May 12, 2021 10:55:34 pm
As an astronomy educator, Dr N Rathnasree always wanted to make the cosmos more accessible to the younger generation. She devoted her 21-year-long stint as director of the Nehru Planetarium to that very cause.
“Dr Rathnasree was always looking up telescopes or some planetary movements on her computer,” shares Shakti Sinha, former director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, under whose aegis the Nehru Planetarium falls. Dr Rathnasree died on Sunday of Covid-related complications. The 57-year-old educator had contracted the virus in the beginning of May.
Dr Rathnasree was also a notable member of the Astronomical Society of India, and was also the first ever chairperson of the Public Outreach and Education Committee (POEC) set up in 2014. Even till her last days, she remained active in the POEC. “An avid astronomy communicator and accomplished pulsar astronomer, she was pivotal in most astronomy outreach projects of ASI in the last two decades…” read a statement issued by the ASI.
“She was an outstanding professional and hard working public educator. She wanted to demystify the universe and make it accessible for everyone. She headed the planetarium with absolute dedication. Her focus was to develop new programmes to help educate the young, and she was very innovative in designing such programmes, as it is often very expensive,” said Sinha, who worked with Rathnasree between 2016 and 2019.
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One of the key initiatives of Rathnasree was ‘Astro Adda’, an online discussion forum held every fortnight where students could come together and discuss astronomy-related topics.
Dr Rathnasree had graduated from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai and later pursued her postdoctoral research at the University of Vermont, Burlington. She joined the Nehru Planetarium in 1996 as a senior planetarium educator and then became its director in 1999.
The Ministry of Culture mourned her passing with a tweet: “Extremely saddened to learn about the unfortunate demise of Dr N Rathnasree, Director of Nehru Planetarium under @_NMML passed away on Sunday. Heartfelt condolences to the family & prayers for the departed soul & God to provide strength to the bereaved family.”
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