2006 ASP Annual Award Recipients
Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award
Asghar Kabiri is a teacher in Sa'adat-shahr, a small rural town in the Fars Province in southern Iran, about 400 miles south or Tehran, a type of town to be found throughout the world, off the main roads and quite isolated in appearance to the rest of "civilization." But this is an astronomy town, one with a community wide passion for astronomy and for astronomy education, truly unique. Kabiri has brought this amazing creation to life since 1991.
He introduced astronomy to his students, and to the whole town, organizing star parties, lectures, slide shows. The local imam even announces these events and as well as current events in the night sky. The town turns off all of its electricity during these star parties and for special events -- truly a way to cut light pollution to zero. He has helped the town to create its own observatory. Locals donated to create this facility, from teacher and construction workers to the local women selling their jewelry to raise funds for the construction.
He has been recognized not only in Iran but in the international press for his achievements. A national conference as held in the town in 2001, and since then his and the town's story has been told in articles in Iran and beyond, in an article for Mercury from example, in the Jan/Feb 2003 issue, by Michael Simmons, who has visited Iran on a number of occasions, and by Reuters, CNN (October 13, 2005 on CNN.com), Yahoo, AOL, and others. Several astronomers have visited the town, on the occasion of the transit of Venus in mid 2004, and were lavishly welcomed by the citizens with signs, and local events. A number of American amateur astronomers and clubs have donated to the town after hearing the story and in recognizing the tremendous accomplishments of Asghar Kabiri in bringing astronomy to the town and to Iran. He indeed has brought astronomy to the lives of children and the public, a model for others to emulate.
Babak Tafreshi, editor of the Nojum astronomy magazine in Iran has noticed subscriptions increasing and his bedtime television show has the highest viewer figures on Iran's Channel Four. Astronomy has a strong historical resonance for Iranians, where most of the astronomers are young and where about 60 percent are female. Amateur astronomy is alive in Sa'adat-shahr and in Iran in a large way because of Asghar Kabiri's extensive and effective outreach efforts.