The year 2009 has been designated as the International Year of Astronomy. This is the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first astronomical observation made using a modern telescope. How fitting then, that in the very first month of this year, an Astronomy Club is started in Amrita! Dr. Anil Bhardwaj from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Trivandrum was at the Amritapuri Campus on January 21st to inaugurate the club.
Dr. Anil Bhardwaj heads the Planetary Sciences Division at the Space Center’s Physics Laboratory. He is known for his pioneering contributions in the fields of planetary and space sciences. Of the eleven instrument payloads on board the recently launched Chandrayaan-1, one named SARA (Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyzer) was made by a team led by him. SARA was developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency and will image the surface of the moon using low energy neutral atoms.
“When students learned that a great scientist will be here to inaugurate the club, many decided not to miss the event,” said Deepak Mohan, studying in the School of Engineering. Deepak and several of his friends helped with the organizing. “It was a great opportunity to hear first-hand about the advances India is making in this field from a person who is in the thick of it. India is now the fourth country in the world to have planted its flag on the moon. This is so inspiring for all of us,” he added.
Dr. Bhardwaj detailed several aspects of the Chandrayaan-1 project in his talk. In addition to the historic mission to the moon, he also spoke about other missions planned for the near future. He briefly mentioned exploration plans of the Indian Space Research Organization for the next 10-15 years, exhorting students to make the most of these exciting opportunities.
Over two hundred students attended; the majority signing up to become members of the club. “I was very happy to see the tremendous student response,” stated Br. Sivanand, the club’s faculty advisor. “On Jan 26th, these students will view a live telecast of the solar eclipse from Africa made possible through NASA. Many more such activities are being planned.”
Dr. Nambudiripad, Dean, Amritapuri Campus presented a memento to the guest. He also received a very special present from him. “I am so happy to have this Astronomical Diary of the International Year of Astronomy from Dr. Bhardwaj,” he shared later. “India has had a long and wonderful tradition in astronomy. As students of modern science and technology, may we make even greater strides in this field. I wish the members of the club the very best!”
January 23, 2009