Short astronomy course at Birla Institute

For those seeking a more in-depth examination of space topics, M P Birla Institute of Fundamental Research is conducting a course in Astronomy and Astrophysics. 

Are all stars like the Sun? This is one among several basic questions, which have driven the field of astronomy and astrophysics for nearly a century. They are among the oldest of sciences and are concerned with the study of the origin, composition and evolution of the universe on a multitude of length and time scales.

Like most countries, space science in India too has been growing over the years. With the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) focusing on moon research and India launching the AstroSat, a multi- wavelength astronomy satellite next year, more Indians are showing interest in this field. “There are a number of aspirants, especially students from high school level and undergraduate level as well as ones who have finished their college and university courses,” says G S D Babu, director, M P Birla Institute of Fundamental Research (BIFR), Bangalore, adding that apart from these students, they also get learners from various corporate offices, who come in just to learn about stars and other celestial bodies.

Looking at the interest shown by students and even the public in general, BIFR is conducting a 100 hour Certificate Course in Astronomy and Astrophysics. “The primary aim of this programme is to inculcate a scientific awareness of the subject among young students and motivate them to pursue careers in astronomy and astrophysics,” says Babu. It is planned to provide an in-depth exposure of the technical intricacies involved in the study of astronomy and astrophysics to students who possess an aptitude for the subject. “It is also expected to set a platform for students who would eventually seek higher studies in this subject and aspire for further research,” he adds.

The first class was conducted on August 3 and since then classes are being held only on Sundays until December 7. “Scientists and professors of international repute conduct these classes. Topics including the stars, sun, solar system, milky way and other galaxies, space astronomy, radio astronomy, astrobiology, cosmology will be covered,” informs Babu. The programme also includes an exposure to the observational techniques, the use of astronomical telescopes (X-Ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared and radio) as well as the focal plane instruments of various types of telescopes.

Speaking about her first time experience, Komala S says, “I’ve always been curious about this subject and this course gives you a broad understanding of the origin of the universe, the stars and the various visible and also invisible objects in the sky,” she says adding, “It satisfies the curiosity of the human mind to some extent.”

Krishnakumar Kowshik, second year Master of Sciences student, Jain University also agrees, “It adds to our knowledge bank. The best thing is that we gets a hands on experience which is a stepping stone for those interested in pursuing this as a full time career,” he says adding, “After completing this course I’d like to enroll in more advanced courses so I can choose a topic for my PhD.”

As for job prospects, based on the individual aptitude and other required qualifications, those who successfully complete the course can take up teaching positions in various educational institutions like schools, colleges and universities, where astronomy is included as part of the science programmes.