Nothing quite beats the sight of a star-spangled night sky and the thrill of picking out a constellation on a dark night. But how many of us, children included, race to the rooftops at night or manage to spot even the moon, given the urban landscape and the ever enveloping smog.
Looking to build up interest in space science and astronomy among students and make it accessible to all, a local school has set up the Tricity’s first digital planetarium. “Ever since India’s Chandrayaan mission to the moon and more recently the Mars Orbiter Mission, there has been a rising interest across age groups for space science. The idea behind this initiative is that not just our school students but students of other schools in the Tricity will not have to travel outstation to see a planetarium,” mentioned Mitul Dikshit, Chairman, Dikshant International School.
The digital planetarium, housed on the school campus in Zirakpur, boasts a five-metre fixed dome, a high definition projection and audio system, and can seat 50 students at one time. Though the seating is still being adjusted to facilitate better viewing, it was formally inaugurated Thursday by Dharam Vir, president of Society for Promotion of Science and Technology in India (SPSTI).
“There are government-run planetariums in the bigger cities of India and it is heartening to see a private endeavour such as this. Today, students need practical, hands-on experience and I am sure time spent here star gazing or learning about outer space will go a long way,” remarked the SPSTI president as he along with a select students from the school watched a documentary on the moon.
Incidentally, the planetarium has been set up with support from the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, and Digitalis, a US-based company specialising in digital planetariums. “It took two years to put it together. We will be installing a telescope soon,” mentioned Dikshit.
In the the meantime, students can access the sky and a view of as many as 1,20,000 stars, even in the middle of the afternoon, along with specially curated content on space science. “We have content available with us for kindergarten students upwards. We also intend to hold shows for general public and schools. For starters it is free and we intend to make it nominally ticketed later to manage running costs,” he added.
For someone who is passionate about astronomy and space science, Dikshit will also be rolling out a mobile planetarium outreach programme in the region in April. “Space science is the future and we want to generate interest in as many students as we can through this mission,”said Dikshit.
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