The 6th edition of the international high-school astronomy and astrophysics competition just ended in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on the 14th of August. The IOAA is an IAU (International Astronomical Union) supervised International Science Olympiad. The United Arab Emirates participated for the first time this year.

The International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics comprises of three sets of competitions: Theoretical, Observational and Data Analysis. The questions are framed in a way that facilitates creativity, critical thinking and logical analysis. Students participating in the event are expected to be amongst the best in the field of astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology.

Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties of celestial objects, as well as their interactions and behaviour while cosmology is the academic discipline that seeks to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order.

Students from 28 countries around the world took part in the IOAA this year. In most cases, a five-member team, accompanied by a team leader, represents a country at the Olympiad.

Nishith Khandwala, a student of Grade XII, took the initiative of representing the UAE at the IOAA. Despite the lack of a team leader and being the only representative from UAE, he still bagged the Honorable Mention award at this prestigious event. Nishith prepared for this Olympiad all by himself, without guidance of any form.

In fact, this is the first time that the UAE has won an award at one of the 12 International Science Olympiads.

The next IOAA is scheduled to be held next year in August 2013 in Volos, Greece.

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