Nehru Planetarium director Dr Nandivada Rathnasree dies of Covid-19
Notable astronomy communicator and director of the Nehru Planetarium, Nandivada Rathnasree, 57, died on Sunday after being infected with Covid. Rathnasree, who joined the planetarium in 1996 as a senior educator and became its director in 1999, has been credited with several new initiatives and projects during her long stint.
Anuj Sinha, former director of the National Council for Science and Technology Communication said that she was devoted to her role. “She ensured that the number of outreach events multiplied by several times. She would work on weekends, day and night to ensure astronomy reached people. She brought a lot of life to the subject. I was also in science outreach so she was a great ally to work with. She tried to make sure that the wonders of the sky are seen, appreciated and understood,” he said.
Her husband Patrick Dasgupta is a faculty member at the Department of Physics and Astrophysics at Delhi University.
Rathnasree was also a member of the Astronomical Society of India, which expressed its condolences Tuesday.
“An avid astronomy communicator and accomplished pulsar astronomer, she was pivotal in most astronomy outreach projects of ASI in the last two decades. When ASI formally set up its Public Outreach and Education Committee (POEC) in 2014, Rathnasree was the unanimous choice to be its first chair and she has been a part of the POEC ever since,” the body said in its statement.
The society also remembered Ratnasree’s notable contributions during her career. “Till just a fortnight ago, she was involved in organising ‘Astro Adda’ a fortnightly online discussion session with the students. In early May, she caught the infection, which quickly overwhelmed her,” the statement said.
During her years in Delhi, she was a focal point for the amateur astronomy community in and around the Capital.
Union minister of culture sent condolences to her family. “Extremely saddened to learn about the unfortunate demise of Dr N. Rathnasree, Director of Nehru Planetarium under @_NMML_ passed away on sunday. Heartfelt condolences to the family & prayers for the departed soul & God to provide strength to the bereaved family,” the ministry tweeted.
Ramdas Iyer, curator, National Science Centre, said her death was a huge loss for students and the scientific community. “Rathnashree was one of the best in positional astronomy. That was her specialisation. One of her major contributions to astronomy was popularising the Jantar Mantar, as she organised several astronomy walks for school and college students there. She was among few planetarium directors who could design her own shows,” he said.