A National Observatory in Gunung Timau, Amfoang Tengah, Kupang-Nusa Tenggara Timur will be built by the Indonesian government. To construct a mutualistic symbiosis between prospective astronomical observatory and its surrounding community, the astronomers of Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) and Indonesian Institute for Energy Economics (IIEE) with funding from International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), are implementing a project with the goal of thriving villages and a successful observatory.
Two activities of the project are Human Capacity Building with programs on empowering human resources (e.g. public officers training) and strengthening school (e.g. teachers training), and Managing Sustainable Resources with programs on fulfilling primary needs (water and energy), by education of STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) knowledge and skill.
On May 20th and 21th 2016, the team from ITB, IIEE and also LAPAN (Lembaga Penerbangan dan Antariksa Nasional) conducted a series of field activities in Amfoang Tengah-Kupang. The first activity were a Seminar on Community Development and Astronomical Observatory. The seminar was held in Amfoang Tengah church, featuring four Speakers including Prof. Thomas Djamaluddin (Head of LAPAN), Dr. Premana W. Premadi (ITB Astronomer), Ayub Titu Eki Ph.D (Bupati Kupang), and Dr. Frans Gana (Dean of FISIP Nusa Cendana University). The seminar was moderated by Mr. Apolos Natbais (Head of Amfoang Tengah District) and Dr. Mahesana Putra (Head of Bosscha Observatory).
Prof. T. Djamaluddin hopes that the observatory may provide benefits in the development of local communities through the astronomy tourism activities. Meanwhile Dr. Premana W Premadi presented the program of community empowerment through education, and Dean Dr. Frans Gana introduced his research results on the public response to the development plan of National Observatory in Amfoang Tengah and Science Center in Tilong area. The Bupati of Kupang, Mr Ayub Titu Eki Ph.D believes that Observatory and other related facilities would be beneficial for lives its citizen if they can prepare themselves in managing all support facilities to accept the tourist arrival while still maintaining the culture and values of local custom. He invited people to play an active role in protecting the environment of Amfoang sky to remain dark and not be affected by light pollution.
The second activity is Public Officer Training on Effective Management and Planning, which was attended by 19 representatives of the village and sub district apparatus. On this occasion, the IIEE team collected baseline conditions regarding knowledge and experience of participants in managing their village and sub-district. After discussion, each participant wrote plans and their expectations in managing rural communities. By knowing the baseline conditions of experience and knowledge of the village and sub-district apparatus as well as their plans and expectations, the team will be able to map out the problems faced and conduct capacity-building activities in accordance with what they need.
The third activity conducted is STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) Teacher Training, which targeted the teachers/educators from elementary school level into Senior high school in Amfoang Tengah. A total 23 participants attended the STEAM training. The program focused on fulfilling primary needs (water and energy) which have been a prolonged problem for Amfoang Tengah. This is due to the fact that Amfoang tengah has a longer dry than wet season, therefore people have to walk quite a distance to get water. Furthermore, this area has not been served by electricity grid from PLN, thus most people use wall lamp with kerosene and solar panel for their electricity needs.
To overcome this problem, the team introduced simple technology such as Stormwater runoff solution by reaping the rainwater that falls onto the roof of the house and rain garden construction. Renewable energy technology for rural area such as solar and wind are also introduced. For individual houses, the team introduced “bottle of light” technology, which is adapted from the Philippines’ “Solar of Light”.
Lastly, Astronomy Public Nights were conducted in order to enhance community engagement with national observatory. In this occasion, the public were invited to see and observe celestial objects using a telescope, such as the star and planets (Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). The communities took great interest in this activity. The astronomers of ITB also took the chance to explain the importance of keeping Amfoang sky from exposure of light pollution.