The Oshu Space & Astronomy Museum marks ten years as a hub for science education

The original article was published in the Iwate Nippo (April 23rd edition). Read the original here.

On April 21st, a seminar was held at the Plaza Inn Mizusawa to commemorate the ten years of the Oshu Space & Astronomy Museum in the Hoshigaoka area of Mizusawa, Oshu City. The museum building is a renovated historic building, once home to a former Latitude Observatory that the people of Oshu came together to help preserve. The building is now a place where people of all ages can learn about space and astronomy. Stakeholders have worked hard to hold science cafes for children, and these people came together on the 21st to vow to develop the museum further as a hub for science education in the region.

The seminar was given by Professor Eichiro Kokubo of the National Observatory, who talked about ATERUI, the supercomputer at the Mizusawa VLBI Observatory (next door to the museum). “The supercomputer runs astronomy simulations according to the law of physics, so we can see a universe that cannot be seen through a telescope,” he explained.

After the commemoration ceremony, Mayor Masaki Ozawa handed a letter of gratitude to the former directors of the museum.

The former Latitude Observatory opened in 1899. The first director of the observatory, Professor Hisashi Kimura, discovered the Z-axis in his research of the earth’s rotation, gaining recognition from the whole world.

The building deteriorated over the years, and it was decided in 2005 to demolish it, but the local people began to widely call for its preservation, as it was an important landmark (famous author Kenji Miyazawa had even visited it once). The national government transferred the property over in 2007, and the building was reborn after renovations to make it earthquake-resistant.

The museum opened in 2008 and welcomed 13,000 visitors that year. Every year that number has increased, and in 2017 there were a total of around 19,000 visitors. People in the local area often make repeat visits to see classes on experiments, astronomy observations, and other events, and people outside the prefecture are hearing more and more about the facility.

Director Masatsugu Oe, the head of the NPO Ihatov Space & Astronomy Center that runs the museum, said, “We have come this far because the region came together as a whole. I am so happy to hear from the local children that they want to learn more about space and the ILC. I hope I can continue for ten, twenty more years.”