IAU Honours India’s First Professional Meteor Scientist Aswin Sekhar, Names Minor Planet After Him


New Delhi [India]: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has honoured Indian astrophysicist Aswin Sekhar by naming a minor planet after him.

The honour was conferred on him at the 2023 edition of Asteroids Comets Meteors Conference, which took place in Arizona on June 21, 2023. Only five Indians — Nobel laureates CV Raman and Subramanya Chandrasekhar; mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan; prominent physicist and astronomer Vikram Sarabhai; astronomer and former president of IAU Manali Kallat Vainu Bappu, who was also the co-discoverer of the Wilson-Bappu Effect, were conferred this honour before him.

Speaking to ANI, Sekhar, who works as an astrophysicist at the Institute of Celestial Mechanics, Paris Observatory in France said he was deeply humbled and honoured by this recognition. “This was announced at this Asteroids, comets-meteors conference at Arizona in America, and it was surprising. It was a pleasant surprise,” he said.

“I am given to understand that lots of legends in my field, they nominated my name to the International Astronomical Union Nomenclature Committee, and they my body of work and approved my name. So I kind of feel this is a recognition to whatever contributions have done in meteor science and exceptionally grateful to the committee for this honour,” the revered astrophysicist added.

Sekhar, the first professional meteor scientist from India, said his work focuses on forecasting meteor showers, which entails the understanding of the past, present, and future of meteoroid streams and modeling of meteoroid stream particles and how they evolve around the solar system and interact with Earth.

On how his study contributed to this field, the astrophysicist said his study focused on a concept called ‘resonances’, which is essentially the periodic gravitational effects of Jupiter and Saturn on meteor showers and how they intensify the meteor showers in particular years and so on.

“So this work is essentially useful for the safety of our satellites and space crafts and astronauts and soon these studies would help to calibrate the risk factor from meteors on spacecraft,” Sekhar explained.

He said there are lots of exciting things happening in his field, especially when it comes to mapping the sky, trying to map the asteroids and the minor planets in the solar system.
“So these studies are very useful for the human race because, as some of you might recall, it’s an asteroid hit which actually killed the whole species of dinosaurs. So in a way, protecting our Earth from these impact risk of asteroids is a hot topic these days,” he said

Sekhar said he hoped that his body of work and recognition would encourage more youngsters to come to this “small-body solar system community”.

He added, “I think there are a lot of excellent new work to be done. So we need fresh young brain from our own country to get into these fields and try to help us to protect Earth from some of these deadly hazardous bodies orbiting in space.”

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