Tucked away in a suburban part of this hill station, the normally silent Radio Astronomy Centre (RAC), a part of the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), came alive on Friday with thousands of students crisscrossing its sprawling premises.

The occasion was the National Science Day celebrations to commemorate the discovery of the Raman Effect by Sir C.V. Raman for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Pointing out that the participation of a large number of students in the event reflected the growing popularity of science in general and branches like Astrophysics in particular, the Director, NCRA, Pune, S.K. Ghosh told The Hindu that the internet is playing a big role in putting information within grasping distance.

Stating that the main objective of organising such events was to inculcate scientific temper among the children, he said that the ability to comprehend matters related to science and exploration is getting stronger.

Expressing the view that subjects like Astrophysics should be taught early in life, he said that teachers should be well equipped.

To a question, he said that though the focus of the NCRA is on fundamental research its technology is helping in various fields, including weather forecast.

Radio telescopes in various parts of the world are now being used to study space weather.

Stating that the Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT), which is one of the biggest radio telescopes in the world is used for several important astronomy and astrophysical studies, Dr. Ghosh said that the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) of the NCRA near Pune is in the process of being upgraded. Its sensitivity will go up by five times.

The head, RAC, P.K. Manoharan, said that the celebrations evoked a good response. About 300 students from 35 schools had participated in the competitions which marked the celebrations.

Many of the participants said that activities like watching the live observations of celestial objects by using the ORT and observing the Sun and tracking the sunspots were interesting. They opined that it would enhance scientific awareness among the people.

An exhibition formed part of the occasion. Various research institutions put up stalls.

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