In Memoriam

With deep sorrow we share the news that Indian astronomy has lost another stalwart, Professor Shashikumar (Kumar) Chitre, who passed away in Mumbai  on 11 January 2021. A well respected and active member of the Astronomical Society of India, he served the Society, first as a Councillor during 1980-1982, and then as its President during 1992-1994.  


Professor Shashikumar M. Chitre, a former member of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, TIFR, was internationally known for his work on solar physics, neutron stars and gravitational lensing among the many areas that he contributed to. He obtained Ph. D. from the University of Cambridge, UK in 1963. After spending some time at the University of Leeds and Caltech he joined TIFR in 1967. Along with Professor M. S. Vardya he started the  Theoretical Astrophysics Group at TIFR to supplement the activity in radio and X-ray astronomy. He initiated research in helioseismology and gravitational lensing at TIFR. After retiring from TIFR in 2001, he was the driving force in establishing the Centre of Excellence in Basic Sciences, at the University of Mumbai campus, and was deeply involved with the Centre until his death. He has trained a number of students during his tenure at TIFR and CEBS.

His scientific contributions span a very broad area from Solar Physics to Cosmology and he was actively involved in research for the last six decades. His last three papers were published in 2020 and was actively working on another manuscript which is still in preparation. Following his thesis work on the Structure of Sunspots, he initiated work on helioseismology at TIFR and he played a key role in setting up one of the instrument of the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) at the Udaipur Solar Observatory. GONG project has been extremely successful and is one of the primary sources of high quality helioseismic data. He also played an important role in growth of solar physics in India.

During the 1970s he made a brief detour to work on the interior of neutron stars which continued to some extent in later years. During the 1980s he was instrumental in initiating work on gravitational lensing and, under his leadership, the TIFR group made key contributions to this, then, emerging area. He was also very active in outreach activities and has given a large number of lectures in schools and colleges.

Professor Chitre was a Fellow of all the three Academies of India and also a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2012.

Professor Chitre will always be remembered as a calm, genial and helpful colleague and mentor. He is survived by his wife Suvarna and his two sons, Yatin and Yougandh. (Obituary originally published by the Astronomical Society of India)   

In addition to Prof. Chitre's passing, whose loss we feel keenly, we also lost a number of other distinguished colleagues over the past two years:

Baranovsky, Edward A. (1931-2020)

Brown, John (1947-2019)

Cuperman, Sami (1928-2019)

Hanasz, Jan (1936-2020)

Paresce, Francesco (1940-2019)

Seiradakis, John H. (1948-2020)

Spiegel, Edward (1931-2020)

Weiss, Nigel (1935-2020)

Zhugzhda, Yusef (1936-2020)