Afghanistan Students for the International Olympiad in Astronomy & Astrophysics Need Your Help

Students from the Kayhana astronomy organization in Afghanistan. Image courtesy of Amena Karimyan.

The 16th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) will be held this year in Silesia, Poland on August 10-20, 2023. 265 students from 53 countries will take part in this annual competition that challenges select high school students from around the world in astronomical science.

One group of student in particular stands out in overcoming incredible odds to qualify for participation in this event, and they need financial help to be able to attend. Student from Afghanistan have been restricted from publicly participating in science activities like astronomy due to the presence of the Taliban. Additionally, a majority of the students from Afghanistan who qualified to attend the IOAA are girls, and since the Taliban returned to power nearly two years ago, they have resumed pushing women and girls out of public life and out of schools.

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Astrophoto: Milky Way Over Afghanistan

Here’s a lovely image of the Milky Way as seen from Afghanistan — Istalef Valley to be precise, about 20 kilometers from Kabul. This was taken by Yunos Bakhshi, one of the founders and leaders of the Afghanistan Astronomy Association. We wrote about Bakhshi and his work to share the wonders of astronomy with the Afghan people, and how dangerous it can actually be at times.

Bakhshi sent us this image, telling us he is still leading groups of people out to look at the night sky, and he pointed out the light pollution in this image coming from the Bagram US military base, which has huge flood lights on at all times. “I would like to ask you once again to pay attention to this light pollution, which disturbed the beauty of night sky,” Bakhshi said. “Kabul and suburb still have good and dark sky.”

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Image caption: The Milky Way over Istalef Valley. Credit: Yunos Bakhshi