It may soon become a grant-in-aid institution of KSCSTE

The Thiruvananthapuram Observatory may soon become a grant-in-aid institution of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE). The age-old establishment, which began operations in 1837 under the ruler of the erstwhile Travancore Swathi Tirunal, is currently under the control of Kerala University’s Physics Department.

Talks are on between the university officials and the KSCSTE on finalising terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that would see the Observatory being supported by both.

This would ensure a greater allocation of funds for the maintenance of the building and its equipment. The building is largely unused and elevating it to a grant-in-aid of the KSCSTE is also expected to make it concentrate more on research and development.

The Kerala University Budget 2013-14 sanctioned a generous amount of money for the renovation of the building that covered civil works and procurement of new telescopes. The ones currently in place, installed in the 19th century, are more significant for their heritage value.

“The university was very supportive of the restoration plans and the structural work was completed on time and all that remains is for new telescopes to be procured,” said Observatory director K.G. Gopchandran.

New telescopes

It was in December that the responsibility for installing new telescopes was assigned to the Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM). “The ones installed in the 1800s were state-of-the-art refractor telescopes — a type that ceased production as reflector telescopes took its place,” he said.

They would also be computerised and an automatic aligning feature would enable students to key in the celestial object they wish to see into the system and move the telescope to point in that precise direction. It would also include an option for astrophotography, said Dr. Gopchandran.

Domes being built

The domes for the telescopes were being developed by engineers with the KSSTM, saving the university a chunk of the cost of importing the entire pieces.

The KSSTM has not yet invited global tenders and would do so only once the university transferred funds amounting to Rs.25 lakh for the equipment, he said.