Nestled on the slope of Mount Aragats in the Aragatsotn Region, the Byurakan Observatory was founded in 1946 by scientist and academic Doctor Viktor Hambardzumyan.

For the past four years FAR has cooperated with Byurakan through a partnership that has brought schoolchildren to the observatory during their vacation to explore its many facilities, interact with local researchers, observe the sky through the telescope, and also do some nearby trekking.

Students come from 15 communities in the Berd Region of Tavush Province (and one of Armenia’s poorest) where FAR through its Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP)* organizes an essay competition each year on the theme of “My Universe.” Students between the 8th and 12th grades compete and the winners are awarded with the prize of a trip to Byurakan.

Arthur Udumyan, 16, from Choratan Village and one of this year’s 15 winners, recently had the chance to make his dream come true through creativity and hard work. He joined the group of “young astronomers” and headed to the Byurakan Observatory from July 18-20. “When I was a five-year-old boy I would always lie on the grass and observe the sky and the stars,” said Arthur. “I wanted to become a scientist and explore the stars. When I learned that I won the essay competition I jumped for joy.”

“When we approached the Byurakan Observatory the emblematic astronomy tower immediately sparked our interest. I wanted to dig deeper into its history, to develop my knowledge on science and physics. Maybe I’ll become a famous astronomer in the future. Who knows?” smiled Inesa Avagyan, 14 from Verin Karmir Aghbyur. “Seeing the sky through the small telescope has left an incredible impression on me.”

At the Byurakan Observatory Museum, winners were intrigued to watch a documentary about renowned Armenian scientist and astronomer Dr. Hambardzumyan and to listen to the lectures delivered by Byurakan Observatory Director Areg Mickaelian and Deputy Director Hayk Harutyunyan. The children also enjoyed a tour of the gorgeous fortress of Amberd, Saghmosavank and Ohanavank Monasteries.

“This extra-curricular activity aims to not only fill the children’s vacation in a meaningful way but to also broaden their knowledge on particular subjects,” said FAR Education and Science Programs Manager Eduard Karapetyan at the award ceremony on July 19th, during which all winners were given certificates and encyclopedias. Some of the winners were thrilled to read their essays aloud, spreading their messages of persistence and passion. “It was really very impressive to see how enthusiastic the schoolchildren were at the event.”

Sponsored by the Edward and Helen Mardigian Foundation, Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) is a multidimensional FAR project that also addresses child poverty in the region of Tavush.