Overview of the project (2015)

Project leader: Jose Peña, jhpena@astro.unam.mx
Location: Tonanzintla, Mexico
Target group: Latin American physics and astronomy undergraduate students

Project description:
The Latin American School of Observational Astronomy is a short course at the observatory in Tonanzintla, Mexico dedicated to undergraduate-level students from Latin America. The School was originally conceived to help Central American and other Latin American students interested in astronomy to learn the basics, which would permit them to either continue their studies in astronomy or to share the knowledge gained with other students.

There are practically no astronomers in these countries who can help develop new talents and there are observatories in some of these countries (Honduras, Colombia and Nicaragua), but there are no trained astronomers to use them for scientific research.

The purpose is to support a project developed and currently functioning in Mexico, which has the express purpose of facilitating the growth of astronomy in Central and South America. The project leaders hope that by planting the seed of interest, astronomy will begin to flourish in Latin America.

Tonanzintla was chosen to take advantage of the National University’s 1m telescope and, due to climate constraints, the three-week theoretical course with daily observational experience is offered in the month of January. Professors from universities throughout Mexico are invited to give lectures and students observe nightly, practicing the new techniques they have learned. Since its inception 66 students have taken the course and many are now in graduate courses across the world.

About the project leader:
Jose H. Pena has been a researcher at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico for 40 years. He is an observational astronomer who has published 87 articles, 20 of which with students.