IAU Commission 41 : Meetings : Astronomical Archives Session

Astronomical Archives in India

S.M. Razaullah Ansari (Aligarh/India)

India with its long tradition of star catalogues spectroscopy and spectrography has a very rich archival material of astronomy. We may recall that the first modern observatory was built at Madras already in 1792 where initially a series of observation of stars the moon and eclipses of Jupiter's satellites were commenced. The Observatory became internationally known for the work by the Madras Government Astronomers viz. the star catalogues by J. Goldingham (in 1793-1812 and 1825) and T. G. Taylor (of 11000 stars completed in 1844) supplemented by W.S. Jacob (of 1440 stars 250 double stars during 1856-1862) and observations of asteroids and variable stars by N. R. Pogson 1861-1891).

Besides maintaining the catalogues of astronomical observations, a new archival element of observational astronomy was introduced at the 21st General Assembly of IAU by approving the resolution (C 13) concerning the creation of a Working Group for spectroscopic Data Archives. In this context the following Indian contribution can be noted.

At the photoheliographic observatories at Dehradun (India) founded by J.B.N. Hennessy in 1884 and by C. T. Haig in 1886 work was started with a 8" Dallmeyer photo-heliograph and further a 12" photo of the Sun with a still larger photoheliograph was planned. In 1898 the solar flash spectrum carried out by K.D. Naegamvala during the occurrence of the total solar eclipse became quite well known. His spectroscopic work of Orion Nebula was also known to the astronomical community. Already in 1875 solar and stellar spectroscopy was developed by Fa. Lafont at St. Xavier College (Calcutta) and at Presidency College observatory. In the beginning of the 20th Century an astrophysical observatory was established at Kodaiknal which became famous for its complete record ofsolar activity and systematic spectra of sunspots by the famous Evershed (appointed director of the observatory in 1911). In 1912 the Nizamia Observatory at Hyderabad (established in 1908) joined the international programme of Carte du Ciel. To note is that twelve astrographic catalogues comprising 800000 stars were published. Besides that a programme of observation of variable stars (by Bhaskaran) and of double star measurement (by Akbar Ali 1944-1960) were also initiated at Nizamia.

Without going into postindependence era (1947 - to-date) we discuss in this paper the following relevant questions:

1. Which steps have been taken by Indian Observatories to archive astronomical data (AD)?

2. Which problems do we face in archiving our data?

3. What sort of AD do we have and whether it is accessible to astronomers on national and international levels?

4. Since the ultimate development target for an observatory based archiving is the Historical Reference Archives have we achieved to some extent that goal?

In short we report the state of the Indian Archival material and the problems it faces today.

HTML version: Wolfgang R. Dick. Created: 11 July 2000