Originally published at AsianCorrespondents.com on 5th November 2014

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With the opening of AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) next year, government agencies, businesses and travel organizations are all busy trying to decipher exactly how their status quo will be challenged by new regulations and increased opportunities. The AEC is going to have huge implications for people across the region, both positive and negative. One area in which we hope to see benefits is education, with increased opportunities for ASEAN students to study abroad and partake in collaborative activities.

One group which is already seeing the advantages of educational opportunities across ASEAN are the region’s budding astronomers. On Friday October 24 a group of 30 students from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand and Vietnam joined ASEAN’s 1st Astronomy Camp which took place at the National Observatory on Doi Inthanon in Northern Thailand.

The event was organized and funded by the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU), with the aim of inspiring young astronomers and providing them with the opportunity to build networks with likeminded students across Southeast Asia.

During the four-day camp students were given an introduction to the scientific instruments, methods of investigation and techniques employed by professional astronomers. They were also able to access the largest telescope in Southeast Asia and they spent three evenings stargazing from the top of Thailand’s highest mountain.

The observatory on Doi Inthanon is managed by NARIT and it has an impressive telescope, the mirror of which is 2.4 meters – the same size as the one on the Hubble Space Telescope. The students also learnt about how NARIT also monitors the sky over the Southern Hemisphere from an observatory in Chile. This observatory is controlled remotely via the internet and allows NARIT astronomers to work around the clock to follow the night sky in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

The students spoke of their inspiration at having the opportunity of to gain hands on experience at a fully equipped astronomical observatory. By joining this activity, ASEAN’s young astronomers also gained a greater insight into the work of scientists and engineers in the world of astronomy.

Along with gaining a deeper understanding of astronomy, the students also made new friends with fellow students from Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, Phillipines, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. During the camp the students took part in a range of team building activities including field trips and rafting. The participants I spoke with emphasized how much they enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and make new friends with fellow science enthusiasts from across Southeast Asia.

Science is an area where teamwork is essential for progress and so it is encouraging to see tomorrow’s scientists embracing collaboration. The ever growing range of scientific challenges that life in the 21st century creates will only be overcome through international cooperation. The participants on the 1st ASEAN Astronomy Camp have made a promising beginning.

astronomers ASEAN Varee international school students education South East Asia

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Daniel is an English Literature graduate from the University of London who has spent the past 20 years living and working in Southeast Asia. Passionate about education, health care, sustainable development, equality and human rights, Daniel is a regular contributor to Asian Correspondent, Ajarn, The Educator and Bangkok Post.

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