See stars, and enjoy it too

by csbhagya

Bangalore : On a clear night, you can spend hours on end, staring at the sky, figuring out the constellations and spotting a shooting star darting across the skyline.

Astronomy can remain a hobby or you can pursue it more seriously and make it your profession. The success stories that come from our own space research organizations have recently sparked the interest in many young minds who wish to pursue a career in space research and Astrophysics.

Study Astronomy and further

Students still shy away from many areas in Astronomy, especially Astrophysics. Particularly in India, professional courses like engineering and medicine overshadow the pure sciences even though there’s a lot of scope in research and academics . Astrophysics involves the indepth study of the sun, the stars, the galaxy and exploration of exciting subjects like cosmology and related areas.

According to experts, aspiring students must have sound knowledge of Physics. Ideally, it should be the chosen subject at the under-graduate and Masters level. Instrumentation in Astronomics or engineering in Electronics are the other options. Astrophysics can be taken up only at the doctoral level.

Unlike some American universities , Astrophysics at the under-graduate level is not offered in Indian universities . Therefore, Indian students need to take add-on courses to match up to the level of their western counterparts .

“These add-on courses can enlighten them on different research options and help them decide their future fields of study, says B S Shylaja, senior scientist, in Bangalore.

Where can you study?

Students can choose from a variety of institutes to pursue Astrophysics, both in India and overseas. Bangalore’s most reputed scientific institutes like IISc, Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Raman Research Institute (RRI) and ISRO offer courses. Other institutes in India include Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune. There are several institutes abroad, including the University of Chicago, Princeton, Harvard and Caltech in the US and Cambridge University in the UK. Funding for research in astrophysics is granted by the department of science & technology, government of India. Academics are happy that in recent years, there has been good funding and therefore more facilities and opportunities.

Lucrative too

Some students seem to have a misconception that after studying Astrophysics , which are research-oriented , they will not find lucrative jobs with attractive pay packets, says Prof. Arnab Rai Choudhuri, department of Physics, IISc. “Astrophysics institutes need young faculty and so most of the students are absorbed into the teaching staff at many universities. Many students have got posts in the upcoming IITs. A few of the IISc alumni are teaching at IIT Kharagpur,” he said.

International Year of Astronomy

2009 has been declared the International Year of Astronomy by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Unesco in an effort to motivate people to realize the significance of astronomy and mobilize them to integrate it into their lives. Unesco and IAU are doing this “to help people rediscover their place in the universe through the day- and night-time sky, and engage in a personal sense of wonder and discovery”.

Published in the Times of India, May 2009