TAMIL NADU

Ringed Saturn enthrals skywatchers

EAGER FOR A VIEW: Visitors to B.M. Birla Planetarium in Chennai on Saturday eagerly await their turn as a woman looks through a telescope at planet Saturn. Photo: S. S. Kumar  

Lalithasai

The giant planet in the solar system comes 122.7 crore km close to the Earth

CHENNAI: For the thousands of eager skywatchers, who thronged the Birla planetarium in the city on Saturday evening, it turned to be wonderful show. The giant and ringed planet Saturn was seen in its full glory.

It was a special date for the planet as it was closest to the Earth: just 122.7 crore km away. The planet glowed low in the eastern sky, as twilight approached.

Four telescopes were set up at the planetarium for public viewing of the celestial event. Planetarium scientists explained about the features of the ringed planet to the gathered public.

Even by 6 p.m. people thronged the Periyar Science and Technology Centre, Gandhi Mandapam Road, Chennai. Though the line was huge and the weather slightly chill, now one wanted to miss the event. The planet rose to view at around 7. 10 p.m. at the planetarium.

As others hovered around the scopes for a view, those with their eye on the lens gave out audible gasps at the breathtaking vision. Some were speechless, as they saw the planet for the first time.

A few had difficulty locating the spot and the authorities around assisted them.

The rings of Saturn were clearly visible this time. It was a stunning sight indeed to view it through the special computerised celestron GPS or global positioning satellite telescope with an eight inch aperture. The planet appeared close to the star Regulus (Magam in Tamil), which is the brightest star in the Leo constellation. "It indeed looked like an exquisite jewel in the sky," said Mr. Narayanan, a numerologist.

"There were so many details. I could see the rings and the Cassini Division. This spectacle has inspired me to study the subject in detail," said a student of Physics.

The moons of the planet such as Titan, Tethys, Rhea and Dione were clearly seen through the telescope.