Between September 24 and October 7, the Turkana Basin Institute site at Ileret hosted for the first time an astronomy school. This school provided training in astronomy and data reduction techniques to 10 South-African and 9 Kenyan students. The initiative is a new collaboration between the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) project and the Kenya Optical Telescope Initiative (KOTI).

Students at the 40cm telescope

Students attended a set of lectures about astronomy techniques and astrophysics in the mornings, while the evenings were dedicated to hands-on experience with telescopes. This included the 40 cm optical telescope that is the largest of its kind in Kenya and permanently installed at TBI-Ileret, as well as a portable 20 cm optical telescope and a Table-Top Radio Telescope brought from Technical University of Kenya. Students also interacted with the local community during a football game at Ileret village and a stargazing session at Ileret primary school, providing a unique opportunity to share their newly gained knowledge.

The training was delivered by Prof Melvin Hoare from the University of Leeds, Dr Willice Obonyo from the Technical University of Kenya, and Dr Jamie Robison and Cyrielle Opitom from the University of Edinburgh, assisted by Vincent Okoth from the Technical University of Kenya. Excellent support was provided by the TBI team led by Medina Lubisia.

For many students, this programme was their first experience with astronomy and hands-on use of telescopes. In addition to astronomy knowledge, students also gained invaluable transferable skills, such as data analysis, programming, problem solving, and the ability to work as part of a team.
‘DARA-KOTI has been a good programme for both experienced and non-experienced astronomers, It is indeed an eye opener in the field of astronomy.’
‘My time at the astrophysics training programme here in Kenya has been a wonderful journey, where I witnessed the beauty of the universe through scientific marvel and the incredible people I have met. It is an experience that expanded my knowledge and ignited my passion for exploring more about the universe.’
‘This experience has been truly invaluable and I am deeply thankful for the knowledge and skills I have gained. The programme has not only broadened my horizons in astrophysics but also provided me with a supportive community of like-minded individuals. The friendships and connections I have formed during the training will undoubtedly be a lasting and cherished aspect of my journey in astrophysics.’