by Kodai Fukushima
Affiliation: Hosei University, NAOJ star party staff
Keywords: Earthquake, Stargazing, Disaster relief
The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11th, 2011 wreaked enormous damage on Japan. I took part in the disaster relief activities that followed. Doing so, I realized that stars‐studded in the sky without town lights were very impressive. In the Tohoku areas affected by the earthquake, I decided to introduce people to the joys of exploring the night sky with an astronomical telescope. The response was incredible.
Earthquake Struck Japan
On March 11, 2011, the greatest earthquake on record struck Japan. At that time, I was at home with my family. That day has gradually changing the meaning of astronomy for me.
Disaster Relief Activities
At that time I was a college freshman. I took part in disaster relief activities and stayed in Ishinomaki City, Iwate Prefecture for four days. During my stay in Ishinomaki City, I was shoveling earth and sand away. But at night, I realized that stars‐studded in the sky without town lights were very impressive, and it suddenly occurred to me that a starry sky can soothe the hurt emotions of people. I decided to try to help people not just with a shovel but with an astronomical telescope in the Tohoku areas affected by the earthquake.
I realized that I would need some experience in order to pursue this goal. So I acquired some experience as a volunteer guide staff at stargazing parties held in other places including elementary schools, junior high school, residential streets, and the roofs of local high rise buildings. Conveying the fun of astronomy to everyone from children to adults was very hard but it is a great learning experience for me.
Then I got started on my project proposal of holding stargazing parties in disaster affected communities based on this experience. I gave a presentation to a disaster relief group undertaking activities in Hisanohama City, Fukushima Prefecture.
They liked my idea and said that they would help me deliver this project in the areas they were working in. They introduced me to an elementary school in Hisanohama city and finally on February 16, I held the main event called February Sky there. Many people from the town and pupils from the local elementary school, took part in the event. I introduced everybody to the joy of exploring the night sky in winter. They were able to see the moon through a real astronomical telescope and identify the constellations Orion and Sirius, as well as the International Space Station with the naked eye. One participant commented that seeing so many people enjoy staring the starry sky gave her courage to move on. I was very touched by this and felt a genuine sense of accomplishment.
My Challenge has just Begun
I am now developing my next plans, to introduce the joys of star gazing to other people who I feel will be benefited such as those in nursing homes, persons with disabilities, and in developing countries. My dream is to implement my astronomy outreach project all over the world and prove that the starry sky can help all people in difficult circumstances feel a small amount of joy in their life. I am looking forward to seeing many places of the world, meeting many people all over the world, and contributing to the development of astronomy outreach. This challenge has just begun.