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“Sharing my knowledge with my fellow Eritreans has been a tremendous source of inspiration in my academic journey” Nathnael Kahsay

Mussie Efriem

Meet Mr. Nathnael Kahsay, a young Eritrean diaspora studying to become an astrophysicist at the University of North Carolina, USA. Nathnael is on a visit to his home country, Eritrea, where he is eager to share his knowledge and passion for astrophysics with the local community.


Introduce yourself, please.

I am Nathnael Kahsay, an Eritrean astrophysics student, and spending time with my fellow Eritreans and allowing them to test my knowledge has been a tremendous source of inspiration in my academic journey. My curiosity in science and the desire to understand the workings of the universe motivated me to pursue a career in physics. From a young age, I tinkered with electricity and magnets, and my interest in the night sky grew when my parents gifted me my first telescope. This passion led me to specialize in astrophysics and return to Eritrea with a purpose.

During your recent visit, you conducted seminars for the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS). Could you share your personal experience with us?

The seminars provided an opportunity to engage with Eritrean youth and others interested in astronomy and astrophysics. I was delighted to explain the intricacies of the field, which are often discussed in news and articles. I also demonstrated practical aspects using the tools I had brought along. Beyond the seminars, I had the chance to visit the Institute of Technology of Mai-Nefhi, interact with students, and learn about their research. It was heartening to witness their dedication to academics and involvement in various initiatives across the nation. Moreover, the delivery of the telescope was a fulfilling moment, as I hope it will inspire them to strike a balance between their passion and academic pursuits, just as it has motivated me.

You’ve interacted with students pursuing similar studies as yours. How are they faring, and what resources do they have?

Though there isn’t a specific astrophysics program in Eritrea, many students express interest in the field. I am optimistic that as their knowledge grows, they will disseminate this passion to others. During my visit to Mai-Nefhi, I observed the students’ work in laboratories, which reminded me of my own undergraduate experiences. It reassured me t h a t t h e y possess i m m e n s e potential despite the limitations of resources. Their dedication to their studies is commendable.

What are your plans for these students?

I have left the telescope in Eritrea to assist the students in their study of the stars. It was heartwarming to witness their excitement as they gazed at the stars and read about new discoveries. The telescope enables them to capture clear pictures of celestial objects using cameras and other devices. Additionally, with the presence of the telescope at the Eritrean Institute of Technology, I hope to inspire others to build their own telescopes and explore the wonders of the universe. As I interacted with the students, I could see a sense of inspiration and eagerness to learn, and I am eager to maintain these connections and continue collaborating with them.

Could you tell us more about the telescope you brought to Eritrea?

The telescope I brought is a 650 ml focal length and 130 ml diameter Newtonian reflector telescope, named after Sir Isaac Newton, who pioneered its design. This classic reflector telescope has a main mirror that collects and reflects light at the lower end of the tube. A smaller secondary mirror deflects light by 90°, allowing for a closer view of cosmic wonders. Some modernized and computerized gadgets can even guide observers to distant galaxies, making it possible to observe many thin objects with the naked eye. Long-exposure photography unveils the beauty of galaxies, revealing their spiral arms and scientific secrets. My passion for astrophysics solidified when I first pointed my camera at the sky.

What sets this telescope apart when compared to readymade ones, and which parts were assembled by you?

The telescope I brought was partly assembled by me, including an intriguing homemade component, the conerway, which originated from Medeber (Asmara). It’s remarkable to see fellow Eritreans taking the initiative to contribute to their nation. The viewfinder was another crucial component that was assembled upon arrival. Additionally, certain parts, such as lenses, had to be purchased.

As you return to school in the US, what do you plan to bring with you, and what did you leave behind in Eritrea?

As I return to the US, I carry with me the joy of meeting dedicated students and fostering connections with them. I intend to share my experiences and knowledge with the young Eritrean students I met during my visit. Their enthusiasm and dedication serve as great motivation for my academic pursuits and further advancement in astrophysics.

Is there anything else you would like to communicate?

Studying astronomy and astrophysics may seem financially demanding, but modern consumer goods can incorporate some homemade components. I encourage young people in Eritrea who share the same passion to utilize this telescope and explore the subject further. Additionally, I recommend utilizing the Rora digital library to enhance their knowledge. I also urge those in the diaspora with similar interests to consider how they can contribute to their respective fields and have a positive impact on Eritrea through their research and expertise. Together, we can nurture a community of passionate learners and advance the pursuit of astrophysics in Eritrea.

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