The People and The Sky: The History of Astronomical Research and Dissemination in Indonesia in the Context of Indonesian National History

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

In 2016, I compiled this to reconnect with my chosen major. It was discarded almost immediately afterwards following my half-hearted attempt to submit it for an essay competition (spoiler: I did not win), consigning it into the digital oblivion amongst countless such files. In 2018, I rediscovered the text, thinking that I’d have better idea on how to reshape the manuscript if I let the first draft loose into the wild. [See asides below]


Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences in the world, taking its roots from the prominence of celestial objects and their movements in human lives. While its current incarnation often brings people to think of exotic, faraway objects, the study of astronomy has always been influenced by and affecting the people of the earth. In Indonesia, the history of this subject spins a profound tale on the nature of development in science, while also being a good reminder on humanity’s endless yearning to build a connection with the starry heaven.

Events of historical importance surrounding a specialized subject are often told in disengagement from the big picture, serving only as a nice, if not impractical, knowledge of one’s niche. This approach, while allowing the researcher to fully focus on said subject, often loses context in the process, and completely disregards the subject’s influence to events outside its own environment. This essay aims to connect the history of Astronomy in Indonesia to its place in the larger history of this country, dispelling the notion of a foreign, detached science, and introducing its closeness to the communities of Indonesia.

Pre-Colonial Era (3001500): The Sky of the Gods

“When de Houtman arrived on the shores of Aceh, the study of stars in the Indonesian archipelago had already been the practice of seafarers and farmers since time immemorial.” (Hidayat, 2000). Curiosity of the sky has begun since the ancient days. From folktales designed to give explanation about the nature of celestial objects to heavenly guide on seasons and time, astronomy grows to be firmly rooted in Indonesian daily lives and local cultures.

As Indonesia is a vast archipelago inhabited by thousands of cultures, a more detailed history would have to go over each region separately. While it does not do justice to focus on one or generalize on the many, suffice to say that our ancestors were adept in using the starry night as their guidance for various purposes from agriculture and navigation to divination . It is interesting to note that despite the differences, there is one vocal point separating this archipelago from many other cultures in the world: the indifference towards the sun and the horizon, as the landscape is so diverse it renders the horizon undependable (Ammarell, 1998).

An initiative taken in 2009 related to ‘The Stars of Asia’ workshop collected no less than twenty folktales related to astronomical phenomena (Pramesti, 2009). A team from the Bosscha Observatory embarked on a journey across the archipelago for the same aim, and presented their result as an exhibit at DOMEFESTA IFSV2015 in Fukushima, Japan from September 23rd to 26th, 2015.[1]

From the folktales, we can infer that in pre-Muslim sultanates era, celestial objects were often revered as deities by the populace. This is perhaps also bolstered by Hindu-Buddhism pantheistic nature. Some of the folktales were directly lifted from Indian myths, again owing to the widespread influence of Hindu-Buddhist gurus. Several artefacts emblazoned with astronomical motifs were also found, including the Mintaqulburuj, a water vessel from the Tengger tribe featuring the zodiacs (Yamani, 2008).

Greater kings undertook greater projects. Recent studies have shown that prominent Hindu-Buddhist temples in Indonesia were built in precise layouts allowing the complexes to be a kind of astronomical compass. Borobudur and Prambanan temple grounds were among the most studied. Placement of statues, gates, and smaller temples took into account the direction of sunlight and certain calculations to mark occasions such as the vernal equinox (Hariawang et al, 2010).

On the subject closest to human life, the time, the archipelago has no less than half a dozen calendrical systems and possibly more, with each tribe and region tailoring their own based on the movement of celestial objects, often to aid in farming and fishing. Some of the most prominent ones are the Balinese and Javanese calendar. Both are still in use, though strictly in ritualistic sense, and slowly endangered, as Gregorian calendar has practically taken over the world. Several scholars notably traced the obvious inheritance of Indian’s mathematical and calendrical systems in these calendars (Gomperts, 1998, 1999).

After Islamic teachings took over the land, the need for precise astronomical measurement shifted to finding the direction of the qibla, where Muslims must face during their prayers (Hidayat, 2000), and calculating when certain religious events were to be observed. Islamic calendar used for religious purpose was a lunar calendar, and this in turn affected local calendrical systems in several regions to accommodate the new belief [2]. During this era, people were already able to perform relevant astronomical calculations, such as one for eclipse prediction, with striking accuracy (Gomperts, 1998).

The Colonial Era (15001942): On the Frontline of Southern Sky Observation

This era is arguably the most important in the history of Indonesian astronomy, as it was the Dutch’s predilection in navigation and meteorological science that brought forth the idea to Indonesia, which was still called East Indies back then. As the world’s leading scientific communities were mostly located on the northern hemisphere (Western Europe, North America, North-East Asia), the nature of the southern sky was largely unknown until Frederick de Houtman, a relative to Cornelis de Houtman, published his star catalogue [3]. The scientists reveled in its richness, later encouraging droves of passionate amateur astronomers to brave their chances in this colony [4]. One of which was Pastor Johan Mauritz Mohr, who built his personal observatory in Batavia. He published several papers from his activities around 1760s (Voute, 1933) [5]. However, it should be noted that these gentlemen scholars were largely European settlers, for no indigenous Indonesian was able to gain entrance into the elite community for quite a long time [6].

Against the odds, local astronomy did manage to flourish in the hands of several surviving kingdoms. Court astronomers still existed by this time, and in 1855 the pranotomongso almanac was published in the Kingdom of Surakarta (Hidayat, 2000). Aside of these rare cases however, most of the local government did not pay attention to the subject because the drawbacks caused by not having proper astronomical observations were relegated to be ”the Dutch’s problem” (van Klinken, G. A.,2013).

A more practical reason to tackle this region lay in the same vein as our ancestors’: with the new astronomical observations, better maritime charts could be produced to aid sailors (Haasbroek, 1977). Its usage in geodetic measurement caused a large number of records made around this time to come from engineers or people in the study of geography. In fact, the early brushes and rivalry in Leiden Observatory for the post in Batavia stemmed from a topographical problem that could be solved via astronomical observations: the triangulation method.

To make actual discovery, scientists from Europe eventually realized they would need a more permanent base. The situations along the tropics were different from what they were used to back home. J. G. E. G. Voute, a civil engineer by education, was particularly enthusiastic after spending time as a time-keeper in a Meteorological Office in Batavia (Hidayat, 2000). This met the support of KAR Bosscha, a famed owner of Malabar tea-planting business. Bosscha, hailing from a family of tea planters and scientists, had a penchant to donate towards scientific projects [7].

Finally, in 1920, the Dutch East Indies Astronomical Association was established. A retired Director of Leiden Observatory, Professor van de Sande Bakhuysen, donated his personal library which formed the core collections of Bosscha Observatory library. 1928 marked the real birth of the Observatory as the main instrument, the very same instrument iconic to Bosscha’s portrayal in media nowadays, was completed: a double-refractor produced by Carl Zeiss [8].

While the road was not particularly smooth due to many power-play within universities and institutions involved in the Association, the new observatory quickly gained traction since its inception in 1923. At the time, a similar development in Johannesburg redirected many brain resources to Africa, but Voute’s research results were not unheard of. Many emerging and respected astronomers came visiting and conducted their own high-profile projects. To this day, a large number of rare books in Dutch, French, and Spanish containing even more detailed personal accounts and observational notes from foreign associates inhabited the library of Bosscha Observatory, a prime material for in-depth historical research. A number of early researchers had their names honored in various buildings and equipment of the Bosscha Observatory estate.

Among the visiting resarchers, Wallenquist was enamored with Bosscha. E van Albada-van Dien’s writing in 1994 revealed Wallenquist’s help in securing support from UNESCO in the form of a new telescope. This telescope would later be a witness to Indonesia’s disparaging bureaucracy.

Japanese Invasion (19421945): Shelter and Decay

The years of the Second World War were lamented in many accounts for its disastrous effect on Bosscha Observatory. Masasi Miyadi was sent by the Japanese to take over Bosscha Observatory from Dr. De Sitter. Miyadi recognized the importance of the locale, and so reinstated some Dutch researchers to their posts. Despite Miyadi’s efforts, the escalating war prevented scientific undertakings from proceeding. Some less fortunate scholars would be sent abroad as prisoner-of-war. Eventually, every project ground to a halt, and the place had to be deserted. Without anyone to keep up the maintenance, equipment deteriorated. Dr. C. Hins from Holland, who was later sent to restore the Observatory in 1946, noted that the estate was jungle-like by the time of his arrival (Hidayat, 2000).

An oral account passed down among Astronomy students working in Bosscha stated that local populace helped sheltering the Observatory’s collections of lenses during the period of air raids and bombardments. This account cemented Bosscha Observatory’s close-knit relationship with the surrounding community, an identity it embraced yet would be shackled with in the future.

The Birth of Indonesia (19451956): The Birth of Astronomy in Tertiary Education

Battles did not immediately cease with the Declaration of Independence. Skirmishes often happened in major cities in Java. Bandung was the site of one such battle, notably known as ‘Bandung Lautan Api’ (March 24th, 1946) which was later commemorated in a song now studied by every schoolchildren. Research and education would have to queue behind many other problems the fledgling country was facing. This situation was not conducive of any serious endeavors, even more so since the Observatory would need substantial repairs. It had to wait until 1949 for the Observatory to finally begin serving in the earnest, but a new development arose in the meantime.

By 1947, The Dean of University of Indonesia’s Mathematics and Natural Science Faculty, M. Th. Leeman, had recognized the need to have Astronomy education on higher level (Hidayat, 2000). It was impossible and impractical to keep relying on foreign astronomers to advance the field in Indonesia, especially because the teams slowly returned to their own home countries (either willingly or unwillingly).

In 1947, the Astronomy unit was officially offered under Leeman’s department. Several astronomers working for Bosscha Observatory took turns teaching the course in University of Indonesia. This program, later transferred to Bandung Institute of Technology along with the rest of the faculty, was the first Astronomy program offered in undergraduate level in South-East Asia, a distinction it kept until this day.

However, it was not until 1951 that the program had an official birth. The year was chosen to celebrate Dr. G. B van Albada’s commencement as the department’s first professor and the successful transfer of Bosscha Observatory from a Dutch’s private institution to an Indonesian public one (Wiramihardja, 2012). Van Albada’s name would later be honored as a Bosscha Observatory building. The Observatory did not sever ties with its Dutch foundation. An institution, Leids Kerkhoven-Bosscha Fonds, supported both Bosscha Observatory researches and Department of Astronomy’s programs to this day (Mahasena, 2012).

Originally closely resembling a Dutch style of tertiary education, the curricula of the Astronomy program underwent major changes throughout the years to follow Anglo-Saxon traditions of higher education, but maintained its close relations with Bosscha Observatory. Lectures and practical sessions were held on the observatory grounds, where the Student Association (Himastron) later formed. In the coming years, many graduates returned to work on the observatory, training fresh set of students completing the cycle. As Indonesia crawled, looking to stand on its own, so did the Department of Astronomy in ITB.

Let us end this era with one interesting anecdote: UNESCO’s telescope, mentioned earlier, went through many financial and bureaucratic troubles and prevailed. Yet, in 1954, when only two signatures were needed, the contract was left unfinished. From the paper of van Albada-van Dien (1994), ”Each and every one of the officials at the Department of Education in Jakarta who was party to the contract expressed great satisfaction with the offer. But the signing of the contract did not come about. It took us years to find out why, and in 1955, after a leave-of-absence, we almost decided not to return to Indonesia unless the contract was signed by the Indonesian government. Finally one of the Bandung university assistants discovered why and how: two of the government officials in Jakarta who were supposed to sign the contract were not on speaking terms with each other! We then easily passed this bottleneck by carrying it in person the contract from one to the other. Meanwhile, it was June 1956.”

The Space Race (19571969): The Seed

The Soviet Union launched their first Sputnik in 1957 and placed Yuri Gagarin as the first man in space in 1961, triumphing over the United States of America in the Cold War. Announcement by announcement were made, funds flowed into NASA to beat Soviet Union in their own game. America succeeded, and Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing stayed an iconic moment for the world.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the Old Order rose and fell, but not before the nation was affected by the same ‘space bug’ as the rest of the world. The arm’s race between America and the Soviet Union spurred interest in space exploration, and during this era the government decided that they would need to direct their attention to this particular field too, having been beaten by other Asian countries like India. LAPAN (Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space) was established in 1962 with two genesis rocket projects in affiliation with ITB and the airforce. While not primarily focused in the science of astronomy, LAPAN nonetheless stands as one of the most prominent organization in the field, now composed of four major focus: Aeronautics and Space Technology, Remote Sensing, Atmospheric and Space Science, and The Study of Aeronautics and Space Policy.

First graduates of the Department of Astronomy went to work in Bosscha. At this point, Astronomy remained a largely unknown, exotic subject for High School students, enrollment rate could number as low as one student per year for several years. The idea of a Student Association sounded absurd, yet with manpower under ten, it materialized. For the first two decades, almost all activities were held in joint with other departments in the Mathematics and Natural Science Faculty (Himastron ITB, 2005). There was talks about opening another Astronomy department in Universitas Gadjah Mada specializing in radio astronomy, but this plan never materialized (Hidayat et al., 2016).

The Heat of the New Order (19661998): Going Steady

A mysterious year which mystery is still part of strong debate till the present time, 1965, marked both the coup d’etat of the second president Soeharto and the passing of the Comet Ikeya-Seki. Along this line of thought, one of the country’s founding father and its first president, Soekarno, passed away in 1970. Numerous inquiries from traditional communities flooded the experts to link this with the appearance of the Comet West (Hidayat, 2000).

Indonesian Astronomy Community was formed in 1977 to spread the interest in Astronomy to a wider audience outside the scientific groups. This community played a key part in Indonesia’s acceptance into International Astronomical Union (Yamani, 2011). Over the years, gatherings of astronomy enthusiasts became more common, and smaller communities could be found scattered about.

Meanwhile, there were 25 new students in the class of 1982, a delightful surprise to the Department. The year marked the first time Himastron could embark on bigger undertakings (Himastron ITB, 2005). However, this period of unrest affected Himastron as part of ITB. Military interventions and countless demonstrations disrupted the learning processes of students during the later part of the New Order. Moreover, the Challenger disaster early in 1986 and the stagnating progress in the field gradually dampened the idea of space exploration. Bosscha’s observatory’s prowess too, once in the peak of the strong, began to wane as government support fluctuated between abysmal and nonexistent.

Reformation (1999now): Going Full Circle

The last two decades have been an exciting time for science. Rapid movements in technology and the advent of smaller, denser chips brought forward opportunities like never before. Within academia, the advent of scalable, affordable computing changed the landscape for research. Many observatories around the world now implement telescopes equipped with robotic arms and remote access features, going away with the old mechanical designs. Bosscha Observatory however, kept most of its classic configurations as it could not afford major remodels. Newer equipment are adapted to work with the old inventory, or implemented elsewhere in new buildings.

Computational science and computer simulations are taught more intensely in the Department of Astronomy in accordance with the traditional observation laboratory sessions. The shift is also an effect of Lembang area’s dramatic increase of light pollution level as it gains fame as a designation for tourism. Bosscha Observatory did not escape this. Formerly known as a historical site and part of a recommended pilgrimage to old Bandung, a movie shot in 2000 featuring the observatory exploded in the market, quickly becoming a family favorite and further drove interests into the observatory. Big influx of visitors are drawn to Bosscha ever since, falsely giving an image of a commercial tourism attraction amongst the laymen. While public education is part of the observatory’s mission, constant trespassing and uncontrolled crowds could be source of distraction to students and researchers at times.

Trying to hold its place as a community centerpiece and a legitimate scientific estate with limited manpower and resources, Bosscha is bound in tight situations (Epifania and Mumpuni, 2009). After more than 90 years of service, serious considerations suggested that a new observatory would better be built to deal with Bosscha’s shortcomings (Mahasena et al, 2009). Indonesian government granted a piece of land in Kupang for this project. Yet, this doesn’t mean Bosscha Observatory is dead. Large amount of work is still being carried out, and having successfully won people’s hearts, there is hope Bosscha will play a larger role in the spread of knowledge, perhaps by functioning as a museum (Malasan, 2015).

With the turbulence of the New Order quieted down, in this era there is was a big focus on education. Popular science is on the rise, communities and clubs celebrating the sky appeared in large and small towns alike. A new planetarium opened in Kutai by 2002. Websites and online discussion groups operated by Astronomy communicators and passionate amateurs brought astronomy to the masses. Steady enrollment rate gave a breather to Himastron, and they joined along the movement outside of their affiliation with Bosscha Observatory.

The Department of Astronomy, now organized into three research groups (Galaxy and Cosmology, Stellar Physics, and the Solar System), supported public outreach via its involvement in the National Science Olympiad starting from 2004 (Kunjaya, 2012) and initiatives such as UNAWE (Universe Awareness) kick-started by a faculty member (Mahasena, 2012), and routinely participate in civic service such as serving as the experts in the yearly hilal observation for religious events. As it stands now, many students in recent batches had exposure to Astronomy prior to their enrollment into Department of Astronomy, often through participation in said National Olympiad.

Globalization exposed students of Astronomy to faster exchange of ideas. To foster growth, Department of Astronomy encouraged students to participate in Exchange Programme, Summer and Winter Schools, and other international events (Wiramihardja, 2012). These programmes allow students to work with equipment not available in Indonesia, different sky maps and climates, and experiment with new methods in Astronomy, hopefully bringing home new insights.

Against the antithesis of cutting edge technology, this era also marks increasing interest with the romanticism of the past. Along with a culture towards interdisciplinary researches, there is a surge of interest in archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy, two blended subjects looking to expand our knowledge on our very first topic. However, it is also in this era that the science of Astronomy becomes increasingly detached from the minds of the public. What was once an universal curiosity is relegated into an exotic trade as people grow under the lights of the cityscape, and the talks on astronomy shift more and more towards complex physics and ornate computer science techniques.


It is easy to show that astronomy, despite sounding exotic to many, has never been far from the people. Astronomy in Indonesia is propelled and sustained by the works of a handful of names, juggling to balance public outreach alongside actual scientific research, pushing the boundary of limited manpower. Once a notable forerunner in the field, the Indonesian astronomical society defies the odds in the turbulence of Indonesian history.

Years of battling with internal political struggle have eroded focus on science and technology, making Indonesia a difficult choice for budding astronomers. Other countries in Asia gradually comes ahead in various measures, yet Indonesia’s unrelenting effort in maintaining research and public outreach could set it apart. Despite the imminent case of a brain drain, papers show that Indonesian astronomers abroad often keep close connections home, participating in many joint publications. A large percentage of its scholars devoted their lives to keep unearthing the secrets of our sky, serving as guidance to young learners, and expanding the horizons for Indonesia-based researches. The recent interests in archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy pave the way for interdisciplinary researches in the future, allowing the science to reach out broader than ever. Wayne Orchiston (2017) identifies some prospects of future research in Indonesia, a mix of topics old and new.


[1] An archive can be found on YouTube, uploaded with permission from the project leader Dr. Hakim L. Malasan. ‘Indonesian Starlore’.

[2] Just like the nation itself, the calendrical systems in place were diverse. There were solar calendars, lunar calendars, and amalgams of the two in various configurations, and even calendars tied to specific stars or asterisms (see Ammarell, 1987 and Iragashi, 1997). Similarly, the skylores are tailored to each region’s needs, and often bring into surface what cultural bias might be held when talking about a certain lore (see Ammarell and Tsing, 2015).

[3] There was a dispute on de Houtman’s authenticity as the catalogue creator. For details, see Hidayat, 2000.

[4] To be added here is the role of The Royal Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences.

[5] Mohr’s observatory is no longer around. A depiction of the building could be found in the gallery in Kupel, Bosscha Observatory. Some of Mohr’s surviving papers could be found in Amsterdam University (Hidayat, Bambang & Malasan, Hakim & Mumpuni, Emanuel. (2017))

[6] There is an interesting article about this in van Klinken, G. A. (2013), entitled ‘Why was there no Javanese Galileo’. However, at the time of publication of this essay, the author has not gotten access to the full manuscript.

[7] Bosscha is a cousin to Kerkhoven, also a tea planter businessman in Gambung and later part of early supporters of the observatory. Another influential relative includes the cousin Douwes Dekker, aka Multatuli, who was a populist colonialist and ally to many Indonesian educated class.

[8] This telescope, known colloquially as ‘The Zeiss’ amongst Bosscha Observatory researchers and students, is housed in a dome called Kupel. Due to a movie shot in 2000, the dome and the telescope became so famous that many people seem to think the piece of land is all what we call ‘Bosscha Observatory’, while in actuality the Observatory refers to a vast estate of many telescope houses, offices, and researchers’ dormitories.


Ammarel, G, 1987, Sky Calendars of the Indo-Malay Archipelago, in “History of Oriental Astronomy”, G. Swarup, A. K. Bag, & K. Shukla (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 241–247.

Ammarel, G and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, 2015, Cultural Production of Skylore in Indonesia, in “Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy”, C. Ruggles (ed.), Springer, New York, pp. 2207–2214.

Epifania, Priscilla and Emanuel Sungging, 2009, Bosscha Observatory: Challenges as a scientific heritage of astronomy in Indonesia, Paper presented at the proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 5, doi: 10.1017/S1743921311002353, pp. 235–240.

Gompert, A, 1998, Sanskrit Mathematical and Astral Sciences of Ancient Java, in I. I. A. S Newsletter 16:23.

Hariawang, Irma I., Simatupang, Ferry M., Radiman, Iratius, 2010, Orientation of Borobudur East Gate Measured Against Sunrise Position During Vernal Equinox, Paper presented at the proceedings of the International Conference on Oriental Astronomy 7, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Tokyo.

Hidayat, B., 2000, Under a Tropical Sky: A History of Astronomy in Indonesia, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage.

Hidayat, B., 2000, Indo-Malay Astronomy, in Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-Wester Astronomy, H. Selin (ed.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 371–84.

Hidayat, B., Malasan, H.L, and Mumpuni, Sungging, 2016, The Emergence of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Indonesia, in “The Emerging Astrophysics in Asia: Opening a New Window on the Universe”, T. Nakamura & W. Orchidstron (eds.), Springer, New York, pp. 329–356.

Himastron ITB, 2005, Perjalanan Himastron ITB 1965–2005, Himastron ITB.

Iragashi, T., 1997, Sidereal-lunar time reckoning in Nusantara: a brief comparison, in “Study on the Dynamics of the Frontier World in Insular Southeast Asia”, T. Kato (ed.), Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto, pp. 119–136.

Kunjaya, C., 2012, Extending Astronomical Education Via Astronomy Olympiad Activities, Paper presented at the proceedings of the Seminar Pendidikan Astronomi: 60 Tahun Pendidikan Astronomi di Indonesia, ITB, Bandung, pp. 25–29.

Malasan, H., 2015, Initiative to Build an Astronomical Museum in Indonesia, Paper presented at the proceedings of the International Symposium on the NAOJ Museum (Japan), NAOJ, Mitaka, Tokyo, pp. 39–45.

Orchiston, W., 2017, Studying the History of Indonesian Astronomy: Future Prospects and Possibilities, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 20, pp. 145–154.

Pramesti, D., 2009, Menggali dan Memperkenalkan Kisah Langit Asia Pada Dunia, Langit Selatan, 29 May 2009, Web, accessed on 13 Okt 2016.

Putra, M., 2012, Pendidikan Astronomi di Indonesia Tahun 2001–2011, Paper presented at the proceedings of the Seminar Pendidikan Astronomi: 60 Tahun Pendidikan Astronomi di Indonesia, ITB, Bandung, pp. 19–24.

T. Hidayat, et al., 2001, Buku Kenangan 50 Tahun Pendidikan Tinggi Astronomi di Indonesia, Penerbit ITB, Bandung.

Taufiqurrahman, E., 2015, 50 Tahun Himastron ITB: Jejak Pergerakan Mahasiswa Astronomi di Indonesia, Langit Selatan, 19 Oct 2015, Web, accessed on 13 Oct 2016.

Voute, J., 1933, Ann. v.d. Bosscha Sterrenwacht, Volume 1, Gebrs. Kleijne & Co. NV, Bandung.

Wiramihardja, 2012, Sejarah Pendidikan Tinggi Astronomi di Indonesia, Paper presented at the proceedings of the Seminar Pendidikan Astronomi: 60 Tahun Pendidikan Astronomi di Indonesia, ITB, Bandung, pp. 13–18.

Yamani, A., 2008, Menggali Kekayaan Astronomi Dalam Kearifan Lokal, Langit Selatan, 11 June 2008, Web, accessed on 13 Okt 2016.

Yamani, A., Jejak Langkah Astronomi di Indonesia, Langit Selatan, 2 Jan 2011, Web, accessed on 13 Okt 2016.


I am publishing this two-year old essay almost entirely as-is (with some editing to improve clarity and iron some hindsight, as well as incorporating some new materials published in the meantime), but with time permitting, intend to improve on its breadth and depth (which, I realize, is sorely lacking for now) as well as tightening the structures to keep it less meandering.

While I summarized many of the main texts on this topic, this essay is by no means exhaustive, and I would love to expand on several parts, notably on contributions of various research organization, actual interviews with many of the modern researchers (which should be well within my reach if I’d spend more effort on this) and the historical context of eras I had skipped due to deadlines (of which there should be abundant resources to render excuses… inexcusable), and the non-Himastron projects and initiatives (as these are more varied and broadly reaching). As-is, it has not met my original intent, as the narratives are not woven well into the historical context, often forcefully jammed.

There is a lot of intriguing books in the library of Bosscha Observatory to flesh out the sections between the colonial settlements to reformation, including several volumes of Voute’s writings in Dutch (as do a majority of old text housed there. Some other interesting texts are in German). As they are obviously either out-of-print or never-printed-elsewhere personal correspondences, I hope to return one day equipped with better command on both languages to translate these books into Indonesian (and English). It would be a shame to lose these texts into historical oblivion.

In the meantime, anyone who would like to point out inaccuracies, donate facts and references, and leaving feedback is graciously welcomed. For further reading: every resource mentioned is worth perusing, but if one’s time is severely constrained, I would recommend at least “Under a Tropical Sky: A History of Astronomy in Indonesia” and “The Emergence of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Indonesia”. The latter article is part of a $250 book, but the full text is available freely from Research Gate. (Indeed we have to be thankful of modern inventions for such ease, for a major part of the bibliography would not be accessible for me to examine in my leisure if not for the existence of scanned archives in various sites).



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store