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The International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) was organized to commemorate His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday and the 84th Birthday of H.R.H. Princess Galyani Vadhana, the elder sister of His Majesty. The Thai youths participating in the competition made the honor more glorious by taking the top three gold medals.

IOAA is designed to be a truly international organization on Astronomy and Astrophysics competitions. The organization has been undertaken by an international committee, whose members are elected from international members of the organization. For the past three years, the event has been planned by CMU professors and academic counterparts of the 24 participating countries received invitations.

The purpose of IOAA is to promote interests and education in astronomy and astrophysics of high school students who will have opportunities to meet fellow students with the same interests and make new friends. This will lead to good understanding among countries and hence, collaboration in future research projects.

The Examination Board and Committee meetings were held at Chiang Mai University and in the Phu Phing Ratchaniwej Palace, in the historic northern province of Chiang Mai.

At the awards ceremony, where Education Minister Wijit Srisa-arn was the guest of honor, the winners said they would offer their prizes to His Majesty the King to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Suwan Suwunnarat and Punnawit Khongphithakskul, both from Suankularb Wittayalai school, and Chayanon Ruamcharoen from the Piyamaharachalai school in Nakhon Phanom, helped the team earn the highest marks in the competition.

From estimating the time of sunrise and calculating the radius of Venus’ orbit to drawing the Andromeda Galaxy as seen through a telescope, the team did very well.

Mr. Suwan proved to be the best in both theoretical and practical examinations. Asked what he felt after the competition, he said His Majesty was the inspiration behind the team.

“My teammates are willing to offer the King our medals,’’ said Mr. Suwan, a Mathayom 4 (Grade 10) student, “Our team has been preparing for six months.’’

Chiang Mai was chosen to host the international competition for the first time. A total of 100 students from 21 countries took part in the event.

All of the youngsters were introduced to northern Thai culture during their breaks from the competition. Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is regarded by Thais as one of the most pleasant provinces to live in, especially in the cool wintry month of December. Students went to the Northern Study Center in Mae Rim, Learning Center, where they learned about traditional northern way of life and its compatibility with the King’s principle of sufficient economy

On other days, the students visited the Mae Sa Elephant Training Camp, orchid farm, Bor Saang handicraft center, and hot springs in Sankampaeng. A visit to the highest spot of Thailand known as the mountain of Doi Inthanon required a breathtaking drive up to the summit.

In the evening of December 5, along with thousands of Chiang Mai citizens, students attended the evening Birthday Celebration of His Majesty at the Chiang Mai Governor’s Office. In Thailand, this special day is national Father’s Day when each Thai son and daughter has the opportunity to let father know how much is loved and respected.

Student contestants took both theory and practical examination papers. The latter consisted of two parts: observation and data analysis. There were 17 gold medalists, 20 silver medalists, 16 bronze medalists, and 14 honorable mentions.

IOAA will organize a yearly competition on astronomy and astrophysics for high school students. Each member “country” will take its turn to host the event. The first olympiad was held in Thailand, the second to be held in Indonesia, and the following third event will be scheduled in Iran.

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