India tops medal count at Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad
New Delhi: India recorded an outstanding performance at the 14th International Olympiad of Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) 2021, hosted by Colombia, and held online from November 14-21, 2021.
India was placed in the first position, together with Thailand and Russia in the medal count by country, after winning the second prize in the team competition and individual competitions, four of the five Indian students participating in the competition won. the gold medal and the fifth silver.
Anilesh Bansal from Faridabad, Suren from Hisar, Arhaan Ahmad from Meerut and Chahel Singh from Pune won the gold medal and Dhru Ahlawat from Mumbai the silver medal. Anilesh Bansal placed second in the overall merit list and narrowly missed the special award in the data analytics component.
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In terms of medals, the Indian contingent was led by Professor AA Deshpande (retired from RRI, Bengaluru) and Professor AN Ramaprakash (IUCAA, Pune), and there were four scientific observers: Professor Durgesh Tripathi and Dr Akshat Singhal (IUCAA, Pune), Professor SaritaVig (IIST, Thiruvananthapuram) and Dr Uttam Bhat (University of California, Santa Cruz). Dr Bhat is himself a former Astronomical Olympiad medalist.
This year, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the IOAA was converted to a virtual competition in which students from 52 countries could participate online. A total of 298 students in 62 teams (including guest teams) from 52 countries participated in the competition. In terms of the number of students and teams, it was the largest IOAA to date.
The competition consisted of a 5 hour theory exam, a 3 hour data analysis exam, two software observation exams of approximately 3 hours and a 3 hour team competition. Theoretical questions covered a wide range of topics ranging from celestial mechanics to binary stars, extra-solar planets, astronomical telescopes and detectors, and even cosmic strings. The data analysis test focused on statistical techniques and graphical representation in the context of actual astronomical data. Observational tests covered both the night sky and solar observations.
In a press release, the HomiBhabha Center for Science Education (HBCSE) at the Tata Basic Research Institute (TIFR), which is the country’s nodal center for the Olympics in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and astrophysics and junior sciences, noted that this is India’s best performance ever in the IOAA.
The Olympiad program is supported by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Space (DoS) and Ministry of Education (MoE) of the Indian government.