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HUST establishes first Department of Astronomy in Central China

July 26, 2020

On July 26th, the Department of Astronomy in the School of Physics, HUST, which is also the first Department of Astronomy in central China, was established, witnessed by 10 academicians, approximately 200 astronomers and more than 100 thousand people both online and offline. Attendees also had the opportunity to see the blueprint of Wuhan Yujiashan Observatory unveiled.


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Vice President Xiaodong Xu extended warm welcome to all the attendees and expressed great thanks to the scholars who were supportive for the establishment of the Department of Astronomy. He said that HUST would constantly promote the interdisciplinary development of astronomy, physics and other disciplines, and achieve leading research outcomes. Various resources would be pooled together to support the department to contribute to the development of Astronomy in China.


Zhaohui Ye and Xiaodong Xu, academicians of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kai Zhang, the Chair of the School of Physics Council and Xiangsong Chen, the Dean of the School of Physics together inaugurated for the Department of Astronomy and pressed the “Start Button” of Yujiashan Observatory. Professor Xiaoping Zheng, the President of Hubei Astronomical Society, was announced the Dean of the Department of Astronomy and issued a letter of appointment. He mainly studies in neutron star state, magnetic field and gravitational wave radiation.


Astronomy, as one of six basic disciplines of natural science (including math, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geography, and biology,) is a subject that studies the universe and the formation, structure, and evolution of celestial objects. The forward-looking scientific issues and studies are of great theoretical and applied value. The successful launch of "Tianwen-1", the Mars probe, began the new era of Chinese planetary exploration. With the development of society, astronomy will play a more important role in catching up with the scientific frontier and serving Chinese national strategic needs.


Xiaoping Zheng said at the opening ceremony that the department at present has a teaching laboratory and a numerical simulation laboratory that contribute towards astronomy training in HUST. The research interests of the department include galaxies, active galaxies, compact objects, gravitational waves, astronomical technology, astronomical optical technology, etc. Progress has been made in activities including supermassive black holes, comprehensive research on compact objects of different scales, pulsar timing array search for supermassive binary black holes, pulsar radiation mechanism, gamma-ray bursts, black hole binaries, cosmic rays, gravitational wave science and detection technology, optical telescope technology, etc.


"Field investigations have been carried out for building Yujiashan Observatory, Tianwen Popular Science Park, Star Hall, Astronomy Laboratory, and the Planetarium, among which Yujiashan Observatory is a 1.5-meter laser ranging station to be built on Yujiashan, the highest peak in Wuhan City. The observatory will provide the launch of the Tianqin satellite with technical support to achieve millimeter range accuracy, promoting astronomical technology." Professor Qingwen Wu, executive deputy director of the Department of Astronomy, introduced at the ceremony. As an advanced optical experiment platform, Yujiashan Observatory will vigorously promote the development of optical design and experimentation, optical fiber technology, automatic control technology, laser technology and image processing technology, and play a great role in cultivating students' operational abilities, training interdisciplinary talent and popularizing the science. HUST will jointly build the first astronomy science park in Hubei province with its affiliated planetarium, providing a first-class scientific educational environment for primary and middle school students as well as citizens in Central China. Star Hall is located in a cave in Yujashan, which gives visitors a chance to ponder and answer "Heavenly questions".


Jun Luo, the member of the Chinese Academy of Science, professor of HUST, and President of Sun Yat-sen University, said that the establishment of the Department of Astronomy in HUST is a historic moment, which will complement the development of related disciplines in the university. Meanwhile, the construction of Yujiashan Observatory is beneficial to science popularization and talent training. We expect that more people will gain interest in astronomy and willingness to explore this field.


After the opening ceremony, more than 100 experts from home and abroad attended the seminar on the development of the Department of Astronomy at HUST, putting forward valuable suggestions for the future of the subject in Central China.


HUST attaches great importance to the development of astronomy. It is reported that the preparation for the establishment started a very long time ago. In October 1983, the university began to build the Astrophysics Teaching and Research Laboratory (attached to the Physics Department). In 1996, the astrophysics team was re-established in the Gravity Experimental Center. In 2014, the Institute of Particle and Astrophysics was established in the School of Physics, which is engaged in particle, astrophysics, cosmology, and other researches. In 2017, it further narrowed its research down to theoretical research on gravitational wave astronomy centering on the Tianqin space-based gravitational wave detection program.


Written by: Yikang Liu

Edited by: Shengyuan Ma



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