The study of the atmosphere and sphere and space is one of the
oldest sciences. Space science in India has been growing with
the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) focusing on moon
research and India launching the AstroSat, a multi-wavelength
astronomy satellite, next year. The making of satellites for
communication, mapping and education are all part of India’s
space research programme. ISRO has also made plans for the lunar
explorer, Chandrayaan. The IT revolution has also played a role
in augmenting the progress in space science. Space science deals
with the human advances towards exploration of outer space and
related technology. It is an amalgamation of various disciplines
like, physics, mechanical engineering, materials science,
chemistry, biology, medicine, psychology, computer science, and
other fields of scientific knowledge. A sub-field of physics, it
is further divided into several branches, which together help
unravel the mysteries of the universe. While some take
‘astronomy’ as the umbrella term, some think that ‘Astrophysics’
is the holistic term that encompasses all the related fields.
However, Professor Jayant Murthy, Indian Institute of
Astrophysics, clarifies, “Although astronomy and astrophysics
were, at one time, considered different from each other, they
are now used interchangeably.”
Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects, such as
stars, planets, comets, and galaxies, and the phenomena that
exist beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Through the use of physics,
astronomy explains the evolution of the universe and through
sound mathematical simulations it forecasts its development.
ASTROPHYSICS deals with the physical properties of celestial
bodies and with the interaction between matter and radiation in
the interior of celestial bodies and in interstellar space.
It can be broken down into observational and theoretical
astrophysics. COSMOLOGY is the combination of astrophysics and
particle physics. It is the study of the structure, origin and
evolution of the universe. Cosmologists seek to understand how
the universe came into being, why it is the way it is and what
the future has in store.
ASTROCHEMISTRY is the combination of astronomy and chemistry,
dealing with the chemical composition and evolution of the
universe and its parts. It is the study of the chemical elements
found in outer space and their interactions.
ASTROGEOLOGY is the science dealing with the structure and
composition of all solid bodies in the solar system, including
planets, stars, satellites, asteroids, comets and meteorites.
ASTROMETEOROLOGY is the study of the theoretical effects of
astronomical bodies and forces on the earth’s atmosphere.
Astrometry is the branch of astronomy that deals with the
precise measurement of the positions and motions of the
celestial bodies. The information obtained by astrometric
measurements is very important in contemporary research of the
solar system and our galaxy, the Milky way.
ASTROBIOLOGY is the study of life beyond the earth’s atmosphere
on other planets. It combines aspects of astronomy, geology and
OPTICAL ASTRONOMY To study of optical band is called optical
RADIO ASTRONOMY The study of the radio band is called Radio
The romanticism of space flights and exploration is still alive,
but an academic or research oriented career is yet to attract
many. Youngsters usually connect space research with becoming an
astronaut or going to National Aeronautics Space Administration
(NASA) rather than going into space research. So, besides the
love for celestial wonders, one has to have a scientific
temperament to do research. Currently, science is facing a
shortage of talented youngsters as they are opting for better
paying jobs. However, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
will require science and engineering talents, for mission
completion and future of these facilities.
ELIGIBILITY This is one field where aptitude is important, as,
or perhaps more than academic prowess. The primary requirement
is to have a scientific bent of mind and the desire to explore.
If you have curiosity and are interested, half the battle is
won-you are already eligible.
Other technical necessities include taking up physics and
mathematics at the plus two level, as well as during graduation.
For a career in space science, students need to have enough
knowledge of physics, maths and engineering techniques in
general. Students generally require a BE or B.Sc degree in
To pursue a career in theoretical astronomy, one can pursue a
Bachelor’s in Science in physics and/or mathematics, while in
order to pursue a career in experimental astronomy, one can
pursue a Bachelor’s in Engineering in
electrical/electronics/electrical communi-cation, after ten plus
Joint Entrance Screening Test (JEST), usually held around
February or March, is the screening test for those who want to
pursue a PhD in physics, including theoretical and observational
astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric and space science/
mathematics/theoretical computer science. Student with a
postgraduate degree in physics or Master’s in Technology in
engineering or a Bachelor’s in Engineering, are eligible to
appear for JEST. The patterns consist of multiple-choice
objective questions, covering general areas in the field of
physics. The exam checks for analytical skills. Knowledge of the
subject and ability to tackle the problem. The maximum number of
allotted marks is 150, evenly divided among 50 questions with
negative marking for wrong answers. The time allotted for exam
is 3 hours. On the basis of JEST RESULTS, institutes call a
limited number of candidates receive a Research Fellowship from
the respective institutions.
If you are the mechanical engineer, you are the most eligible
candidate for making bright future in this field. For instance,
the study of stellar objects thus require instruments. Building
of such instruments require an Engineering background. One can
use a spectrograph to study the spectral lines in the incoming
light which will give information about the material. Similarly,
the polarization of the stellar light can be measured using a
polarimeter. Building of such instruments involves the combined
efforts of Mechanical Engineering.
India has many good institutes related to astronomy. It could
excel in the international space research field if these
institutes had a steady input of quality students. The students
should try to enter these as they offer world class facilities
for research, which will definitely be useful to all mankind.
The UNIVERSITY OF PUNE, offer M.Sc courses in space science,
some of which are sponsored by ISRO.
A new institute has just been started by ISRO in
Thiruvananthapuram, which is essentially open to students from
IITs. This is aimed not at science, but to train engineers for
ISRO’s needs. There are also several courses , at the end of
which, students are awarded with certificates in astronomy.
ST.JOSEPH’S and the BIRLA INSTITUTE OF FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH IN
BANGLORE only have certificate courses. There may be others in
other cities and the best place to find out would be the local
BANGALORE UNIVERSITY, amongst others, offers an MSc. In
Astronomy as does CALICUT UNIVERSITY. These also offer ,in
general, Ph.D programmes. Specialized institutes like INDIAN
INSTITUTE OF ASTROPHYSICS (IIA), INTER-UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR
ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS, ARIES, TATA INSTITUTE OF FUNDAMENTAL
RESEARCH, S.N. BOSE , as well as Indian Institute of science and
a few of the IITs take students for PhD programme. Iia takes
students with an M.Sc or a BE/BTech.
Though there are many institutions offering postgraduate courses
and facilitating research, there are very few offering
undergraduate courses. Some of them are DR. BABASAHAB AMBSDKAR
MARATHWADA UNIVERSITY, AURANGABAD, SHIVAJI UNIVERSITY, KOLHAPUR,
UNIVERSITY OF LUCKNOW, AND UNIVERSITY OF CHENNAI.
PROSPECTS After having done a course in astronomy, one can be a
research scientist with several research institute and
government organizations. During the research work, one can
receive a monthly stipend ranging from Rs. 8000- Rs. 9000,
besides other grants and facilities. After completing research,
employment opportunities with different institutes increase.
Various government bodies also employ astronomers as scientists,
who are given high salaries with other perks and allowances.
About the author: http://employmentchronicle.blogspot.com/2008/08/career-in-astroph
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