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AstroSat Science Meet

The first dedicated Indian Astronomy mission, AstroSat which was launched on September 28, 2015 completed two years in orbit. A unique feature of Astrosat mission is that it enables simultaneous multi-wavelength observations (optical, UV and X-rays) of various astronomical objects with a single satellite.

The satellite is being operated as an “Observatory”, in which observing time is allotted based on the proposals received from interested researchers and scientists in the country, through ISRO’s Announcements of Opportunity (AO). More than 50 papers have been published in peer reviewed journals and one special issue of Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy (JAA) has been published (Ref: Vol 38, No.2, June 2017).  From October 2017, the observatory is open to Indian and International astronomy community.

In order to commemorate two years completion of AstroSat in orbit, Space Science Programme Office (SSPO), ISRO Headquarters organised an “AstroSat Science Meet” at ISRO HQ, Bangalore during 26 – 27 September, 2017. The inaugural session was graced by Dr.K. Kasturirangan, Honorary Distinguished Adviser, ISRO and former Chairman ISRO and Secretary DOS, who gave the keynote address.  Dr. M. Annadurai, Director, ISAC inaugurated the session and Dr.P.G. Diwakar, Scientific Secretary, ISRO released the AstroSat picture of the month.

Dr. S. Seetha, Director, SSPO welcomed all the dignitaries and participants for the science meet. Prof. U.R. Rao, a Space scientist of International repute and Chairman, Advisory Committee for Space Science (ADCOS) was remembered for his contribution to Indian Space science programme. Dr. Seetha mentioned that AstroSat has made 772 individual pointings to observe 378 distinct sources. 110 Gamma-ray bursts were detected.

Dr. Annadurai in his address, appreciated the involvement of young members in the AstroSat project and mentioned that AstroSat has provided next level learning experience for the satellite team. He brought out the comparison between Mars Orbiter Mission and AstroSat in terms of technological advancement, payload mass, orbit of the satellite, payload and satellite realization schedule, science focus etc. He also emphasized that future mission should take forward what is learnt from AstroSat. The instruments, spacecraft and pipeline for AstroSat-2 have to be made in the bigger way. Utilising AstroSat-1to the fullest, longevity of the mission, niche areas for the next mission are to be thought about. 

Dr. K. Kasturirangan delivered the Keynote address. He congratulated ISRO and payloads teams who have been successful in meeting the significant challenge of design and development of spacecraft and payloads.  Within two years, AstroSat has observed around 400 sources, 110 GRBs, polarisation in GRBs, Quasi-Periodic oscillations, search for X-ray analogues of gravitational waves etc.  This indicates the kind of science which can be envisaged from the payloads. He presented the legacy of Indian astronomy activities since 1950s from cosmic rays studies using balloons, rockets, satellite borne payloads on SROSS, IRS-P3 and the learning from which led to the realisation of the dedicated astronomy mission.  He recalled the rationale behind proposing AstroSat as a “Multi-wavelength” satellite. He commended all the scientists involved in reviewing the design of payloads. He mentioned that AstroSat-2 should have next level of science and engineering which could be anything from Gravitational wave counterpart detection, polarization of GRBs, IR telescopes or multi-wavelength capability, bigger telescope with grazing incidence optics etc. Universities have to be brought into data analysis and in Big data analytics.  Formation flying concept with AstroSat 2A, 2B etc having international competence can be thought of in future.  He stated that AstroSat is attributed to the undying spirit of ISRO and more than a mission, it is a culture.

“AstroSat Picture of the Month” is an initiative taken by the AstroSat Training and outreach team, ISRO and Public outreach and education committee of Astronomical Society of India.  Dr. Diwakar released the First Poster for the month of September 2017.

Dr. Diwakar mentioned that two cycles of AO have been completed and third cycle observations commence from October 2017. The observatory is open to Indian and International community and more research outcomes are expected from this mission.  He also requested researchers to communicate the results to the public.

Prof. Srianand, IUCAA is the Chairman of Astrosat Time Allocation Committee (ATAC). He made a presentation on “Overview of Science from AstroSat and Time Allocation”.  He briefed on the proposals received for the third AO cycle and the niche science areas from the proposals. He also gave suggestions to improve the proposals and process.

Around 150 participants attended the science meet. 

In the first session on status and science from payloads, presentations were made by the payload managers and mission operations on the status of payloads, calibration and science highlights.

The sessions are arranged astronomy theme-wise and are based on the abstracts received from the AO cycle users for this science meet. 25 researchers presented their work using AstroSat data during the science meet.

A panel discussion on “Space astronomy beyond AstroSat – path ahead” was held.  Directors or representatives from various national institutions presented their ideas for the next astronomy mission.  After the deliberations, it was decided that the panel will submit a report to ISRO.

Dr. K. Kasturirangan made pertinent suggestions to the panelists which were discussed in detail for possible consideration. Other senior members in the audience also provided relevant points to be taken up by the panelists.

Shri. A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman, ISRO/ Secretary, DOS, addressed the gathering and appreciated the teams of AstroSat, which in two years has changed the outlook of Indian space astronomy. He also mentioned that advanced capabilities in terms of technology and computing exist within the country, which can be brought forth for future projects. This could consist of few small satellites with a turnaround time of about two years followed by a full-fledged mission. He said the community should not be constrained by any limitations and encouraged the community to look beyond and come up with new original ideas.  The primary goal of next mission is to be science-driven and hence he requested the panel to have in-depth discussion, and recommend pioneering concepts which can be considered for future missions.

Inaugration of the event by Dr. K. Kasturirangan


Dr. Diwakar releasing AstroSat Picture of the Month