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Suhardja Wiramihardja: Enchanted by Stars

Culture | Monday, 21 June 2010 | sundanesecorner.org

Rameli Agam

Suhardja Wiramihardja has been interested in astronomy since his teenage years. In 1960s, as a high school student, he used to visit Pangandaran, a well-known beach in the southern coast of West Java. He stayed alone at night, looking at the Milky Way high above the beach.

“In dry season, between June and August, at the romantic beach, various celestial things could be clearly seen. Apart from the Milky Way, I have also seen the constellation of Scorpio. Various celestial bodies and their phenomena were so beautiful and amazing. These were what made me interested in studying astronomy,” said Suhardja.

He studied astronomy at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). He obtained his Master and Ph.D from Astronomy Department, Kyoto University, Japan.

One of his researches, dealing with Orion Star, has been of great values.  Orion complex, which lies about 1,500 light-years from earth, is one of celestial spheres where the formation of new stars takes place. For more than three decades Western astronomers had been studying Orion complex by focusing their attention just on its centre where dark clouds and the signals of other new star formation are concentrated. Yet Suhardja has found out that stars formation can also takes place outside of Orion complex. Since then other astronomers have often referred to his findings.

“While others used to investigate (the area) of about 30 square degrees (of sky), we investigated (the area) of about 300 square degrees (of sky). There are 1,200 emission stars, of the type of T Tauri star, that have been detected, and among the figures, 894 stars are new findings,” said Suhardja.

Suhardja teaches astronomy at his alma mater. He lives in Lembang, in the complex of Bosccha Observatory.

Rameli Agam, Bandung-based freelance journalist

Bio Data

Name: Prof. Dr. Suhardja D. Wiramihardja; Birth place/date: Tasikmalaya, West Java, 10 June 1945; Wife: Fenti Rahmatiah Wirakusumah; Children: Muhammad Raihan Mazaya Wiramihardja & Khansa Alya Zharfanisa Wiramihardja; Education: Astronomy Department, ITB (1977); Astronomy Department, Kyoto University (1982); Astronomy Department, Kyoto University (1986)

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