Between IT and space: how the MAI graduate became the astronomy communicator

26 October 2020

Between IT and space: how the MAI graduate became the astronomy communicator

Igor Tirsky, the graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute, is widely known among astronomy and cosmonautics enthusiasts. Exoplanets and super-telescopes, colonization of objects in the Solar system and flights to the stars are just some of the topics that he raises in his speeches to the audience. At the same time, Igor is a Python backend developer and the employee of the Mail.ru Group. He talked to the MAI press-service about the points of contact between amateur astronomy and programming, as well as how the choice of the University affected its future.

Why did you decide to study at MAI and what attracted you to Institute № 6 "Aerospace"?

Since childhood, I loved to look at the sky, I was interested in space, read books on astronomy and cosmonautics and wanted to become an astronomer. Even in the fifth grade, I got a physics textbook for the seventh grade, where a space rocket was drawn and some of its parameters were indicated. Then I realized that I wanted to know everything about rockets.

When I chose the University, I liked that the MAI studies rocket science. And in this form, this is not found anywhere else: the MAI teaches how to build rockets using the example of real spacecraft. So my choice fell on the "Aerospace", then the faculty.


Do you keep in touch with your alma mater today?

For my activities related to the popularization of cosmonautics, I periodically read the news of the University. MAI is currently engaged in the development of ion engines for spacecraft, which is interesting to me.


What channels of communication with your audience do you currently use? Do you plan to expand their list in the near future?

The main one is the telegram channel @tirsky, and the second most popular is the public in the social network "Vkontakte" LifeStyleAstronomy. I also actively perform at various venues, festivals, conferences, gatherings and other events, so I do not feel a lack of channels for interaction with those who are interested in it. On the contrary, everything depends on temporary resources.

As for the new platforms, TikTok could be an alternative to Telegram, but I prefer text to video content, so I’ll leave everything as it is for now.

You work in Mail.ru Group and at the same time talk about astronomy and space science to broad audience. Is it difficult to combine these types of activities?

It is difficult, but I try to combine them as good as I can. Sometimes I write on the internal portal Mail.ru about astronomy, I periodically tell my colleagues about celestial phenomena. I am very grateful to my manager for his loyal attitude, for example, for the fact that I have the opportunity to participate in various TV shows.

On the other hand, I do programming, and this is useful in popularizing science. For example, I created a search engine exclusively for astronomical communities to get up-to-date information. I also try to write scripts to facilitate the work of children in our community. In general, I try to use my knowledge in the field of IT and help our "party".


Who do you feel more like: an engineer or a popularizer of science?

This is an extremely interesting question. I can consider myself a rocket scientist, but not an engineer in the full sense of the word. Anyone who tells another person in simple language about complex things can be popularizer. Therefore, the answer is obvious: I feel like a popularizer, because I try to convey scientific knowledge to a wide audience whenever possible. But at the same time, I am also a specialist who has the appropriate education thanks to MAI.

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