Popularising science through astronomy, an Algerian experience in grassroot activism and its academic spin-off
We relate the success story of an amateur astronomy association based at Constantine, which has spearheaded the efforts of spreading astronomy and scientific culture in Algeria. This association has organised throughout the past decade many activities from large national yearly gatherings to a weekly radio program, through public sighting campaigns. It has been instrumental in the establishment of a pluri-university graduate study program in astrophysics, the so called Ecole Doctorale d’Astrophysique (EDA), the first of its kind in Algeria. We describe in particular how astronomers from various parts of Algeria involved in amateur astronomy have
known each other, and banded together to the point of constituting a critical size group able to set up such a national graduate program with plans for the establishment of the first observatory in our country, the Aur`es Observatory in Eastern Algeria Aur`es mountain range. A strong interest for the project has been shown by the astronomical community, some site testing undertaken, and international collaboration sought. With some dedicated support, its foundation could take place within the year 2009. Could IAY2009 be turned into an annus mirabilis for Algeria and a showcase for the astronomy community worldwide with behind it a textbook case of synergy between amateur astronomy and academic endeavor in the astronomical sciences?