The 125th anniversary of the prestigious Kodaikanal Solar Observatory (KSO) was celebrated on 1 April 2024 by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA)

    1. Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

    Historical Background:

    1. The Madras Observatory, established in 1792 by the British East India Company, was the pioneer of solar observation in India.
    2. The Madras Observatory was merged with the KoSO following the reorganisation of all Indian observatories on April 1, 1899.

    Establishment of KoSO:

    1. India, along with China, Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia, southern Africa, Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela, suffered concurrent multi-year droughts during 1876-1878, later named the Great Drought, and an associated global famine that killed nearly 50 million.
    2. The decision to establish the observatory came after a famine in Madras Presidency in 1893, which highlighted the need to study the sun to better understand monsoon patterns.
    3. The U.K. Secretary of State, Indian Observatories Committee, chaired by Lord Kelvin, decided to establish the observatory in Kodaikanal, which has favorable atmospheric conditions.
    4. In response to evidence suggesting a relationship between solar activity and seasonal rainfall in India, the Famine Commission of the British Raj recommended regular solar observations.
    5. Charles Michie Smith surveyed hill stations in Tamil Nadu and selected Kodaikanal in the Palani Hills for its favorable atmospheric conditions.
    6. The Government of India approved the establishment of the Solar Physics Observatory in 1893 and construction began soon after.

    Early Contributions and Expansion:

    1. KoSO began systematic observations in 1901, initially focusing on solar physics.
    2. Over time, its research areas expanded to include cosmic rays, radio astronomy, ionospheric physics and stellar physics, etc.

    Integration with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA):

    • In 1971, KoSO was brought under the IIA, increasing its integration with the broader astrophysical research community in India.

    Legacy and Ongoing Research:

    1. Today, KoSO has a vast digital repository of over 1.48 lakh digitized solar images, which provides valuable data for solar research.
    2. The observatory continues to play an important role in solar research, conducting high-resolution imaging and contributing to our understanding of the Sun's behavior and its influence on Earth's climate and space weather.

    Equipment and Facilities:

    1. KoSO utilizes various instruments, including a 20 cm refractor, twin spectroheliographs, a solar tunnel telescope, and ionosondes for its research activities.

    Conclusion:

    The Kodaikanal Solar Observatory stands as a tribute to India's rich history of astronomical research. Its contributions to solar physics, ionospheric studies. KoSO remains a vibrant center of solar research, constantly pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of the Sun and its role in the universe.

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