India’s stalwart astronomer SM Chitre passes away at 84 – Times of India

Eminent astronomer and space scientist, S M Chitre (84), who provided the first commentary during the inauguration of Nehru Planetarium in Worli, on March 3, 1977, passed away on Monday afternoon after prolonged illness. He died at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital.
Nehru Planetarium director, Arvind Paranjpye, recalled Chitre telling him that actor Dilip Kumar had trained him to face the microphone. Chitre gave the commentary to a show called “Tyrst With Destiny”. Paranjpye said that Chitre had encouraged setting up a science lab at the planetarium to inspire school students to study science.
That Chitre was keen on encouraging students was amply evident from a remark made by a Mumbai University physics student, Ruchira Sawant, who remembered that on August 24, 2015, after a programme at the Nehru Planetarium, he pointed to her and inquired whether she understood what the main speaker had presented about atomic energy. She said she had.
“I remember him telling me that young minds should understand what is happening,” Ruchira said, pointing out that he had advised her to “have a conversation with a mind which has something to say”.
A graduate from Elphinstone College and Peterhouse College, Cambridge, Chitre played a major role in the development of India’s first space observatory Astrosat, which was launched by ISRO in 2015.
Chintamani Pai, part of Mumbai University’s physics department, said: “He inspired us to research cosmic rays flux variation during the annular solar eclipse of 2010.”
Chitre was the driving force behind establishing University of Mumbai’s atomic energy department and centre for excellence, located at the Kalina campus. He was a stalwart of Indian astronomy community, particularly solar physics. A recipient of Padma Bhushan, he retired as a senior professor from TIFR in 2001. He served on the boards of Nehru Centre trust and J N Tata trust for several years.
He was a former president of the Astronomical Society of India, and a member of multiple committees in recent decades that shaped India’s science policy.

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