Engineer At IIA's Ladakh Observatory Inducted As Honorary Member Of International Astronomical Union

by Karan Kamble - Aug 31, 2021 03:05 PM
Engineer At IIA's Ladakh Observatory Inducted As Honorary Member Of International Astronomical UnionDorje Angchuk is the engineer-in-charge at the Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle, Ladakh. (Photo: Indian Institute of Astrophysics/Twitter)
Snapshot
  • Ladakh-based engineer at the Indian Astronomical Observatory, Dorje Angchuk, is among the 11 new honorary members inducted by the International Astronomical Union.

    He is the only Indian honorary member on the list.

Dorje Angchuk, the chief engineer at India’s northernmost astronomical observatory, is among 11 new honorary members inducted to the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

According to IAU, Angchuk was inducted “for his passionate promotion of astronomy in the Ladakh region, through his excellent astrophotography, which has been published in The New Yorker Magazine and in the 2020 December issue of AAPPS journal.”

Angchuk’s insights were reported in the story ‘The Clear Night Sky Over India and China’s Hostile Border’ for the New Yorker magazine in September 2020.

AAPPS, meanwhile, is short for the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies.

The announcement was made during the IAU Business Sessions, held virtually from 23 to 26 August 2021.

The honorary membership category was introduced at the Thirtieth General Assembly held in August 2018 in Vienna. It recognises, as per the IAU, "individuals who have significantly contributed to the progress of astronomical research and culture in their country, but who do not qualify as individual members".

IAU’s national members propose one candidate every three years for honorary membership. The work of admission is then done by either the IAU Executive Committee or the President of a Division.

Angchuk was nominated by the Indian National Committee, which is the National Committee for Astronomy (NCA), led by Jayaram N Chengalur of the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

"I never expected something like this. It is an unusual feeling. But it is a good feeling,” Angchuk told Swarajya. “It is also good for the nightscape of Ladakh, which I'm trying to promote,” he added.

Angchuk has a passion for astronomy and his hometown Ladakh and, through his work, he combines the two. “Ladakh has clear skies. It is good even during the daytime, but I definitely have a passion to show more of the beauty of Ladakh’s nightscapes,” he said.

Dorje Angchuk took this picture of the Hanle Monastery in September 2016.
Dorje Angchuk took this picture of the Hanle Monastery in September 2016.
'Perseids meet Himalayan Chandra Telescope!' Dorje Angchuk took this picture on 7 July 2021 at the Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle.
'Perseids meet Himalayan Chandra Telescope!' Dorje Angchuk took this picture on 7 July 2021 at the Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle.

Angchuk was born and raised in Ladakh. He studied till Class 10 in capital Leh before heading to Gujarat to study Electronics and Communication as part of his Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degree at the Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Surat.

After receiving his BTech degree, he had two professional opportunities — executive trainee at the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited and trainee engineer at an upcoming astronomical observatory in Hanle, Ladakh.

“I thought that the new Hanle observatory would be closer to my home and my parents. And with this new setup, I would be able to learn more than in other more corporate places,” he said.

Angchuk joined the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) in September 1998. He was the first person from Ladakh to join the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), the high-altitude station of the IIA, as a trainee engineer in the initial phase.

He contributed to the installation and commissioning of the 2-metre optical-infrared Himalayan Chandra Telescope, later securing a permanent position at the facility. He is now engineer-in-charge at IAO. He has worked at this facility for 23 years.

In a Facebook post, Angchuk wrote that his “world changed” when he saw “beautiful pictures from Hanle” taken by astrophotographer Ajay Talwar. He felt that “the night world through a DSLR camera is so much more beautiful” than “the darkness our eyes can catch”.

“It can also help me in showcasing the beautiful nightscape of my own land,” he wrote in his post. This led him to buy his first camera and it kicked off his astrophotography journey. And now, over a decade later, he is an honorary member of the IAU.

Established in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest body of professional astronomers. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects — research, communication, education and development, and more — through international cooperation. The organisation has a total membership of over 12,000 from over 100 countries.

India is among the 85 national members of the IAU.

Angchuk becomes the only Indian honorary member of the IAU in the list of 20.

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