Observations by SPACE in INDIA


Vamana Project – Venus Transit 2004

16 Cities 250 Schools 2500 Students

On June 8, 2004, Venus the goddess of love as per Greek mythology passed in front of the Sun as seen from the Earth (just like a solar eclipse). This very rare event (no living person prior to the date had ever seen one!) lasted about 6 hours and was visible from most of Europe, Africa and Asia.

The idea of doing this national project called as Vamana, came into our mind in late 2003 when the SPACE team was working on ideas as what could be different ways in which student community and Public could take active part in doing Science. Dr. Nirupama Raghavan, Ex. Director Nehru Planetarium suggested that coming Venus Transit could be used to achieve this goal. As most of the astronomy organizations through out the world were preparing to see the event, we decided that it should just not be an event which one see and forgets, but this event should be used to inculcate the methods of science in students and above all this event should be used to do cooperative science, a term unheard of in Indian education system.

Only this time, it wasn’t just professional astronomers who made the measurement. We involved students around the country to make this measurement. To achieve the final result, three separate observations were necessary that is the reason why this project was also termed as an EXPERIMENT
IN CO-OPERATION. It was the first rare opportunity in Science Education in India. Students from all over the country participated in this project. The project was in 3 phases spread over a span of 5 months starting from 1st Feb and culminating on June 8th. In Vamana we collaborated with CIAA (Confederation of Indian Amateur astronomers), TNSTC (Tamilnadu Science & Technology Centre, Chennai) and Amateur Astronomers Association of Delhi. Major Astronomy clubs and associations from around 10 cities in India were our partners. Dr. Nirupama Raghavan guided us as National Advisor for the project. 
The name “VAMANA” was suggested by Dr. Raghavan as our experiment also needed three stages to complete and measure the basic unit in astronomy “the A. U.” and it was a fitting analogy to the three steps taken by Lord Vamana in mythology to cover the whole universe.

The whole project was of 5 months duration. Spread all over India with participation from far corners involving students from 6th standard onwards, Vamana took his first step on 28th of February, on the National Science day with overwhelming participation from Delhi to Minicoy.

Participants from different schools throughout the country measured the radius of the earth during the day using a gnomon on Feb 27th /28th & 29th. Around 600 readings poured in to our Delhi centre for calculations for earth’s circumference. The readings and results were made available at specially created website www.vamana.net. Students did a thorough job assigned to them and the results were within 3% of the present known value. 

In Delhi, students for the first time in history of India took observations from Jantar Mantar. With help of teams from Varanasi, Delhi and Bhuj working in tandem, students found out the exact location of their place. The experiment was covered extensively in print and electronic media.

Participants made a simple measurement of the position of Venus in the sky over 75 days (Feb 20th to May 15th) to determine the maximum angular separation between the Sun and Venus. Around 2000 readings with raw data were collected from all over India, especially the south India where students took active part in measuring the position of Venus with help of specially made instruments.

In the last phase, selected 150 Participants (In Delhi, Faridabad, Gurgaon Chapter) using telescopes determined the path that Venus takes across the solar disc on June 8th. For this purpose a special scientific trip was organized to Taalvraksh, Sariska, about 250 Kms from Delhi, from where they took readings on the 8th June. Their readings and images were put up on a specially created website www.8june2004.org where around 3 lakh visits were made by net surfers on the day of the transit. Electronic and print media gave excellent coverage to the Phase III. Vamana became household name in student’s community. Readings taken on that day were reported on International sites.

The final value of the EARTH-SUN Distance as calculated by the students came out to be 151280521 kms which is within 1.2% of the present accepted value.

Vamana proved to be a milestone and a setting example of how science can be done and taught in Cooperation.

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