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ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY OF LYCEUM NUGEGODA SITE VISIT TO THE NASA-LED WASGAMUWA MULTINATIONAL RESEARCH FACILITY

Friday, 21st of July 2023

The Astronomical Society of Lyceum International School Nugegoda were able to visit the Wasgamuwa Multinational Research Facility led by NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration), CNSA (The China National Space Administration) and the ISRO (The Indian Space Research Organisation). This field trip was initiated by Dr Mohan Lal Grero to offer students an opportunity to meet expert scientists in the fields of physics and astronomy.

The Wasgamuwa research facility was established to study the Serpentine (Serpentinite) deposits found in the Wasgamuwa National Park. In groundbreaking research conducted by NASA in 2018, it was found that the chemical composition of the serpentine on Mars bore an uncanny resemblance to the naturally occurring serpentine deposits found in Sri Lanka, this discovery sparked immense curiosity and further exploration into the geological similarities between the two distant locations.

The ongoing research in Wasgamuwa aimed to delve deeper into understanding these remarkable parallels. Dr Mohan Lal Grero believes that opportunities for school students to meet established scientists working on groundbreaking research will greatly help students get an idea about research and how it impacts our lives. This field trip allowed the students to meet industry specialists and to see what their work is like giving them an idea of how scientists work and the kind of skills they will need to pursue a job in astronomy and research.

The field trip was led by Prof. Suniti Karunatillake an esteemed former student of Dr. Mohan Lal Grero, accompanied by Mr. Madhura Lokukaluge, the Head of Physics at Lyceum International School Nugegoda, and Physics teacher Mr. Dinesh Weerasinghe. The Astronomy Society is composed of ten students; Samiru Kariyawasam (Club President), Nimsara Aluthgedara, Mehara Gamage, Ovindu Vimukthi, Minul Manmitha, Javindu Wijesinghe, Janindu Ratnayake, Nikitha Wadisinhe, Dimath Abeynayake and Raaid Naleem.

This excursion served as a testament to the unwavering commitment of the students and their mentors in fostering scientific curiosity and encouraging astronomical exploration within the school community. Under strict safety guidelines, the students were taken to the excavation site located within the Wasgamuwa National Park accompanied by the teachers and park rangers. The students were shown how the scientists and technicians worked at the serpentine site. The students’ involvement went beyond mere observation; they actively co-engaged with the scientists in the processes, eager to learn and contribute to the scientific endeavour.

This gave the aspiring scientists firsthand experience of working in the field alongside renowned scientists from the top organisations of the world. The once-in-a-lifetime experience of working alongside esteemed scientists, one not many can draw parallels to, left an indelible impression on the students, inspiring them to pursue their scientific aspirations with renewed vigour. The event catalysed the growth of the Society as it captured the attention of other fellow students, igniting a newfound interest in the Astronomical Society and its possibilities.

The president of the society, Samiru Kariyawasam believes this research event will open many more doors not only for the Astronomical Society but for the whole school as he stated, "The journey we took right after starting the Astronomical Society of Lyceum was an amazing kickstart for us. It was an incredible experience that left us in awe and fueled our passion for all things astronomical.

This journey set the stage for endless possibilities and shaped our society in the most wonderful way." The students are due to receive a special certification for their support in the research event. The Lyceum International School continually strives to enhance their students, empowering them to be their very best. The School look forward to providing their students with more similar opportunities that will strengthen their abilities and skillset for when they enter University and join the workforce.

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