Two days conference on “Celebrating Seven Years of AstroSat”
Oct 10, 2022
AstroSat, India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength observatory mission has completed seven years in orbit in September 2022. To celebrate the event ISRO has organised a two day conference on September 28-29, 2022 providing a platform for astronomers to share their findings from AstroSat. The event witnessed active participation from several research institutes and academia including IITs, TIFR, IUCAA, BITS, NITs, many universities and private research institutes and several ISRO centers and units. The event was live-streamed both on the ISRO webpage and on social media platforms.
AstroSat was launched into a low earth orbit of 650 km and a low inclination of 60 on September 28, 2015 from Shriharikota using a PSLV C-30 rocket. The five scientific payloads onboard AstroSat are working satisfactorily and providing world class science data serving more than 2000 users from 54 countries.
During the inaugural session, Shri Shantanu Bhatawdekar, Scientific Secretary, ISRO during his initial remarks informed the audience about the launch of AstroSat, the scientific payloads onboard AstroSat and international usage of AstroSat data. He also updated about a funding initiative of ISRO to encourage the usage of AstroSat data particularly among universities and colleges and how this initiative is paying dividends as seen by the number of publications coming from the funding project.
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Figure 1: Schematic view of
Dr. V Girish, Deputy Director, Science Program Office, ISRO summarized the AstroSat mission, its userbase demography, and significant results while highlighting that more than 275 research articles and 20 theses came out of AstroSat data. AstroSat data has also resulted in more than 700 conference proceedings, astronomer’s telegrams and other non-refereed publications.
Directors of the TIFR, Mumbai and IIA, Bangalore along with representatives of international collaborators from CSA and the University of Leicester shared their experience and comments on AstroSat. They requested ISRO to continue providing support in realizing new science missions.
Shri A S Kirankumar, Member, Space Commission mentioned the realization of AstroSat and how AstroSat is providing virgin data to Indian and international users leading to cutting-edge science. Dr. K Kasturirangan, former Chairman, ISRO elucidated the development of X-ray science in India, and initial payload development activities taken-up by the scientists leading to AstroSat. He also enlightened the gathering about how the inter-desciplinary expertise of founders helped ISRO to reach its current position.
During his address, Shri S Somanath, Chairman ISRO / Secretary, DOS, mentioned some of the discoveries from AstroSat exemplified the multi-institute nature of the mission, how different research institutes from India realized multiple payloads onboard AstroSat and also talked about the international collaboration. Shri Somanath informed ISRO’s upcoming science missions and posed new challenges to the research community on how to benefit from the AstroSat experience for ISRO’s future humanned missions. One such challenge is estimating the radiation environment and how to safeguard the astronauts from the harmful effects of radiation. Chairman, ISRO also said how AstroSat data has led to several discoveries and other exciting results like solving the puzzle of a red star bright in Ultra-violet, detection of X-ray polarization from the off-pulse region of Crab pulsar, enhanced emission from Butterfly nebula, maximally spinning black hole to rare triple thermonuclear bursts from an X-ray binary. One of the major results of AstroSat is the discovery of Lyman alpha photons from a galaxy 9.3 billion years away.
The discussions and deliberations during the meeting ranged from the study of eruptions from the nearest star Proxima Centauri at just 4 light years away, to Far Ultra-violet photons from 9.3 billion light years away, demonstrating the efficacy of AstroSat. There were mainly four scientific sessions organised in the two-day conference. The first session discussed the top results from AstroSat, which covered various science problems from star formation studies to X-ray polarimetry of GRBs to the already mentioned result on Lyman continuum emission from z=1.42 galaxy. As AstroSat is capable of simultaneous measurements in multiple wavebands, there were talks on using this unique capability.
This was followed by a session on the results from the ISRO-sponsored projects where a total of eleven papers were discussed covering wide-ranging topics, galaxies to blazars, low-masss and high-mass X-ray binaries, jets and other interesting astrophysical processes. In the session on invited talks of 15 minutes were presented again with a wide range of topics covering accreting neutron stars, FUV emission from dwarf galaxies, broadband properties of binaries, detection of quasi periodic oscillations (QPO) etc.
A session dedicated to potential astronomy program concepts of ISRO discussed a UV mission capable of deepest UV imaging and to fill-in a niche area in the coming years, followed by a mission for broadband X-ray spectral and polarization measurements.
The conference ended with the interaction of selected scientists with Shri A S Kirankumar, Chairman APEX Science board, where mainly human resource generation and training at various stages like at University research fellows to Post-doctoral fellows was discussed. The session ended with Shri A S Kirankumar providing important inputs for both human resource generation and future astronomy programs and, hardware development, involving students and faculty from universities.
AstroSat is truly a result of multi-institute international collaboration. The effort and the hardwork involved in realizing the mission are providing great results and is also evident by the fact that, a mission designed for five years of operation has exceeded it by 2 years already. AstroSat mission is working satisfactorily and is expected to provide niche science data for several more years. It will continue to serve the astronomy community even after attaining its end in the form of archival data.