India was placed in first place with Thailand and Russia in the medal count by country, after winning second prize in the team competition and individual competitions.

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

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

India was placed in first place with Thailand and Russia in the medal count by country, after winning second place in the team competition and the individual competitions. Four of the five Indian students participating in the competition won the gold medal and the fifth won the silver.

Anilesh Bansal from Faridabad, Suren from Hisar, Arhaan Ahmad from Meerut and Chahel Singh from Pune won the gold medal, while Dhru Ahlawat from Mumbai the silver. Anilesh Bansal placed second on the overall merit list and narrowly missed the special award in the data analytics component.

The Indian contingent was led by Professor AA Deshpande (retired from RRI, Bengaluru) and Professor AN Ramaprakash (IUCAA, Pune). Besides 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 himself a former Astronomical Olympiad medalist.

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This year, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the IOAA was converted to a virtual competition, in which students from 52 countries entered 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, it was the largest IOAA to date.

The competition consisted of a five-hour theory exam, a three-hour data analysis exam, two software-based observational exams for three hours, and a team competition for three hours.

Theoretical questions covered a wide range of topics ranging from celestial mechanics, binary stars, extrasolar planets, astronomical telescopes and detectors, to cosmic strings. The data analysis test focused on statistical techniques and graphical representation in the context of actual astronomical data. Observational tests covered both the night sky and solar observations.

In a press release, Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education (HBCSE) of the Tata Basic Research Institute (TIFR), which is the country’s nodal center for the Olympics in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and astrophysics and junior sciences, noted that this is the best performance ever recorded by India in the IOAA.

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