Cyprus Mail

Shooting for the stars at the Palace

President Nicos Anastasiades with high school student Stefani Diakou Petropoulou on the occasion of the International Astronomy Day.


A TEENAGE student from Nicosia was the central figure of the first-ever stargazing event at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday, having urged (and convinced) the nation’s leader to open the grounds and to mark International Astronomy Day.

Seventeen year old Stefani Diakou Petropoulou had written an open letter to President Nicos Anastasiades published in Politis newspaper asking that Cyprus commemorates the day.

“I found Stefani’s arguments were well documented and today’s event is dedicated to her and all the children who believe and work to make their dreams come true,” Anastasiades said in his opening speech.

Earlier in the day, his Transport Minister, Marios Demetriades, said that Cyprus wants to associate itself with European Space Agency (ESA) programmes and activities and to prepare for possible future accession to the ESA Convention. He added that island can offer itself as a staging ground for space programmes or to develop related technologies.

For the Presidential Palace event, also attended by the education and health ministers, as well as a long line of diplomats, telescopes of all sizes and shapes were set up in the gardens for participants to stargaze at dusk and catch the ideal viewing conditions.

Petropoulou, who is a student at the English School, told the Cyprus Mail, “he (the president) immediately wrote a letter back and accepted.”

“It is important for students to know about science and to expand our horizons… it is essential for every person on this island,” she said.

“The most important thing is to understand that we are not alone and we must find answers to resolve our problems, because we are destroying the earth. We have to understand about what is happening further away from the earth.”

Anastasiades said, “we live in an age where people have managed to reach the stars and search for explanations and solutions to earthly matters by exploring space.”

Thus, it doesn’t matter how small Cyprus is, the challenge posed by the science of astronomy should not be left uncalled for.

“We can increase our scientific knowledge and encourage young people to establish themselves through this.”

In fact, it opens a whole host of possibilities to the island that can promote Cyprus as a tourist spot “for the beauty of it’s sky, making the country well known and contributing to enriching the quality of our tourism product.”

Anastasiades said it was an honour to welcome NASA-renowned Greek astrophysicist Thanasis Economou, who had flown in from Chicago to attend the event and promote the creation of an educational observatory in Troodos.

“I would like to assure you that as soon as I got information on creating an observatory, I enthusiastically embraced the idea,” and pledged the government’s support on trying to implement the idea as soon as possible.

Addressing the ‘Cyprus Embraces Space 2016’ conference, Transport Minister Marios Demetriades said that the government’s objectives include developing cooperation between scientific and applications-user communities in Cyprus and ESA member states, creating and strengthening the respective industrial expertise and capacity of Cyprus with a view to allowing a fair and equitable participation in future agency programmes, and fostering Cyprus’ understanding of European space products, standards and procedures.

According to the minister, the opportunities for growth offered by further developing the domestic space industry that will arise from this positive step are tremendous.

“An adequate space development policy should be defined with the support of ESA,” Demetriades said.

“Cyprus has one of the best climate conditions for earth observation. Together with the strategic location, the national infrastructure and expertise, we can develop innovative space technology services and attract investments.”

He added that by signing the European Cooperating States (ECS) agreement, Cyprus expects to promote innovation and research, attract foreign investments, create new jobs and secure more EU funding.

Demetriades also said that Cyprus has set priorities, which include the sectors of satellite communications, earth observation, space navigation, and the enhancement of relations with the ESA.

The space sector, together with the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, he added, can be a driver for growth and regional cooperation, and promote collaboration in civil-use related disciplines between neighbouring countries.

The conference was organised by the European University of Cyprus, the Research Promotion Foundation and the Department of Electronic Communications.

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