Chinese Astronomers... Drop in on Harvard


A delegation of astronomers from the People's Republic of China toured Harvard's Center for Astrophysics yesterday and talked with Harvard scientists about the progress of astronomical research in China.

For the visiting astronomers, Harvard is part of the short Eastern swing of a month-long scientific exchange. Most of their time will be spent at research centers in the West such as Kitt Peak Observatory in Tucson, Arizona.

The observational data being accumulated at those institutions is probably more interesting for the visitors than Harvard's theoretical research since the Chinese stress applied research over basic research, Paul Blanchard, special assistant to the director of the observatory, said Friday.

Chang Po-jung, deputy head of the group, said yesterday that before the revolution China's only observatory was at Purple Mountain in Nanking, with a total of ten staff members.

Today, the mainland Chinese have five observatories and a few observing stations with a total of 800 researchers, Chang said.


Yeh Shih-hui, a Russian-educated solar physicist, said yesterday that while most older Chinese astronomers had to be educated abroad, Nanking and Peking Universities now have astronomy departments.

Each year, 40 astronomy students receive an undergraduate degree and then gain advanced and specialized training through apprenticeship at one of the observatories, Chang said.

Late last month, the Center for Astrophysics hosted a delegation of high-ranking Russian astrophysicists, including B.N. Petrov, head of the Soviet space program and all joint US-USSR space missions. The Russians had just come from talks in Washington with the national Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Harvard Observatory prepared experiments for the Apollo-Soyuz mission and is presently doing work on experiments and instrumentation proposed for NASA's future spacelab and retrievable space shuttle, and for future missions with the Soviets.