Published: 13th September 2020
Take a walk through the stars: Why you'll love PAAC's informative webinars on astronomy
Atul Bhat, a Physics lecturer and a prominent member of the Poornaprajna Amateur Astronomers Club, about their recent webinars for amateur astronomers and school kids
When the lockdown was announced across India in the month of March due to the Corona pandemic, everything came to a standstill. And with it, so did the activities planned by Poornaprajna Amateur Astronomers Club (PAAC) for school and college students. But the group of amateur astronomers did not lose hope. Instead, they found new ways to conduct these programmes and help school and college students and fellow young astronomy enthusiasts to explore their interests in Astronomy and other subjects related to it. It was very simple, the group moved to conduct their activities online. While there are a lot of programmes happening in this space, what makes them unique is the live streaming of astronomical events - like Zero Shadow Day on April 24 or the recent lunar eclipse on June 5.
Atul Bhat, who is a Physics lecturer at the Poornaprajna College in Udupi, is the brain behind these online live streaming programmes and the webinars they have conducted so far. He explains, "In the period of academic development, with constant webinars and online lectures, we organised a series of online lectures for BSc and MSc students. And the speakers for these lectures were from the same field. While the first lecture was on 'Adventures in Cosmology: From Ground, Water and Space' by Professor Uday Shankar from Raman Research Institute, the second lecture was on 'Tides: The Familiar Unknown' by Madhusudan from Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium. The third lecture was all about my experience and the joy of exploring various objects in the night sky moving forward and backward in time, using a software called Stellarium. It was a talk titled 'The Celestial Sphere: A Virtual Tour'."
At least 300 students were part of this lecture series, something Atul hardly expected. What makes PAAC's work remarkable is that they have uploaded these lecture series on their eponymous YouTube channel. "The reason behind uploading these lectures was simply because we wanted everyone to access them and gain knowledge from them. A few days ago, we conducted a webinar on 'Opportunities in Space Science and Astronomy'. The speaker for this webinar was Dr P Sreekumar, who is the Former Director of the Space Science Program Office, ISRO. Around 700 people watched this webinar from across the country and it is still available on our website and YouTube channel to watch."
Aside from conducting webinars, Atul has formed a WhatsApp group for these amateur astronomers in which he posts infographics on various topics of Astronomy. They have also created a calendar for various events in Astronomy and he posts pictures of the events that have taken place. You can even mark these events in your phone's calendar and set a reminder for that particular day. Currently, around 180 people are part of this WhatsApp group. When we ask if we could also be a part of the group, Atul's answer with a happy 'Yes' and he immediately shares the link of the group called PAAC Astronomy Updates. While you may or may not be a part of this group, you can definitely check out their website for every day updates and information on Astronomy.