An image of the lunar surface captured by Chandrayaan-2.
An image of the lunar surface captured by Chandrayaan-2.

Chandrayaan-2 captures crater ‘Mitra’ named after Bengali physicist

  • Prof Sisir Kumar Mitra had pioneered the study of ionosphere and the use of radio technology
  • Sisir Kumar Mitra was the first to introduce radio communication in India, and began transmitting radio programmes from his laboratory at the University College of Science, Calcutta, in 1926

NEW DELHI : India’s planned manned mission may still be three years away, but the name of an Indian physicist has long been inscribed on the moon’s surface—the 92-km wide impact crater named Mitra!

And, Chandrayaan-2, about two weeks away from attempting the soft landing of its lander and rover on the south pole, has now captured ‘Mitra’ as it sailed past the moon’s north polar region dotted with impact craters.

Mitra is named after Bengali physicist Professor Sisir Kumar Mitra, who had pioneered the use of radio technology in India, and is among several famous scientists who share their names with the moon’s impact craters.

The Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union (IAU)—the global authority for naming planetary features in the solar system— had named the crater after Professor Mitra in 1970, seven years after his death.

The announcement also came at a time when India’s space programme was just beginning to take shape with the establishment of the Indian Space Research Organisation in 1969. Set up nearly 100 years ago, IAU is the world’s largest body representing astronomers from more than 100 countries.

The second set of images taken on 23 August by the spacecraft’s Terrain Mapping Camera-2, also include the images of impact craters (John) ‘Jackson’, a Scottish astronomer; (Ernst) ‘Mach’, an Austrian physicist and philosopher; and (Sergei) ‘Korolev’, the father of the space programme of the erstwhile USSR.

Dr Vikram Sarabhai, father of India’s space programme, American astronomer Daniel Kirkwood and German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld also figure in the naming of lunar features for their contribution to science.

Mitra was a doyen of science, who led research in ionosphere—the upper region of the atmosphere and radiophysics. He was the first to introduce radio communication in India, and began transmitting radio programmes from his laboratory at the University College of Science, Calcutta, in 1926.

“It was for the first time, that an amateur radio station was broadcasting regular programmes in India, until the Indian Broadcasting Company was formed in 1927, which was later designated as All India Radio", said a paper published in peer-reviewed journal Current Science.

His book, Upper Atmosphere published in 1947 is still considered a Bible for research workers in the field of ionosphere. In the 1950s, he advocated space research in India and high altitude rocket research programmes. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1962.

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