Director of Nehru Planetarium, who helped make astronomy accessible to young people, dies of Covid


As an educator in astronomy, Dr N Rathnasree has always wanted to make the cosmos more accessible to the younger generation. She dedicated her 21-year stint as director of the Nehru Planetarium to this same cause.

“Dr. Rathnasree was always looking for telescopes or planetary movements on his computer,” says Shakti Sinha, former director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, under whose umbrella the Nehru Planetarium falls. Dr Rathnasree died of complications from Covid on Sunday. The 57-year-old educator contracted the virus in early May.

Dr Rathnasree was also a notable member of the Astronomical Society of India, and was also the very first Chairperson of the Public Awareness and Education Committee (POEC) established in 2014. Even until its last days, she remained active within the POEC. “A fervent astronomer communicator and accomplished pulsar astronomer, she has played a central role in most of ASI’s astronomical outreach projects over the past two decades …” reads a statement released by ASI. .

“She was an exceptional and hardworking professional public educator. She wanted to demystify the universe and make it accessible to everyone. She ran the planetarium with absolute dedication. Her goal was to develop new programs to help educate young people, and she was very innovative in designing such programs because it often costs a lot of money, ”said Sinha, who worked with Rathnasree between 2016 and 2019.

One of Rathnasree’s main initiatives was “Astro Adda”, a fortnightly online discussion forum where students could meet and discuss astronomical topics.

Dr Rathnasree graduated from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai and then continued his postdoctoral research at the University of Vermont, Burlington. She joined the Nehru Planetarium in 1996 as a senior planetarium educator, then became its director in 1999.

The Culture Ministry mourned his passing with a tweet: “Extremely saddened to learn of the unfortunate passing of Dr N Rathnasree, director of the Nehru Planetarium under @_NMML passed away on Sunday. My sincere condolences to the family and prayers for the deceased soul and God to give strength to the bereaved family.


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