India jointly tops medal tally at IOAA, 4 students win gold, 1 wins silver

India was placed in the top position along with Thailand and Russia in the country-wise medals tally, after it bagged the second prize in the team competition and the individual contests

Four of the five Indian students participating in the competition won the gold medal and the fifth one won the silver

India recorded an exceptional performance at the 14th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA), 2021, organized by Colombia, and held in virtual mode from November 14 to November 21.

India was placed in the top position along with Thailand and Russia in the country-wise medals tally, after it bagged the second prize in the team competition and the individual contests. Four of the five Indian students participating in the competition won the gold medal and the fifth one won the silver.

Anilesh Bansal of Faridabad, Suren of Hisar, Arhaan Ahmad of Meerut, and Chahel Singh of Pune won the gold medal, while Dhru Ahlawat of Mumbai the silver medal. Anilesh Bansal ranked second in the overall merit list, and narrowly missed the special prize in the Data Analysis component.

The Indian contingent was led by Professor A. A. Deshpande (Retired from RRI, Bengaluru) and Professor A. N. Ramaprakash (IUCAA, Pune). Apart from the professors, there were four scientific observers namely, Professor Durgesh Tripathi and Dr. Akshat Singhal (IUCAA, Pune), Professor Sarita Vig (IIST, Thiruvananthapuram), and Dr. Uttam Bhat (University of California, Santa Cruz). Dr. Bhat is a former Astronomy Olympiad medallist himself.

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This year, due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the IOAA was converted to a virtual competition, where students from across 52 countries participated online. A total of 298 students in 62 teams (including guest teams) from 52 countries participated in the competition. In terms of the number of students and teams, this was the biggest IOAA so far.

The competition consisted of five hour theoretical examination, a three hour examination on data analysis, two software-based observational examinations for three hours and one team competition for three hours.

The theoretical questions covered a wide range of topics from celestial mechanics, binary stars, extrasolar planets, astronomical telescopes and detectors, to even cosmic strings. The data analysis test focused on statistical techniques and graphing in the context of real astronomical data. The observational tests covered both the night sky and solar observations.

In a press release, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), which is the nodal centre in the country for Olympiads in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy and Astrophysics and Junior Science, noted that this is India’s best-ever performance in IOAA.

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The Olympiad programme is supported by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Space (DoS), and the Ministry of Education (MoE) of the Government of India.

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