New prospects, new commitments: Armenia becomes regional astronomy center

New prospects, new commitments: Armenia becomes regional astronomy center

Major plans and ambitions can only be realized through international and state assistance.

In the summer of 2015, the International Astronomical Union adopted a decision making Armenia a regional astronomical center. The international astronomical community is made up of eight regional centers: Armenia will thus be heading the southeastern astronomical region.

PanARMENIAN.Net - Head of the Armenian Astronomical Society and the regional astronomical center Areg Mikaelyan told PanARMENIAN.Net about the advantages of Armenia's new status.

Under the new status, Armenia will engage in the development of astronomy in the region at three levels: the professional level, called Universities and Research; astronomy education - Children and Schools; and Astronomy for Society, which implies the popularization of the discipline. For local and international development of astronomy, Armenia will have to carry out activities on these three platforms. The International Astronomical Union, in turn, will provide assistance for implementation of various programs.

“Many distinguished scientists, including Nobel laureates will periodically visit the center with a specific mission. The government is coming to a realization that development of science will boost the development of a country on the whole,” Mikaelyan said.

The office of the regional astronomical center is located at Byurakan Observatory. Astronomical Societies of Iran and Georgia have already given their consent to recognition of Armenia as the regional astronomical center. The representative of Turkey, who had arrived in Armenia to participate in the opening of the office, was positive about the change, according to Mikaelyan. Israel, the southern part of Russia and several Arab countries are also likely to approve the initiative.

“In the Soviet era, Armenia was known as a scientific country, and we still have a chance to regain the title. Armenia was among the world's astronomical centers thanks to Academician Viktor Hambardzumyan and his students. Today, many countries have outdone us over the lack of major investments in our country. According to official data, Armenia took the 43rd spot (out of 196 countries) in the world ranking for astronomy development, down from the 31st place in 2000,” the scientist noted,

“Big plans and ambitions can only be realized through international and state assistance. Byurakan observatory was a very large scientific center even in the Soviet era. Today, Armenia doesn’t have the resources necessary for full-scale maintenance and operation of such a center,” Mikaelyan said.

On the other hand, astronomy worldwide is currently developing only through serious technical investments. One modern telescope or equipment costs hundreds of millions of dollars, with Armenia unable to afford such expenditures. In the early 70s, even the Soviet Union began to lag behind the rest of the world over the lack of investments.

“We're cooperating with other countries to make up for the lack of financing. Friendly relations with American, European and Japanese astronomical centers enable us to use their resources and conduct joint researches. Science can’t develop in isolation. Though astronomy is a pricey science, we need to boost its development in order to maintain the glorious traditions of the Armenian astronomical thought. And most importantly, we should be proud to to be scientists,” Mikaelyan concluded.

Arman Gasparyan/ PanARMENIAN.Net
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