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Various programmes to mark Year of Astronomy

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The 93-inch telescope, Asia’s biggest, set up at the Kavalur Astronomical Observatory of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.
The 93-inch telescope, Asia’s biggest, set up at the Kavalur Astronomical Observatory of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.

J.S. BABLU

The Regional Science Centre and Planetarium, Calicut, and the Department of Physics, Calicut University, are organising year-long programmes to mark the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei.

The Regional Science Centre and Planetarium (RSC), Calicut, and the Department of Physics, Calicut University, have joined hands to organise year-long activities in astronomy and astrophysics to mark the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), 2009.

IYA is observed to mark the 400-th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei. The aim of the observance is to stimulate world-wide interest, especially among the young people, in astronomy and science based on the central theme, ‘The Universe, Yours to Discover’. The IYA events and activities will promote a greater appreciation of the inspirational aspects of astronomy, which embodies an invaluable shared resource for all nations.

Jayant Ganguly, Technical Officer at RSC and Co-ordinator of IYA celebrations at RSC, says that the RSC and the Department of Physics of Calicut University have planned a number of programmes in the Malabar region (from Thrissur to Kasaragod districts). These programmes are designed mainly for students, to make them aware of astronomy and how it is useful to civil society. “It changes our vision of the universe,” he says.

One of the programmes planned is the ‘Galileo Teachers Training Programme’. One science teacher from each of the 8,000 upper primary and high schools (State syllabus, CBSE, ICSE and so on) will be trained in the basics of astronomy and given glimpses of the modern trends and research findings in a two-day programme.

Astronomy projects

There will be astronomy projects and experiments in which school, college and university students can participate. The participants after being briefed on the theoretical aspects will undertake activities in groups. The activities proposed include stellar magnitude calculation, distance of celestial objects, variable star observation, making a photometer and sun tracker, designing a sundial and so on. Jayant Murthy of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, will be the resource person.

A certificate course, comprising 50 week-ends, on basics of astronomy will be organised. The method of teaching will be multimedia lectures. For those interested in astrophotography, a one-day workshop on the subject will be held. The workshop will have introduction to theoretical aspects of astrophotography during day time and practical sessions in the evening.

Chandrayaan seminar

School students and teachers can participate in a regional one-day seminar on Chandrayaan. The idea is to bring persons involved in the Chandrayaan project and organise interactions with them. Also, there will be discussions on future Indian missions to Moon and Mars.

College students, especially science and engineering students, can look forward to a one-day regional seminar on astrosat payload and related science. Astrosat is a multi-wavelength astronomy mission on an IRS class satellite in a 650-km near-equatorial orbit. It will be launched by Indian launch vehicle PSLV from the Sriharikota launch centre in April.

Another programme titled ‘She is an astronomer’ is targeted at female students and school and college teachers. The aim of the project is to provide neutral, informative and accessible information to female professional and amateur astronomers and students about the gender equality in science. Women astronomers from Indian research institutions will be invited to talk to the students and teachers. They will be speaking on their achievements, challenges, struggle and the wonder world of astronomers and astronomy. The programme is expected to kindle an interest among female students about astronomy and making it a career choice.

Apart from this, RSC in association with the All India Radio and private FM channels, will organise a sky observation programme. People will be asked to come out under the open night sky at a pre-announced date and time. A live commentary will be relayed to identify different constellations in the sky and other bright celestial objects, all of which can be viewed without any optical aid or telescope. People can listen to the commentary and identify by themselves the celestial objects and get themselves familiarised with the sky.

A host of programmes for public has also been arranged this year in connection with IYA celebrations.

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