BANGALORE: Astronomy and the mystery called outer space has always been a hit with humankind. There is a certain attraction to the twinkling mass of gases and galaxies millions of light years away. The penchant for discovering a world beyond what we know, the need to follow the shiny dots that turn up every night dutifully on time and disappear the very next morning, is a routine part of growing up. With Astronomy having such an impact on our lives, it is then normal to count our lucky stars that Bangalore has a planetarium of its own.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in Bangalore was set up by the city corporation in 1989. It was an instant hit with schools and established itself as a major science centre in Bangalore. Field trips from schools and colleges to the Planetarium have always been a part of the curriculum. Adults too visit the Planetarium in huge numbers -- for a refresher course in planets or for just plain fun. However, all roads in Bangalore lead to the Planetarium when there is some rare occurrence taking place in the sky, like an eclipse, comets, and planetary transits and arrangements are made for the public to view them. The Planetarium was built with this intention- to disseminate science among the public and the student community. People from all over the state visit the Planetarium.
The building stands apart from other structures in the city with its dome-shaped roof. It is under this 15-m diameter dome that people are transported to the outer space while sitting in their seats. A projector, specially imported from the German company Carl-Zeiss, projects the night sky as seen with the naked eye onto the dome. It can also project constellation pictures and panoramas. Their sky-theatre shows that blend science and art are very popular, attracting about two lakh visitors every year. These programmes also talk about historical backgrounds, modem developments and future prospects.
Outside the enclosure where the shows take place, are a slew of exhibits. They talk in detail about various aspects of Astronomy that can be read at leisure. The highly educative exhibits include astro-photographs, cartoons, paintings and quotations and pictures of galaxies. The biggest hit is the weighing scale that shows one’s weight on all planets!
The exhibition area also houses a stall where books, science kits, models, telescopes and photos are sold. Outside the building, the sprawling campus is home to a science park, a novel idea to draw people to the magic of science. Interactive displays explaining fundamentals of science educate and entertain visitors. Models of Resonant Swings, Whispering Dishes, Sun Dial and Giant Kaleidoscope are on display.
The Association of Bangalore Amateur Astronomers, an independent, non-profit making body is housed in the Planetarium. Members meet once a week and exchange ideas, hold workshops, and activities like night sky watching through telescopes and other activities. They also build telescopes. Night sky observations are held at Shivanahalli, about 35 km from Bangalore where they have a 12” telescope and arrangements are made for public viewing.