Fifteen young winners of an essay competition organized by FAR and the Armenian Astronomical Society recently visited the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO). The young competitors (grades eight to 12) had written on the topic of “My Universe” and their prize was a two-day journey that gave them a closer look into the world of physics.

The essay competition was organized in September in the communities covered in our Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP), a program that partially focuses on improving education and extra-curricular activities for children, teenagers and youth in Armenia’s border province of Tavush.

During their stay students learned how the observatory operates. They examined the universe and stars through one of the small telescopes of the observatory and met with its Director Hayk Harutyunyan. They also visited the museum of world-famous astrophysicist Victor Hambardzumyan, which is located on the observatory grounds where Hambardzumyan used to live. They also visited the historic fortress of Amberd which is very close to the observatory.

“This unique and unforgettable trip for the children was largely possible thanks to the co-chair of the Armenian Astronomical Society Dr. Areg Mikaelian, who initiated the essay competition,” said Edik Karapetyan, FAR’s Science and Education Programs Manager. Earlier this year, Dr. Mikaelian conducted a one-day training called Our Understanding of the Universe in Tavush for high performing students and teachers of physics and astronomy. He also made a nice surprise for students in some villages of the Berd Region at the start of the new school-year when he presented them with new school bags filled with supplies.

During this visit, Dr. Mikaelian lead discussions with students on some of the issues of modern astronomy, as well as conducted a Q&A session using astronomy riddles.

“Students were very happy and satisfied. During our return trip, enriched with precious knowledge, they promised to transfer what they learned to their friends, to share their experiences and secrets of the universe,” said Ani Papayan, a social worker at FAR’s Berd Office who accompanied the students.

The trip was made possible thanks to a longstanding cooperation between FAR, BAO, and the Armenian Astronomical Society, which, among other things, has been instrumental in carrying out such activities as the Byurakan Science Camp.