Cosmology of today relies crucially on observational astronomy, a subject that is technology dependent and requires heavy funding. We are at an advanced stage of setting up a Positional Astronomy Centre (PAC) in the department, which is aimed at providing hands–on training in observational astronomy to M. Sc. students of our department. To this end, we have set up:
- A 14-inch Celestron EdgeHD computerised telescope and a sliding-roof telescopic dome,
- solid state spectrophotometers, optical filters, CCD camera, astromotor, matching computers, software, networking and other accessories.
- A celestron 11″ Edge HD CGX telescope, (is being set up, to be completed by February 2018)
- A Celestron Travel Scope 50 portable telescope, (is being set up, to be completed by February 2018)
- A Celestron Skyprodigy 6 – computerized 6″ SCT telescope (is being set up, to be completed by February 2018)
The activities of the PAC will have two major components: (1) Teaching and Research, and (2) Outreach Programme.
1. Teaching and Research
We have a M. Sc. special paper on cosmology and astrophysics. Observations/experiments relevant to the paper will comprise the following:
- Estimation of luminosity of cosmic objects,
- Estimation of distance between cosmic objects,
- Identification and associated measurements of planetary elements of our solar system,
- Observation related to the Sun (photosphere, chromosphere, corona, sunspots, etc),
- Study of stellar astrophysics (Hubble expansion, red-shift estimation of distant galaxies, etc), and
- Photometric studies.
2. Outreach Programme
We plan a vigorous outreach programme for educational institutions in the Howrah region as well as regions where Ramakrishna Mission has its presence. The portable computerised telescope will enable this outreach programme to reach far-flung rural areas where Ramakrishna Mission has its institutional presence. There will be introductory lessons on telescopes, with hands-on training on handling of telescopes. These lessons are bound to become popular with young minds at middle and high-school levels.
There will also be sighting programmes aimed at making children familiar with heavenly bodies. For college-level students, observations related to lunar, planetary and solar systems and deep sky stellar objects will be arranged. Physics departments of local colleges will be encouraged to send interested students to work on small projects on astronomy. Open-house programmes for young students and common public are also being planned.