The infinite space has always been a mystery in the human mind and for many years, a great deal of studies has focused on the universe and its components and structures. With the advent of the space era and access to other planets, the knowledge of astronomy and space science is expanding at an astonishing rate as we look at the universe from beyond. Therefore, many countries are now spending plenty of resources on research and development in this field.
Iranian Space Agency has also conducted a series of activities in line with its duties and missions in the field of astronomy and space exploration to play a fundamental and decisive role in further understanding the universe and the effects of space events on human life using knowledge and technologies. The Astronomy and Space Exploration section of Iranian Space Agency officially started its activities in 2011 to advance the programs and objectives of Iranian Space Agency, and it pursues the following plans and programs based on both ‘the comprehensive document on aerospace development” and “the 20-year vision document of the Islamic Republic of Iran” in order to meet the needs of the country's astronomical community and to conduct frontline research in astronomy and space exploration:
- Space weather
Currently, the issue of space weather is one of the topics of interest for international organizations, space agencies, and research centers in the field of astrophysics and space. The impact of solar events and space radiation and energetic particles of natural origin from the sun or distant space objects on the manifestations of technology and climate change and space equipment is considered of great importance, in a way that can lead to technical and economic damage to space equipment and ground infrastructure. This issue, which is also among the topics considered by the Scientific-Technical Committee of the United Nations Outer Space, is of serious concern to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Due to the existing scientific capacities, activities have been carried out in this field in Iran, and these activities are, currently, expanding in the Astronomy and Space exploration group at Iranian Space Agency. A significant number of Iranian universities and research institutes have conducted research activities in the field of astrophysics, interplanetary physics, solar physics, and atmospheric physics as various parts of space climate worldwide, as if almost half of the research activities of Iranian astronomy could be considered in topics related to space climate. Moreover, the National Committee for Space Radiation of Iran has been active for over a decade in conducting continuous research and planning in the field of space weather. Given the importance of the issue, a series of conferences, training courses and workshops in the field of space weather have been held for the general public, researchers, and students throughout the country by the Iranian Space Agency and the National Committee for Space Radiation and such events will still continue in the future. Furthermore, several projects in this field are now being implemented by Iranian Space Agency. These include the implementation of a project to study the effects of cosmic rays on satellite components in cooperation with Iranian research centers and participation in some international projects in Asia-Pacific region.
- Space Debris and Near Earth Objects
The position of space objects in space, depending on the effect of the Earth or other objects gravity, need to be studied, identified and tracked and must be subject to specific mathematical, engineering and astronomical models and parameters. Near-Earth Objects are astronomical objects whose orbit is very close to Earth's orbit. Most of them are comets or asteroids that have been affected by the gravity of the sun and other neighboring planets of the Earth. It is extremely important to accurately monitor and determine the orbits of these objects. In addition, studying NEOs will provide us with useful information about other planets in our solar system. The growing number of space debris along with the development of space activities in the world and the behavior of some countries in the uncontrolled production of space debris has raised concerns about the future of space presence. The occurrence of some space collisions caused by space debris in the last two decades has made the issue of monitoring these annoying objects be considered by Iranian space Agency. In this regard, the issue of identifying and determining the NEOs’ orbit and space debris, by conducting regular monitoring, is being implemented by the Iranian Space Agency, and there have also been collaborations with some international organizations in this respect.
- Astrophysics Research
The Astronomy and Space exploration group at Iranian Space Agency currently owns two observatories of Khayyam with a 16-inch telescope and Space Object Monitoring Observatory. Using the facilities available at these observatories, the group conducts numerous research activities in the field of astrophysics, including photometry of variable stars, the study of extrasolar planets as well as observing comets, space debris, and deep objects in the sky. These activities have been carried out based on the tasks and plans of the Iranian Space Agency and by providing services in the field of data collection to researchers and scholars intended to observe the latitude of Iran, and so far several academic dissertations and scientific research articles have been produced as a result of this activity. It is worth mentioning that in addition to these two observatories there are more than 50 other observatories in the class of small observatories in Iran, whose activities are similar to the activities of Iranian Space Agency.
- Promotional Activities
Tens of thousands of amateur astronomers interested in space work in Iran. The main concern of these groups has been to promote science in the field of astronomy and introduce the beauties of the universe and the effects of space technology. Intending to promote, cultivate, and increase public awareness about astronomy knowledge, identifying and strengthening top talents in the field of astronomy, providing public access to the scientific infrastructure, pursuing educational justice and astronomical activities promotion in Iran, as well as establishing and strengthening scientific, technical and research relations with the Iranian institutions and centers for improving the quantity and quality of their activities, The Astronomy and Space exploration group at Iranian Space Agency organizes or supports conferences, exhibitions and competitions throughout the year on a variety of topics in the field of astronomy and space exploration, and also holds programs to visit the observatories of the Iranian Space Agency.