Wednesday, September 15, 2010


      The Hall of Harmony at the Nehru Centre in Worli was packed on Wednesday evening mostly by students all eager to hear a presentation by the internationally renowned astrophycisist, Jayant Narlikar. about old stars. They all began to trickle into the auditorium around 4,45 p.m. And at sharp 5 p.m. the lecture started aided by a power point presentation.

      The audience were glued to their chairs and sat in pin drop silence as Narlikar started speaking. There were charts, diagrams and figures.

       When the presentation concluded at about 6 p.m. I really wondered whether I had attended a science colloquium meant only for astronomers or a public lecture which is intended to popularise science. Narlikar incidentally is on a mission to popularise science. But, he should be aware that a sizeable percentage of the audience or not scientists.

        Though undoubtedly, there was a lot of depth, it was,however, not presented in a public-friendly manner. The scientific jargon which were constantly used seemed incomprehensible to many. It was undoubtedly an important topic. But certainly it should have been presented in a more interesting and simple way which could be understood by a lay person. Unfortunately this was not the case on Wednesday evening.

        Narlikar's presentation did trigger a lot of questions from the youngsters. But again, they were mainly from science students who perhaps had some knowledge about the topic. A woman sitting behind me asked  whether I would be doing a report for The Times of India. When I replied that for a lay reader it really made no sense, her prompt response was: ``I could not be in greater agreement with you.''

        This reminds me of the six articles which I have just read by none other than Carl Sagan during the Viking landing on Mars in 1976. Though the subject was tough, yet he has written them  in a simple way which would interest everyone--not only spacebuffs like me. He has really taken the trouble of popularising the Viking mission to the public. Each and every aspect of the project has been written in a manner which educate and inform the ordinary reader rathen than confuse him.

         Indian scientists giving public talks must I think emulate the example of Carl Sagan. No offence meant please.


         Yesterday my friend Pradeep Mohandas  had a surprise for me. He sent me a mail which took me to the US-based Planetary Society in which Emily Lakdawalla who regularly writes a space blog had hosted the Voyager bulletins.

          These bulletins now have a historical value and they provided the mission status report after the Voyager launch in 1977. It was one of the greatest interplanetary space projects ever undertaken with Voyager-2 completing 12,000 days of continuos operation on June 28,2010. Launched on August 20,1977, it has flown more than 21 billion kms.

           Voyager 1 reached this milestone on July 13,2010 and has travelled 22 billion kms. It was launched on September 5,1977, coincendally on the very day my blog was launched this year!  I hope it succeeds like the Voyager missions!!!!!!!!!!!!

           The bulletins published by Nasa contain various aspects of the mission and the one day dated August 16,1977, contains a box about the launch day activities. The bulletins contain diagrams about the spacecraft, photographs of the planets and the flight schedule, just to highlight some of the features.

           I have taken a print out of some of the bulletins. In my room I have a picture of the Voyager mission clock which gives the local time of the deep space network at Madrid, Canberra and Goldstone. I have also downloaded a small video of the Voyager mission.

           Space experts guess that both the spacecraft will remain operational till 2017.

           Thank you Emily.





1 comment:

  1. It is very lucky that Voyager 1 has not been involved in any impact with any micro asteroids, comets etc
    I am wondering whether there is so inbuilt protection and maneuver mechanism built into it so that it will by pass any collision ??