Presidency has a century-old association with Astronomy. An observatory was
set up on the roof of the Main Building in 1905 by the then Bengal
government The Calcutta Observatory . The observatory contained two
equatorial telescopes: one with a 7" aperture from Sir H. Grubb and another
with a 4.5" aperture by T. Cooke and Sons. Regular observations of solar
system planets and other objects were made and reported in the journals
published by the early Astronomical Society of India in Calcutta.
The telescope was in operation till the 1960s when the students of the
Astronomy course in the Mathematics department used it. We are now
restoring this heritage of astronomy research at Presidency and renovating
the observatory with a new 12” Optical Telescope (see facilities)
On the theoretical side, Professor Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri, who taught at the Physics Department of the erstwhile Presidency College for many years, was one of the pioneers who showed, using Einstein's theory of gravity, that spacetime singularity is possible in nature even when no symmetry is assumed. That supported the possibility of the formation of stellar-mass black holes and the Big Bang singularity from which the Universe began. That was the first step toward the development of Singularity Theorems, for which Roger Penrose won half of the Nobel Prize in 2020. The Raychaudhuri Equation, as it is called now, is a part of all graduate level textbooks on gravity and its development is considered to be one of the most prominent contributions by Indian scientists in the post-independence era.
In more recent history, Presidency University started operation in 2012. There were five faculty members in the Physics Department specializing in Astrophysics in 2014. A BSc elective course and an MSc specialization containing two theory and one lab courses were taught. Close to 50 students who took the BSc and/or MSc Astrophysics courses and the subsequent project work during 2014-21 went on to join Astrophysics related PhD positions in various top ranked institutions in India, Europe, North America and Australia. Approximately 30 papers in reputed international peer reviewed journals have been published by the above students (see research and student placement sections).
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