The “recklessness” and romance of China’s first female observatory director

The "recklessness" and romance of China's first female observatory director

Ye Shuhua, China’s first female observatory director. In the vast universe, there is an asteroid named after her.

The documentary film “One Leaf in the Galaxy”, which tells about her 70-year indissoluble relationship with astronomy, has recently ushered in its premiere. From a little girl who “dare to make an idea” to an old man who is more than ancient times, Ye Shuhua, who was born in the war years, upholds the spirit of science and the feelings of family and country, along the way. From the growth story of a generation of astronomical giants, we glimpse the legend of female scientists created by an era.

The "recklessness" and romance of China's first female observatory director

Ye Shuhua: Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China’s first female observatory director

The love of astronomy began with the romantic nostalgia of girls’ generation, and was achieved by persistent perseverance. Mr. Ye Shuhua was interviewed last year and talked frankly about his own “daring” and “reckless”, and he also supported and encouraged women to actively participate in scientific research.

The following is the text of the interview:

Start China’s independent world time work

The Shanghai Astronomical Observatory used to do time work and is a very important time service station in East Asia.

At the earliest, the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory was run by French missionaries. At that time, it participated in the cooperation of the unified international time bureau all over the world, so the final result was the international time bureau.

Then we left. After withdrawing, you can no longer participate in the cooperation of the International Time Bureau, and you must have your own world time.

At that time, we only had two observatories in Shanghai and Zijin Mountain. The Soviet system cooperated with 17 observatories, and the cooperation with more than 30 observatories in the world was still far away. The main problem is that as a system, it needs to be stable for a long time. Fluctuating, fluctuating highs and lows cannot become a standard.

So we tried to find a way to keep this system stable. At that time, there was no foundation, and no one really did it. That is, we thought of some calculation methods ourselves, and we did it, and we have been using it since then.

We started the official publication in 1959. At the beginning, the quality was relatively poor. There were only two observatories in Shanghai and Zijin Mountain, which were very weak. Later, Wuhan also participated, and later Beijing and Xi’an both participated. In this way, observation conditions and equipment have been greatly improved.

Slowly I became a supervisor. What will the supervisor do? We must unite everyone, work together, and stay in line with the highest international level.

This task is still very encouraging to everyone, because every year we look at the international results and our results. I will encourage all staff, even the slightest improvement is welcome.

With the joint efforts of everyone, progress has been made every year. Afterwards, we seemed to have the courage to maintain stability step by step. I made the algorithm to maintain stability, and the improvement of the observation quality is the joint effort of uniting everyone. And everyone is proud of it and feels that it serves the needs of the country and everyone is happy to do it.

Until 1963, I felt it was better than the Soviet system. It was in 1965, after several years that we looked reliable, before we declared to the Academy of Sciences. At that time, the Academy of Sciences came forward to organize a national appraisal meeting under the Science and Technology Commission. After appraisal, they all agree that we are indeed good. Compared with the Soviet system, we are more reliable than it.

At this time, the Ministry of Science and Technology issued a notice saying that after the establishment of the national system, all aspects of the country will use national standards.

But because time is constantly flowing and the standard is not constant, we must find a way to maintain it. Later, it did remain the same for a long time, and our level of observation was internationally visible.

So later, I had the opportunity to go to France for meetings, and also to the former Soviet Union. I also met colleagues in the former Soviet Union. I had never met each other, but they all recognized each other’s work, and everyone was still like old friends.

I proposed to build a big triangle in China, no one in the world mentioned

In the 1970s, the state wanted to build a larger time workbench in Shaanxi, which could completely replace Shanghai.

What are the shortcomings of Shanghai? On the eastern edge, one is not safe enough in terms of combat readiness, and the other is that the time signal is issued on the east, no matter how good you are, there is no guarantee that the country will receive it. For example, the western frontier is also very important, but there is no real accurate map To measure.

Because of these two shortcomings, the meeting later decided that a new timing platform should be built in central China. In this way, the status of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory is immediately trivial. So we need to find a new development direction.

In early 1981, all time services in Shanghai were shut down and Shaanxi TV was responsible. But in 1970, it should be possible to see that the original work is no longer the main thing. What should be developed? We can see that there are several new technologies that will be introduced later because of the development of space.

In the space competition at that time, the United States and the Soviet Union were mainly competing to reach the moon first. With the space race, time requirements are very high, and methods to provide time have come out, such as measuring the distance of satellites with lasers and using it to reverse the time, so that the accuracy is several times higher than what we had previously used.

If you don’t move, you just lie there still. Obviously you can look at the comparison of new and old technologies. If you don’t advance, you will be eliminated.

Therefore, the observatory developed the task of measuring artificial satellites with lasers.

Among the various new technologies, I have also seen a radio and radio technology, which is very long baseline interference (Note: Using the principle of electromagnetic wave interference, the radio signals emitted by the radio source are simultaneously received at multiple stations and The signal is processed by time delay interference between measuring stations to determine the relative position between measuring stations and the technology and method of the direction from the measuring station to the radio source) .

The "recklessness" and romance of China's first female observatory director

Ye Shuhua accepts an interview

This technology is very high. It was originally used for astrophysics research, but it can also be used for astrometry and has a wide range of uses. So I think we have to take it down.

At the end of 1967, both the United States and Canada were developing very long baseline interference on radio.

Interferometric technology has just begun, and the astronomical community does not believe it, and the geodesic community does not believe it because it is very expensive.

The instruments and equipment used by the telescope before were very small, with a caliber of only 10 cm, even for very new things, the caliber was also 10 cm. And now that radio is to be done, if a very long baseline is made, the caliber will be at least 25 meters. 25 meters and 10 centimeters, you think about it, how big is the difference.

But if you think about it, if you don’t catch something that is very reliable and promising, how will the work of this station be transferred to Shaanxi?

So I felt that in addition to measuring artificial satellites with lasers, a very long baseline was needed, because very long baselines are not only useful for time observation, especially the study of astrophysics is a brand-new technical method.

At that time, I was determined to have a chance, and I had to make a very long baseline, so that this station could transform and develop.

I proposed to make a very long baseline, and as soon as I did it, I would make three stations. Shanghai, Urumqi, and Kunming would build a big triangle in China. No one in the world mentioned it. Of course it is very expensive and technically demanding, so it is not easy to put forward it later.

I have been trying to persuade the person in charge to follow him all day long. Following him was so tired that he was in the hotel and could not move while lying in bed. Later, he thought that the interferometer was probably not a big thing, and he said, “Okay, okay, you can make an interferometer.” He didn’t know that the interferometer was so big.

Three new stations were to be built at that time, and there was no one in the world. We are heading in a new direction, otherwise there will be no way for this observatory to exist in the future. Fortunately, there are no other projects proposed by the astronomy community, and a large amount of funds happened to be there, so I boldly used it for this project.

As a result, all the funds in the astronomy community were used by me. At first everyone didn’t care, no one proposed anything else, and then everyone awakened-you did it in Shanghai, I didn’t do it in Beijing, and I didn’t do it in my place-refused. Then you will be stuck first, and you can’t spend so much money. But at this time the plan has been approved. Not only is the money used a lot, but there is also a big gap in technology. We are desperately thinking about this triangle there.

In fact, it cost a lot of money just to make Shanghai, and it costs more than half to do three. So at that time I could only do Shanghai and Urumqi, but Kunming couldn’t help it.

Because of this incident, I was scolded by many colleagues. Everyone felt that I was their enemy and took away their funds. Although it is shared by everyone, the main purpose is still you. So it was really hard at the beginning. In the next few years, the country was also very difficult, and there was almost no money. Therefore, it was very difficult to maintain this job at the time without letting it die.

Finally, there was a good opportunity, and the national lunar exploration plan was finalized.

In the lunar exploration program, the most uncertain thing is that after the satellite flies out, it needs to change its orbit in the middle. We require it to become an orbit around the moon when it reaches the vicinity of the moon, so the judgment of the orbit is very important. If you want to change to another track, how and when you want to change it is very important, but there was no precise measurement at that time.

I went to this plan with the comrades from Shanghai TV and said that we can afford it.

In fact, I was not very sure, but I felt that it should be possible, so I took on this task. In the middle of the experiment, I also cooperated with other space agencies in the world, and tracked their things to see how much the gap was. After such actions, I was more certain.

VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) has indeed helped space exploration, so when “Chang’e-1” was flying, our technology played a safeguard role in it.

Later, the success of “Chang’e One” was celebrated. On this occasion, I said to the leader, “Our technology is useful, but the equipment is too old. Shanghai is the supervisor, and this antenna is the oldest one, and it has already passed the service life.” A 65-meter antenna joint project between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai.

Later, the 65-meter project was built. In the future, not only the lunar exploration, but also to Mars, Jupiter, and the edge of the solar system, there should be no problem. It is also very glorious that we can contribute to the country’s spaceflight. Moreover, this 65-meter project has not only helped space exploration, but also made many astronomical observations.

International projects initiated by Chinese scholars

After I ceased to be the director of the station, I did other things. One is that we cooperated with various departments of the geosciences to grab a climbing project for ten years.

At that time, the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China launched a large project. After I heard it, I should hurry up to find out what the conditions are. He said, “You’re too late, I’ve made all appointments, and all ten projects have been set up.”

I didn’t care about him and said, “Take a look at this requirement and regulations.” Take a look, I think we are completely right, why not?

So we discussed with several other surveying and mapping departments, the National Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, the State Seismological Administration, and the General Staff Surveying and Mapping Bureau, to get in and grab a topic. Sure enough, we finally got the fifth item-out of ten items, we got the fifth item. In this way, we can use this new technology to really see if there is horizontal movement in the earth’s crust.

To do these things, there is also an adventure among them.

At that time, the new emperor of Japan visited Shanghai, and everyone had nothing to say. Isn’t that very deserted? I dared to go up and say to the emperor: “Now you are here from Tokyo by plane. I cooperate with Japan. We study crustal movement. Now we have measured that Shanghai and Tokyo are two places close to about seven or eight centimeters each year.” That is. The result of the real observation is, “In a few years, we will probably be able to shake hands without flying.”

This sentence is very ingenious. It welcomes and speaks about our work without losing dignity.

At this time, I thought about it. You have to study crustal movement, earthquakes, tsunamis and other disasters, not only for your country, but also for a region. And in this region of East Asia, only we are organized. There is such a big project that unites the geoscience department with us. No other country has an organization. If a big project can be organized, it should be said to be very loud to the country.

At that time, we hadn’t come out to start the project by ourselves, so I went to talk to my colleagues in Australia and Japan and said, “Look, we have observed a lot, and the final results are handled by the Americans. If he publishes an article, we will deal with it. “How can this be done? We should do these things ourselves.” As a result, everyone felt that this should be the case.

With this confidence, I dared to initiate these things.

Coincidentally, as soon as I got off the head of the observatory, the UNESCO Committee went to Beijing to hold a meeting of senior officials called “Peaceful Uses of Space Technology.”

This topic is very good. We happen to be the peaceful use of space technology. Isn’t it good to use space technology to measure crustal changes or earthquakes caused by crustal movement?

There was an academic conference before the meeting, and the registration fee was very expensive. I am no longer the director of the station, and I have no extra money, so I ran this meeting alone. During the meeting, I wrote a proposal for the use of space technology in disaster research in the Asia-Pacific region, called APSG (Asia Pacific Space Geodynamics Program) , and VLBI is used to lead the research.

This is put on the meeting as a national proposal. As a national proposal, I feel very at ease. I don’t have any experience in how to do international conferences, so I feel at ease to listen to the conference.

Until the next meeting was about to end, a Pakistani scholar was invited to be the chairman, and the bills passed there one by one. I just sat there and heard that all of them were passed-as soon as they passed, I knocked on the board, and when they passed— —I see no one in the whole conclusion is mine. I’m so anxious!

Hurry up and go over all the conclusions of the proposal. Sure enough, I found one that was completely suitable for me. Raise your hand immediately and ask to speak, it’s a long talk. I said, what is the purpose of your meeting, what is my proposal, and it is in full compliance with yours, and asked to include my motion in this one.

I talked for a long time. After listening, the chairman said, “Your proposal is very good, but it is too long. This is very troublesome. I will help you list another one.” Of course, another one is better, so I am very happy.

The result becomes the No. 25 motion of this meeting, which is very good.

But when the meeting ended, when Qiao Guanhua was in charge of the meeting, he told me, “You can’t do this. As an international action, you must have the support of a large international academic department.”

As a result, an international geophysical conference was held in the United States the following year. That would be great, hurry up this meeting!

On the eve of the meeting, my wife fell on his bike and fell to the neck of the femur for major surgery. But in fact, about the third or fourth day after the operation, I went to the United States, otherwise I would not be able to keep up with this meeting. My wife also sympathizes with me. He knows that if I don’t go, I’m going to die, so he says you go. It finally went smoothly.

But the smooth progress was not enough. After I reported it myself, the foreign experts asked one by one: What are you going to do, how are you… I doubt: Can you Chinese take the lead in doing this?

I can only do my best to defend. There is no one to help me, so I will defend them one by one.

After it was finished, it was already eight or nine o’clock in the evening, and four people stayed on their own initiative to help me draft something and send it to the conference secretariat as the conclusion of the conference. Later, this was regarded as one of the big conference bills, and I supported this, and asked me to continue to push it forward, so I could handle it.

You think I am bold enough, reckless enough.

At that time, I still thought about the country, because there was no international cooperation hosted by China at that time. Even if we saw some very old scientists, none of them came forward to do this. We were so reckless to do this, and we finally got it done. This is one of my adventures.

Three things I want to do

One of the easier to succeed is the Shanghai Planetarium, which is now part of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. This planetarium is indeed world-class, and you will have a look when it opens. It’s extraordinary. I hope that the content of its exhibition in the future will meet our expectations.

I hope it will present the latest astronomical research results, such as Shanghai’s participation in a black hole photo collaboration, and other issues that are of interest to everyone.

In addition, I also promote two things. What is one thing? SKA (Square Kilometer Array Radio Telescope) .

The world’s largest telescope with a diameter of 100 meters is a project of global cooperation and China’s participation. In this project, what can Shanghai contribute and what share?

There are now two observation bases-one in South Africa and one in Australia-which is indisputable, because it must be in the southern hemisphere, not in China. So what can we fight for?

Because its data is much larger than all existing things before, it requires the global participation to build about five to six scientific data stations. China is so big, how can there not be a single station? should have.

This is the worldwide cooperation of low-frequency radio. What is the most important thing? The result of science. It does not mean that you can set up a station. The data that this station gets every day is more than the data multiple of the current Internet of Things in the world, so it is a big challenge for this digital calculation and storage.

So the country has arrangements. There is a young academician Wu Xiangping as the head, and Shanghai also applies for two project supervisors, so I hope that Shanghai can contribute in this regard.

I think this thing is basically a bit of a spectrum now.

Then there is another thing that I want to do the same, and it is just in preparation.

Now VLBI is a very high-resolution thing, but there is not yet in the space. In space, Russia did one, and Japan did one, which belonged to a single spacecraft in contact with the ground. We want to make two 30-meter telescopes and put them in the air.

The Russian and Japanese spacecrafts have telescopes less than 10 meters in length, while ours requires two 30-meter telescopes, which are larger in scale. And it can operate in space alone or cooperate with the ground. For example, FAST and SKA can do continuous testing. In this way, it is hoped that it can provide some new explorations for solving some of the many controversial astronomical problems. result.

Encourage women to participate in scientific research

Let me talk about an incident that I encountered.

We are all participating in the International Astronomical Association-I was its vice chairman and China’s first vice chairman-one year, European female scientists complained at the meeting that the glass ceiling they encountered was too obvious and asked for There can be special meetings in the International Astronomical Association to call for issues in this regard.

As a result, after she talked about it, some female astronomers in South America laughed and said that they do not have the problem of gender inequality, because women, like men, work outside, which is very important.

So I think if you want to talk about this matter, such as equality, you must first find ways to do it in terms of job opportunities and work. It has improved a lot now, but it cannot be said that all have been achieved.

It should be considered that not only supporting our female compatriots who are ordinary, still in poverty, and have various life problems, we should also support women who are indeed able to show their faces. If there are more and more women like this, the natural problem will be solved.

This is not a slogan, but actual action. In addition, I did see many places where there are female engineers who have made a lot of contributions, and there are also several female scientists who are very good, but the overall ratio has not reached our ideals.

I think the world will change, because everyone can acquire knowledge, and everyone can increase their abilities. There will be no such problem in the future. There will always be a way to solve these social problems, and a good way will always be figured out.

The "recklessness" and romance of China's first female observatory director

Ye Shuhua accepts an interview

No observatory can see the entire sky, and no observer can continuously observe the changing activities of celestial bodies.

The universe that Mr. Ye observes is so vast and long, and with her persistence and enthusiasm, she has found her life’s pursuit and value in it; moreover, with her “recklessness” and “daring”, she has written what belongs to her life. romantic.

(Thanks to the Shanghai Women’s and Children’s Work Committee and the Shanghai Women’s Federation for their strong support and guidance of this conference.)

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