Monday, 3 June 2013

Astronomy: An Important Science

By María Alejandra Martínez (undergraduate Social Communication student, level 3 English)

The Engineer Raul Andres is the current director of the Astronomical Observatory of the Sergio Arboleda University. He began his working life as a mechanical engineer, and a few years later became a specialist in astronomy at the National University. He has played several important roles within the country and has been recognized for his achievements in the field of astronomy both nationally and internationally.

1* How do you define astronomy, taking into account the time you have already spent in this field?

RA//: For me, astronomy is a science inherent to human beings, because man has always looked to the sky. The first people who walked the earth observed that there is a phenomenon which is day and night and for me this is the beginning of astronomy. The objective is to understand where the planet is located, how the cosmos is, how it was created, if it will have an end, etc.

2* What is your daily routine like? 

RA//: I work in the academic area, where my main function is the research and dissemination of everything to do with science and space, therefore in my day to day routine I share all the knowledge that people want so much in Colombia. The plans that the Astronomical Observatory has are very interesting because what we want is basically to teach the basic concepts of astronomy, understand basic phenomena, etc. Then what I basically do is to assist students and direct the Astrobiology courses. On Thursday we have the observation of space telescopes, an event which is attended by many people, and this is open to the public.

3* Considering that you were leading "Colombia in orbit”, what can you tell me about this great investigative project?

RA//:  The "Colombia in orbit" project was in the years 2004 to 2009, and it was intended to develop and implement a satellite with the name Liberty 1. This was the objective of the project and I was aware of everything that was going on with the satellite. Liberty 2 was launched in order to continue the investigations in this area, and the idea of this is to tell the public what we are working on, what has been discovered and what was the purpose of sending these satellites into space. 

3* The approaches the observatory is currently handling are computational astronomy and space engineering. What are these two approaches?

RA//: The focus we are taking is a little different, because we are currently working on social projection, i.e. how we can allow our expertise to serve Colombians, to make them better people. So we have the idea of doing basic courses, where people can learn about the basics of astronomy, and logically do research about astronomy. We also want to do this with the continuation of our studies of the satellite Liberty 2.

3* Do you believe that there is life on Mars, or that in the future the Moon will be populated?

RA//: Well, I think that man can return to the Moon perfectly, because we have the technology to do it. The thing is that we haven’t found a reason to send human beings back. In the past, what people really wanted to show was the power that they had over the planet, especially the United States and the Soviet Union. I think it is more feasible to send robots than humans. What I think you will see is an exploitation of commercial and economic space, in the part of the low orbit close to the Earth.

3* How is Colombia in the field of astronomy? Are we doing well or do we need more technological development in this area?

RA//: With the astronomy in the country, so far we have three important ideas to highlight. One is basic education, where we teach the key concepts of astronomy. That is being done, but in a very slow way. On the level of technological development we were quite late, and one of the reasons is the weather problems that the country has; we do not have clear skies, and so there are not many good views of the heavens. However, the solution to this problem could be to use radio astronomy which does not need the climate to be applied, but is done through radio waves.

3* What do you think is the most beautiful thing about astronomy?

RA//:That it is a science that lets you know everything about the human being, which in turn should be a prior knowledge to be able to understand what is day and night, year-round, and also know why we are surrounded by planets, stars and that everything is in constant change.

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