Prof. Diana Kyurkchieva: Young people express interest in astronomy27 December 2015 | 10:17 | Radio FOCUS – Shumen
FOCUS: Ms Kyurkchieva, when will the new astronomical observatory in the Shumen plateau start operating?
Professor Diana Kyurkchieva: Only the observatory building is ready at present. We have not set up telescopes yet. We expect the observatory will start actively operating at the beginning of March 2016. We will set up telescopes and hope to be ready at the beginning of spring.
Pupils and students will be able to realise projects and make good observations. People will be able to observe the sky under a certain regime we are to specify. We will announce it once it is agreed. It is still unclear whether this will be done all day long, after making an appointment or there will be headquarters for this activity.
FOCUS: Could you tell us a little more about the technical characteristics of the telescopes and which celestial objects and phenomena are the most suitable to be observed and studied?
Professor Diana Kyurkchieva: There will be three telescopes. There will be a 40-centimetre one, a 26-centimetre one, and a 20-centimetre one. The big telescopes will be set up in the two domes. We will set the third telescope up at a [certain] site so that it is more easily accessible for visitors. Work with the big telescopes will not include visual observing. There will be professional detectors there so that data could be amassed. They are appropriate for all kinds of celestial objects, such as stars, galaxies, comets, and others.
FOCUS: You chaired the Bulgarian Astronomical Union until September. What activity are you at present engaged in and how many are your members?
Professor Diana Kyurkchieva: The Bulgarian Astronomical Union is non-governmental organisation of professional astronomers but amateur astronomers also belong to it […]. Our members number about 120. It is not a big organisation as there are not so many astronomers in Bulgaria.
FOCUS: Do young people evince interest in your science?
Professor Diana Kyurkchieva: Yes, they do. We also have such a subject at Bishop Konstantin Preslavsky University of Shumen. There are even colleagues who went to western universities and come back to do their doctorates at our university. We also offer opportunities. The observatory is mainly for young people and to collect data from observations for students in doctoral programmes, master’s degree programme, and bachelor’s degree programmes, and for professional astronomers. We could soon be one of the best bases in Bulgaria for photometric observations as issues are starting to emerge as regards the telescopes in Rozhen [the Rozhen National Astronomical Observatory (NAO)]. There are financing troubles there but, unfortunately, they have begun to experience problems with the equipment, too. This obliges us even more to do things here properly to make professional observations. We should take our time and be very careful. A telescope has to be perfectly directed [at the heavens]. This is done through time-consuming tests and we should be patient. I hope we will be able to let visitors use the other telescope after the weather improves.
FOCUS: How has astronomy in Bulgaria developed over the years and where is the country compared to other European countries? Do you have the needed conditions and opportunities?
Professor Diana Kyurkchieva: Speaking about Bulgarian astronomy in general, we have to say it that compared to other scientific fields [in Bulgaria], it ranks the highest among the rest of sciences internationally. We have this as information on a website of the US government. We are the only scientific infrastructure from fundamental sciences that participates in the national road map of Bulgaria. We are at a very high level in respect of prestige and scientific research. We have had traditions over the years. It is nice astronomy in Shumen enjoys high prestige. We are known in international circles. We take part in a number of international projects. It is not accidental we had the opportunity to work in a [certain] project and purchase such expensive equipment. We have very professional equipment and waited for 5 years for the building [to be ready]. I now hope we have professionals to help us set the telescopes up and test them. I hope we will manage to do something [the city of] Shumen will be proud of.
I hope young people find this important so that they could participate in projects and programmes. I hope during next leap year we will be able to welcome visitors and have a nice exposition. Our colleagues working in the Shumen plateau told us they would provide large part of the [observatory] building to meet our needs and we will organise an exposition.
We may attempt to organise a planetarium or something of the sort but I cannot promise that as it requires a lot of funding. I think we do what we are capable so that our city is rich in things it offers and young people can spend their time in a sensible, interesting, and pleasant manner and they feel useful and important.
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