Dec 13, 2006

Your World ... An Astronomical Insight

Shruti Iyer (Std X) & Chitra Adkar (Std IX)
How will our universe end? Why can’t we communicate with our fellow extraterrestrials if a Hritik Roshan can befriend Jadoo in Koi Mil Gaya? Our textbooks fabulously elaborate on the enormity of our universe yet such questions remain unanswered.
I wish I could wind back time and take you to the Abhinav premises in the first week of November and you would have seen 8, tired, weary faces, dripping with perspiration, yet displaying the vigour to answer such questions with graphs, equations and logical explanation . These 8 faces belonged to some of the most adorable places of India like Mumbai, Bhubaneshwar, Pune Delhi, Allahbad etc. and were representing India in the 11th international astronomy Olympiads which was hosted this year by leading scientific institutions like BARC, TIFR and HBCSE wherein more than 20 countries had been participating. The jury for the Indian team was Mr. Kedar Soni (Astronomer and Director of Abhinav Vidyalay and Jr. College) supported by Mr. Abhay Deshpande (Amateur astronomer and Physicist) as the Mentor; who conducted the rigorous training of solving problems, lectures, night sky observations for the team in the pre departure camp at Abhinav Vidyalay. The Indian magic worked bearing victorious results of five gold medals, three special golds, and one silver and 1 bronze.
Although the legend of Olympiads back into the 60s, the astronomy Olympiads were initiated in 1996 at Russia by Dr. Michael G.Gavrilov. Astronomy as a career has been given profound importance in the twenty-first century however the layman’s outlook to the subject has not undergone a significant change. Astronomy still remains as a fanciful fairytale consisting of supernatural astronauts, alien rivals in addition to hi-tech gadgets and rigorous action. The fact to be ridiculed is that many people still confuse astronomy with astrology or defy the subject as mere study of planets and their moons. The earth may seem too vast for a common folk, but through an astronomer’s eyes the world starts beyond our skies. Same goes the motto of the astronomy Olympiads which is a platform for the global teen sensation to demonstrate their extraordinary skills & get their hands on some of the physics and mathematics of pure sciences.
A total of 120 participants including eighty students and forty teachers and observers from 18 countries witnessed this event. The students had to crack three rounds- theoretical round (solving problems in theoretical astronomy and astrophysics), practical round (analyzing local observatory data) and observational round (sky watching) at GMRT in Pune. The main paper being set up by Dr. Gavrilov, it is translated into the required languages by the Jury of every country. These papers are then circulated across every unit of the organization to be properly analyzed and checked. “Dr. Gavrilov is a genius who has set up the system so beautifully that every student is assured justice if the answers are logically correct”, says Mr. Soni. Besides these academic competitions the event included cultural shows and visits to historical places as well as scientific lectures at GMRT, IUCAA, Nehru Centre and TIFR by some of the leading scientists of the country. The results of XI International Astronomy Olympiad were announced in a ceremony held in the auditorium of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. The winners of the junior category - Kedar Shriram Tatwawadi, Adwait Vedant Satish Mathkar and, Nikhil Kumar, and among seniors - Mehul Jain, Chiraag Juvekar, Udbhav Singh, Raziman T V and Soumyashant Nayak are currently performing observation and research at Nanital.
Even if these exams are a bit difficult than the regular academic and co-academic examinations they provide a start of a scientific career for its participants and improvises their logical and rational thinking. These exams enable the students to ask many extraordinary questions, some difficult to answer, yet purely logical and sensible. Moreover since the exams are closely associated with the curriculum of IIT they improve the academic performance as well. The medalists are awarded the Kishore Vaidyanik Puraskar Yojna scholarship that assures them a bright career in pure sciences.