Armenia as astronomical superpower and regional center of astronomy: An interview with Byurakan observatory director
In Armenia astronomy is quite developed and attracts international interest, which is why the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory after V. Hambartsumyan of Armenian National Academy of Sciences was recognized as a regional astronomical center by a decision of International Astronomical Union, Director of Byurakan Observatory Hayk Harutyunyan told Panorama.am.
“A few years ago International Astronomical Union decided to establish several regional astronomical centers aimed at assisting countries in a region if astronomy is not at a high level of development in that country. A center was set up in South Africa. We proposed setting up a regional astronomical center in Armenia,” Hayk Harutyunyan said.
The recognition of Byurakan Observatory as a regional astronomical center will allow Armenian experts to organize workshops and courses, invite foreign scholars and implement projects with the financial assistance of International Astronomical Union , the director said noting that the development level of astronomy in the given country is also assessed when international scientific community declares a country a regional astronomic center.
“On the whole, international scientific bodies and experts consider Armenian astronomy quite developed – Armenia ranks 34th-35th in the world by the development level of its astronomy, while our country is in 130th-140th position by its population. Armenia is regarded an astronomical superpower in this sense,” the director of Byurakan Observatory said.
Discussing the fact that a decision was made to draft a strategic program and reform the management system of Byurakan Observatory after it has received a new status, Hayk Harutyunyan said: “The breakup of the Soviet Union negatively affected astronomy and we are trying to gradually reach the former level. The main goal of the strategy is to organize science in such a way that the existing opportunities and human resources can be used most efficiently”.
The director said that despite the current problems, Armenian astronomy attracts plenty of interest from abroad, with approximately 30 foreign specialists visiting Armenia every year.