Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Astronomy in Goa - I

One student asked me for some comments about an Astronomy center in Goa. Here are my comments to her in brief. More detailed comments for individual parts (College, schools, etc) are on separate blogs.

I believe much of this material would be useful for similar centers in India, although there will be local variations.

First let us focus on

  1. What are the aims of the project?
  2. What communities will benefit from the exercise?
  3. To achieve these, what activities will be conducted? Based on the answers to the first two, one would develop the 3rd answer. Depending upon all the answers, you would know
  4. What are the physical, electro-mechanical, human and space needs of this project?

Goa is poor on astronomy awareness, as is most of India, even though Goans are quite enterprising and curious people. There are hardly any facilities for astronomy activities, except for Public Astronomy Observatory, group in Panjim that does lots of good work. So, there is much to do with such a center in Goa.


1) According to me, aims should be to

  • spread awareness about astronomy, physics and general science (related to both) to general public, students, collegians, and teachers.
  • help students acquire astronomy/physics skills using direct experimentation, and appreciate how much astronomy can be a part of their daily activity.
  • impart training in astronomy techniques and ignite students' faculty of inquiry.
  • train general teachers in schools and colleges to provide general astronomy course in curriculum.

2) Communities targeted are:
  • general public
  • school and college students
  • school and college teachers

Awareness levels, requirements and activities of all groups vary, hence our approach to them is going to be different.

3) Activities:
a) general public:
i) astronomy awareness camps (mobile and stationary in Surla)
ii) open-air (naked-eye) astronomy activities: meteor showers, eclipses
iii) planetarium-based activities: a mobile planetarium has been active in IUCAA, Pune, and has been a successful venture.
iv) panel discussions and lectures by experts for general audiances
v) to question astrology and dubious practices used.

b) schools (students and teachers)

i) simple exercises to illustrate relation between mathematics and planetary movements, meteors, eclipses, etc.
ii) physical measurements of planets, moon and the Sun and stars using naked-eye measurements, telescopes, and binoculors.
iii) curriculum course development for students of secondary school, to increase awareness about astronomy and astro-physics.
iv) to specifically question assumptions in astrology, and contrast it with astrophysics.

c) college (students and teachers)

the above practices, however at a higher expertise level. one needs more detail, more sophistication, etc. for example, a college student (esp. an engineer) would appreciate instruments used in astronomy and their detail. they may like to demonstrate radio telescope and understand instrumentation in space-based telescopes.

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