a country like Sri Lanka where we don’t have laboratory facilities for remote, in schools, the astronomy or the night skies is the best laboratory that we have. So, in that respect I would say, we have put the astronomy to the curricula of school education and there is a tremendous interest to study astronomy at the school level and those who are not having the access to the laboratories or to such practical things. The nightly sky is there, because whatever the subject, knowing through astronomy you can go to that direction within the six. So, they are quite all see that is the benefit that the student got. Because there are astronomy clubs in most of the schools and the enthusiasm to learn science was developed through astronomy and the impact is in direct impact, let’s say in another 10 years you will see a boom, a scientific boom in the country.


"Sri Lankan window to the Universe"

LM - Would you elaborate on your definition on the biggest telescope in Sri Lanka: "Sri Lankan window to the Universe"?
Dr. JAYARATNE: It is a big, and the oldest in the country. Oldest and the biggest. We have actually the oldest astronomy dome in the Union City ground. It was used to discover mass and there are some planets named after the telescope. But that is old. The University of Colombo’s telescope, which came more than 100 years old. And this was the ground to a need for the new one. In 1996, a new one was installed and this became the biggest telescope until such time, which is a gift from the Japanese Government at that time.

LM: You are the installer of the telescopes?
Dr. JAYARATNE: No, no. This type of telescopes are also available in some other countries as well as a network, that is in the Island, Egypt and Hawaii. You know that it is a network in the world that is rotated any time you look at the sky or asteroid is passing by and as you are aware that is protecting the world from incoming asteroids. That is one of the, you know, applications of astronomy for the sake of mankind. So, therefore, this telescope force is meant for actually to detect asteroids in addition to the other astronomical observations in wide. So, this is of being support of all telescopes where you have this sort telescopes within the same orbit but in different time of the day. And in this case though there are other telescopes in the northern hemisphere of the world, southern hemisphere, basically, you know, under-developed part also, so there are very few. So, in this respect, the Sri Lankan one is very important. Because, from Sri Lanka up to the Antarctica there are not other telescopes, so it is a huge one in the Indian Ocean. Completely, you know, so they are to observe southern hemisphere still objects. Our telescope is very important one. But, for the northern hemisphere, India is having much bigger telescopes than this. So for example, let me explain that, now if an asteroid is detected, then first of all, we have to decide this part and to see if it will hit, and all those related things follow. So, these things let’s say in the USA, they are observing it. And when you observe continuously, when it comes to daytime to the America, the Sri Lanka is exactly 180 degrees opposite to the USA. So in such context, we have to take over and to provide data for that particular object which is moving. So, we have that capacity now. In case they start this thing and they have to do any sort of mapping of this thing then we can do. So mapping of such asteroids, potentially they are asteroids, saving of mankind, this telescope has a major role, because our location is unique and that is why actually now that we have made this telescope Web Based Control program. Anybody in the world that is outside can automatically control it on the Internet, and they can take data in without being here.

LM:  So, it is a sort of publicly available source of information.
Dr. JAYARATNE: Not only sharing information, but they also can take the data from here without our daytime team.

LM: So, they will have direct access.
Dr. JAYARATNE: Yes.

LM: Then let's say in America or from any other country anyone could have access anytime whenever they wish?
Dr. JAYARATNE: That is what we have recently developed as the Web Based Control Telescope technology based in at the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies in Sri Lanka.

LM: When will it available to all interested parties?
S. GUNASEKERA: Actually it is being done. We are going to publish it, may be possibly in 2007.
Dr. JAYARATNE: You know, the technology is developed now.

LM: What is that technology? What is its name?
S. GUNASEKERA: That is Telescope Controller

LM : Then do you think that one major asteroid could be detected before hitting of earth, and could be change its direction based on your scientific research & observation. Can you elaborate on that?
Dr. JAYARATNE: Not within this. The asteroids so far that has been discovered in the world, the major catastrophe will not be taken for sure not within this period but there are new ones coming and those are, in some cases we detect them, they are just pass the earth only. So, therefore, the technology is not so developed as you think of in this particular area. So, we cannot say the scientists use separate, it needs another twenty years, to develop this technology and to come into sort of 100% prevention, and you have to detect it and destroy it. This capacity will take another 20 years but it is not a single effort, it is an international effort actually. Everybody has to collaborate.

LM: Yes. You also said that, there are other applications. What are the other applications under the space applications at the ACC Institute for Modern Technologies?
Dr. JAYARATNE: In addition to this asteroid observation, the telescope can be used for scientific research.

LM: Such!
Dr. JAYARATNE: Such as observing … We have all the instruments like photometer, spectrometer, etc. So, you can do whatsoever the observation that any other person in any other country is doing. But, basically, our targets are, there are undiscovered or characteristics of certain variable stars, etc., in the southern part of the hemisphere.   So, for those things, we can actually use in this telescope. Also, there are lots of things to discover and we should not do it ourselves but anybody else if they want to do it. Now, they have the capability because of this Web Based Control access.

LM: OK, let's say, telescope has mainly established for observing, detecting asteroids’, and its hitting the earth risks, but also what are other usage and benefits of it?
Dr. JAYARATNE: Astronomic observations…

LM: What are other main divisions under the ACC Institute for Modern Technologies?
S. GUNASEKERA: Space Application Division is one of the divisions in Arthur C Clarke Institute. So, other divisions are Electronic division, Communication division and IT division and the Industrial Relation Service division. So, Space Application division is one of them.
Dr. JAYARATNE:  Our main role is to promote and to do astronomical research here. Although Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographical Information System (GIS), that is RSGIS.

LM: Would you please just briefly define us what is RSGIS? Just as a definition.
Dr. JAYARATNE: Basically, as you know, even astronomy needs a remote… because we don’t go to the star and get information. We get information from the light emitted from those. But here, in S.A.D. we have another division, which is called RSGIS (Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System). So, of course, we are now developing, still, we are in this particular case. Remote sensing means that taking the information from distance, I mean, let’s say from a satellite that we have done some research. Before the Tsunami and after the Tsunami, we have taken satellite pictures of certain parts of the country and you have seen the GIS techniques. We estimated the damage of the houses and other information like the coastline safety belt. These all can be estimated through satellite pictures. So, that is one part of, one section of this space application division. Basically, two: One is Astronomy, the other one is RSGIS.


"Telescope is looking up, satellites are looking down."

Be Stars Spectra, Photo Credit:: ACCIMT, Sri Lanka

LM: OK, now, since you mentioned the Tsunami and I know that still anything comes a year that is the circulation effect. So, it is obvious that you haven’t detected in time. But, is this telescope has that capacity or added another capacity after the Tsunami that if anything happens after Tsunami are you going to be able to detect it early enough, and then at least warn people ahead of its time? Does it have that kind of capacity? For instance, some of the satellites I aware of that they are capable to detect from the waves or clouds what is coming up?
Dr. JAYARATNE: The telescope has nothing to do with this RS & GIS section. That is completely different system. Telescope is astronomy and satellite, that is space science, but not related with astronomy. Telescope is looking up, satellites are looking down.

LM: This is a great summary.
Dr. JAYARATNE: So, they are of course another application steps. You can develop the technology to digitize the world, the Sri Lankan map and put typing depths and then all those things can be indicated on it. For example, those are some applications actually, but more applicable to the general public whereas astronomy is not considered as a subject where you are. But it is for the development of scientific knowledge and indicates that there are a lot of them they are like this Moon landing has given us a lot of items.

LM: What about Opportunity and Spirit's data from Mars? In some way, do you able to benefit from those data?
Dr. JAYARATNE: I don't think we should talk that thing with this scope, may be later we can discuss about Mars. We are not in orbit they are in! But, of course, there are some Sri Lankans in developing certain fictions of Mars. Actually the problem is now we have to get information from other satellites and we tried this in Tsunami research and we couldn't find two pictures just before Tsunami, and just after Tsunami. And actually one certain part of the country, it was 1-year difference. Therefore, you cannot say, let’s say, Tsunami was on July 2004 and satellite picture can be 4-5 months later on that particular radiant. If we do not have our own satellites for our country, we cannot use Remote Sensing in a meaningful way on certain applications. Now, actually, we have to limit our attention to launch satellite test.

LM: When do you expect to launch one?
Dr. JAYARATNE: It is a long way to go in order to launch a satellite.. But, one day we have to do it! At the moment, we have to take data from India, from other countries and there are a lot of restrictions due to military problems.  Actually the person who is the innovator of Satellite Communication system, Sir Arthur C. Clarke lives in here (Sri Lanka), and this Institute is under His name. But, we actually do not have the capability yet to launch our own satellite. So, that is a pity.

LM: So, I suppose, that is also your dream to launch your own satellite. What is the most realistic duration to realize that dream? For instance: Turkey has one.
Dr. JAYARATNE: Well, most of the countries they do have. Because, well, in that case, I will say that our politicians, they, perhaps do not have the courage to think about it! Because, they think it is very expensive. But, on the contrary, they have made some negotiations within some scientists within the U.S. And, now they are going to spend on satellite for us. We have to share data with them. They have this agreement. So, this is even under UN collaboration. This is now, you know, emergency and we also discuss it UK scientists to develop some of satellite components for them so that, you know, to start somewhere. I mean, you have to start launching the satellite, you have to start from somewhere, and you have to start from smaller things like probes, development of probes and then the whole satellite. So, we have to, we discussed with Indian Space research Institute and there are people to launch this force actually if we develop. So, we are trying various approaches but it is at the baby stage now I would say, you have to get government approval also.

LM: What is your projection to realize that stage? Let's say 2 years, 3 years from this point on?
Dr. JAYARATNE: It will be 15 to 20 years I would say. Yes, in any case, to start it even in India the same time period.

LM: So, you have already started!
Dr. JAYARATNE: Yes.

LM: Let's go back to the Web Based Telescope Controller project. How did it develop?
S. GUNASEKERA: As you know, now when you want to observe through a telescope, you should be in front of the telescope. So, normally, at a time, one observer does the observation through a telescope. So, we were thinking of sharing information, sharing astronomical data with other colleagues as well as foreign astronomers. So, we are in the phase of developing a web based telescope controller where you can control the telescope through the Web. First, you have to login to our web site.

LM: Can anyone login?
S. GUNASEKERA: First, you should be registered.

LM: Is it going to be with a fee based?
S. GUNASEKERA
: Yes, you have to pay some amount, nominal fee, and first you have to be authorized user. Once you get registered at our Web site, then you are an authorized user. So, then you will be allocated some time frame where you can do your observation from your location. I mean, if you are in America, now, it is evening there but it is daytime for us, here.

LM:  What is your main expectations from this new application?
S. GUNASEKERA: Web based telescope controller is meant for controlling a telescope from a remote location. So, any user can control this telescope while sitting in front of his/her computer. For example, a user from America can control this telescope through Internet. First, he has to get registered at our web site. May be he/she has to pay some nominal fee, but we haven’t fixed it yet. We haven’t made any criteria yet to decide how much he/she is going to pay but at the end of this project we are going to fix the fees and all relevant information, which will be available on our web site.

LM: What about the requirements or capacity of the computer?
S. GUNASEKERA: If you have normal Internet facility in your computer, you will be able to control

LM: From any computer with an Internet access?
S. GUNASEKERA: Yes

LM: Even through dial-up modem!
S. GUNASEKERA: If you have it, yes. The main need is to have an Internet connection on any computer?

LM: That is it? Just to connect to Internet will allow me to control your telescope?
S. GUNASEKERA: You should have the connectivity, and then you can login to our site.

LM: So, anyone can login anywhere, any part of the world if they have a connection even though, let’s say, and can I connect from an Internet cafe?
S. GUNASEKERA: Yes, you can. Just to give the simplicity. You have to get the time allocation. That is the main fact. You have to first get a time allocation because there will be a lot of users. We will allocate time slots on first come first served basis. So, once you get your time allocation, you are allowed to control the telescope while sitting in front of your computer.

LM: So, it is going to be kind of in an order or line-up. Not everyone can login at the same time!
S. GUNASEKERA: No. At a time only one user can control the telescope.

Dr. JAYARATNE: Can I interrupt for a moment? It may not easy to control it each time once an authorized user logged in. Because this telescope is very expensive one. If there is rain here, the person on the other end may not know that there is rain. It will automatically open the telescope power and the roof will be moved, once they log in into the computer from the US or any other country, accordingly the telescope will go up and it will check the weather condition. If there is rain coming, there is rain detector on it, automatically will shut down the roof and the telescope will become into the rest down position. So, this telescope has those capabilities as well. So, this is very complicated program and teamwork. If weather is OK, then it will move up, and allow to access it o observe to any star or any planet from America in Sri Lanka’s sky. I mean, this is very important because a person in the States, he/she can control simultaneously the telescope in the other part of the sky. This is, I consider that an opportunity to all interested users.

LM: So, is this a collaborated project? If it is so, who are the partners of it? (Web Based Telescope Controller)
S. GUNASEKERA: Actually this is the first time such a project available in Sri Lanka. In the world, there are several telescopes available for other remote users. In America, they have and I think in Europe also they have. In Japan, also they have. But in Sri Lanka, this is the first time that we developed such a system to make available the telescope to general public and other users.

LM:  That is wonderful!
S. GUNASEKERA:
Those telescopes in other countries, it is very difficult to get the time. Because, there are so many registered scientists. They will be a queue inside their country. Whereas, here in Sri Lanka, of course we do research but the access is very easy. And also, our manpower is not so expensive, it is very cheap. That is, in southern hemisphere, yet unexplored, and there are most of the objects in southern hemisphere, anybody can observe.


LM: I would like to get all the updates when you have launched and promote it. Because, this is a great news to share with others. When it is going to be launched and available for potential users Worldwide?

S. GUNASEKERA: I must say now, being a developing country in Sri Lanka, we have a lot of poor students, poor people. They are very poor, they cannot afford to buy a new telescope or they don’t have money to have their own telescope. Once we publish this program and make it available on the Web to access to the telescope, any poor young students, and mature who are interested in space and astronomy within Sri Lanka and any part of the world, they will be able to access and control it. Because it is open to everybody.

LM: This is the best news I ever heard since I came to Sri Lanka this year. What are the other expected beneficiaries of this whole program and what will be its next steps?
S. GUNASEKERA: When they publish something using this data, naturally they will have to say the type of the telescope and where the data was collected. So, that is all actually. The acknowledgement will be there. So, other than that and for that purpose, during the last 5 years period, actually, we spent all our time on calibrating the instruments of this telescope and we have published several research papers. We have started Be types of stars and then galaxies and the expansion of the universe and all these things and compared them with internationally recognized observatories and those data and they were precisely the same. So, that guarantee has been done so we have actually gradually come in this process this far. After the commissioning, we already done research in other countries, and said that this telescope is capable of these things. With this particular accuracy, now is the next step is anybody can use it. Because they don’t have to come and see the calibration of it. <Please visit for updates about the Web Based Telescope Controller project on the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies’ Web site: http://www.accimt.ac.lk/>

LM: I consider that this is sort of a "revolution" that space observation will be available to public in local level in Sri Lanka as well as in global level on the Web?
Dr. JAYARATNE: Yes, we can say so… Only one thing that everyone has to work on it, you know, one after another, only one at a time. Otherwise, data without any calibration has no use. So, therefore, an international research has to be conducted. You have to calibrate the instrument, and those things we have done and said that it is public in Sri Lanka and in other countries.

LM: The scientists, astronomers, when they sign on, they most likely will know what to do. In particular for kids and teens those reflect interest in relation to space issues, how could those young potentials be thought and instructed to calibrate the telescope from other parts of the world on the Web, and enabling them to look stars? In another word, is there going to be an instruction or guideline on your Web site for those potential kids and youth?
Dr. JAYARATNE: Now, for this purpose within Sri Lanka we have a special program. That is 6-day residential workshop on astronomy, which is open for students. These students are from 15 to 21 years old category. They will be taken here day and night …they may have a residential place and trained how to use this telescope for spectrometric studies and for …studies, and also basic astronomy. And in that perspective Sri Lanka is also covered for those who are beginners. And we have another course for the adults, certificate course on astronomy that is 6 months school version. And we train them also...

LM: Is that just free to all interested students and adults or fee based training courses or workshops?
Dr. JAYARATNE: It is actually paid workshops but scholarships will be given to poor students.

LM: For instance, 6 months for adults and for the students, how much is it?
Dr. JAYARATNE:
6000 rupees (~$600) is for the special workshop, and actually they receive a certificate.

LM: That is for 6 days or 6 months?
Dr. JAYARATNE: 6 days one. Full days, full time

LM: Full?
Dr. JAYARATNE: Night also.

LM: Night and day, 6 days, residential for students, 6000 rupees, there will be available scholarship for poor. What about the adults for 6 months?
Dr. JAYARATNE: That is 12000 rupees (~$1200).

LM: 6 months?
Dr. JAYARATNE: No that is weekends only. 6 months duration but weekends only. And that is in project as well. Astronomy project.

LM: For instance, if I could manage to register and attend the 6-month program for adults, how could I apply for it? Or, if someone wants to come here for this purpose, is your program open to international participations and what type of visa will be required?
Dr. JAYARATNE: Of course, this particular workshop, we have to first cater to our nation. So, people from India and other countries, they do have their own telescopes and astronomy courses. So, anybody who will come here will come to gather data rather than to learn. So, may be in future, we will consider about those things like online courses on astronomy, something like that. Of course we have to be keen about developing a course jointly with Colombo University "Master of Science in Astronomy". That will be our next stage, and where we can extend it even for Web based degree program and like that. So, that is our next stage. At the moment, also, we have done a lot of research for undergraduate students through this telescope, basically, from Colombo University special degree students, and also some come from India. So, there is this collaboration with universities.

LM: Thank you so much.

-- To be continue... 
Part 3 - Interview with Janaka ADASSURIYA, ACC Institute for Modern Technologies, on the Space Awareness Program will be e-published in the next issue.

The interview transcribed by: Aysel Toprakli
Special Thanks to: Ayca Bahce


* * * * *   

Mission of the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies:
ACCIMT endeavor is to improve quality of life of our people with the help of modern technologies, research and development, and will collaborate in national capability development through:
    * Industry-Institute partnerships
    * Research and Development
    * Enhancing technological know-how in related areas
    * Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities
    * Inputs for industrial development and educational reforms

A Brief History of the Arthur C. Clarke Institute For Modern Technologies:
(Abstracted from the brochure of the ACCIMT)
The Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT) was established in 1984 by an Act of Parliament to accelerate the process of introduction and development of modern technologies in the fields of Communications, Computers, Energy, Space Technologies and Robotics through the provision of training and research facilities. Basic infrastructure was established in 1986 and the technical activities commenced in early 1987. Today the center is actively involved in the areas of communications, computers, and applications of microelectronics where a team of electronic engineers and other related professionals are working towards self reliance in the areas related to modern technologies. (Source: ACCIMT brochure)


More on the Light Millennium:

- A Vision of Sri Lanka for Twenty-First Century - April 2003
http://www.lightmillennium.org/3rd_april_03/bu_accmt_interview.html


For more information:

Web Site: http://www.accimt.ac.lk/
E-mail: info@accmt.ac.lk /or moditha@accmt.ac.lk

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