There is a severe shortage of interactive educational science centres in East,West and Central Africa, and very few active planetariums in the whole continent. We know of a few planetariums in Southern Africa, a few in North Africa, and little else in between. From a background of teaching Biochemistry to University students and a range of other activities, Dr Jacob Ashong has had a dream to create a science centre and planetarium in Ghana for a number of years. Part of the inspiration came from a visit to the Exploratorium in San Francisco in the 1980's, and later from centres such as the Science Centre in Herstmonceux, Sussex, UK, located at the site where the Royal Greenwich Observatory was housed for many years after its move from London. Up until the mid-2000's a shortage of funds and lack of a suitable space made it difficult to proceed with the Ghana Science Project. However, in 2006, Planetarium Director Dave Weinrich from America came to Ghana at the time of the solar eclipse and promised to help.
By Easter 2008 the planetarium project was soon to become reality with the help of Dave Weinrich. By his efforts, an offer of a digital projector had been made by the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum Irene W. Pennington Planetarium and an offer for it to be refurbished had been made by the AudioVisual Imagineering Company in America. Jacob now had a space in a large garden, in a surprisingly tranquil location not far from the bustling city centre of Accra, and had started to construct the building which would house the projector to run the planetarium shows. The floor and walls had been constructed and work was due to begin on the domed roof.
The projector arrived in May and Dave came back for a visit in June to see how things were progressing. He ran some training sessions in how to use the Uniview software and organised a domecast with international participants. By October the major building work was finished and by November the planetarium was running shows for local children and visitors. The official opening was in January 2009, at the start of the International Year of Astronomy. Dave came back in January for the opening ceremony.
Ghana Planetarium Science Centre needs volunteers with an interest in running planetarium shows, who may wish to stay for a few weeks or a month or two. Jacob is from Ghana and Jane is from Sussex, UK, and together with an organisation which has experience of looking after volunteers, Ikando, they can help to make new visitors to the country comfortable while staying in Accra, by letting them know what to expect, how to prepare for the trip, where things are, something about the culture, etc. Volunteers may also come independently. With a staff of ten, Jacob and Jane run a resource centre administering distance learning Masters level courses from British universities, offering study support to students.
For the hands-on science and planetarium project Jacob and Jane are looking for self-funding volunteers with relevant knowledge, enthusiasm or experience who can pay for their return flight. If you are able to help in any way, please email [email protected] to get further information.
Read about planetarium shows at: http://www.saasta.ac.za/astronomy/pdfs/planetarium.pdf
and the MediaGlobe Projector at: http://www.konicaminolta.com/kmpl/hard/mediaglobe.html