One can spot even ‘Exoplanets'

Asking for the moon is passé. Soon, planets outside the Earth's solar system will be at ‘telescope's length' for the residents of the twin cities. Once the highly modern and compact C11 telescope is mounted on the G. P. Birla Observatory on the premises of B. M. Birla Science Centre, one can scour the cosmos to spot even ‘Exoplanets'— planets orbiting stars other than the Earth's Sun.

To be in the range of observation are also many comets, asteroids, and galaxies far and wide, after the facility in its final stages of construction is thrown open for the public. The observatory on the peak of Naubat Pahad will be formally inaugurated on November 17, though it will take some more time for public to flock in.

Groups of astronomy enthusiasts, amateur as well as professional, can expect a real-time view of cosmos at the observatory instead of the virtual one presently offered at the ‘Birla Planetarium', informed B. G. Sidharth, director of the B. M. Birla Science Centre.

“It will be one among the best amateur public observatories in the country, where laymen as well as seriously interested people can sky-gaze with the help of highly modern equipment. This will help in infusing the excitement of science into a generation driven purely by economy,” says Mr. Sidharth.

Worldwide, there have been many instances of amateur sky-gazers spotting new comets or asteroids, and the new facility offers the same to the city. Planets attached to other stars can also be ‘in principle' seen, while actual spotting of one is purely by chance, he says. So far, Rs.20 crore has been invested in the project.

Groups of about thirty members may visit the observatory with prior appointment and watch the celestial wonders. A total of six or seven telescopes, including the specially designed C11, in collaboration with the Paris-based ‘Uranoscope de France', will be mounted on the building. Guidance about usage will be provided by scientific and technical officers. Also to be incorporated are other facilities for enabling photography.

New courses in Astronomy will be launched by the Science Centre after declaring the observatory open. First in line will be a three-month certificate course for anybody interested in the cosmos. To be launched in December, the course will have about 20 to 25 lectures along with sessions of planet observation. Depending on the response, more courses will be introduced, informed Mr. Sidharth.