Staff Reporter

HYDERABAD: Way back in 1887, the French embarked on an ambitious project – Carte du Ciel (Map of the Sky). In what was to be a massive international astronomical project of its kind, 20 observatories from around the world involved themselves, over several decades, in cataloguing and mapping millions of stars in the sky.

The Nizamia observatory in Hyderabad had the unique distinction of being the only observatory from Asia to partake in the project (1914-38).

A good 72 years later, the city played host to a smaller ‘Student Space Simulators’ project that saw 15 children from different parts of the State come together to create computer simulations of the annular solar eclipse, as will be seen from 50 countries around the globe on January 15. In another coincidence bizarre, the astronomy software employed for the space simulators project bore the name of the original French project!

Working on an open source planetarium software ‘Cartes du Ciel’, the “child scientists” worked diligently from 9.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday to produce animations of the annular eclipse.

Software

“Each of us produced three simulations of the annular eclipse. While we used Cartes du Ciel software to create the simulations, SnagIt software live-recorded the simulations as they were being created in Cartes du Ciel,” explained R. Sai Tarun Prabhu, a ninth grader from P. Obul Reddy Public School as a complete eclipse simulation, as will be visible from Guinea played on the monitor.

The project was a joint effort of Planetary Society India (PSI) in association with AP State Council of Science and Technology (APCOST) and Dr. K.V. Rao Scientific Society.

“We want to show that not just scientists but even students if given an opportunity can do space simulations,” said N. Sri Raghunandan Kumar, general secretary of Planetary Society India. The children were trained in the software as well as taught the basics of astronomy by the participating organisations.