HYDERABAD: Trust the science loving public to retire hurt one of the most powerful amateur public viewing telescopes. Launched almost two months ago at the Birla Planetarium, the Celestron CPC 1100 Schmidt telescope, which boasts of an 11-inch primary mirror aperture, a focal length of 2800 mm and a magnification factor of 660, has been removed temporarily and is being jacked up with what Dr BG Siddharth, Director, BM Birla Science Centre, terms, ‘an extra set of shock absorbers’.
The reason for the same has been attributed to vibrations caused by the footsteps of visitors to the centre. “In normal circumstances, the telescope can be used for sighting. But for those wanting to involve themselves in serious observations, the vibrations effect changes in astro-photography by making the images slightly blurred. So we decided to improve the damping system now in the early stages itself than continue to face the problem. This way the public, as well as the serious star-gazers, can make full use of the telescope,” explained Dr Siddharth.
Currently, the telescope is mounted on a column, inside a dome atop the GP Birla Observatory and Astronomical Research Centre, having an upward opening of two-three feet. As part of the improved damping system being planned, an extra column will be built around the existing one and the columns will then be properly grouted.
“Another platform will also be built beneath the columns to handle the vibrations,” said Dr Siddharth, adding further that the required damping components had to be designed and manufactured separately as per requirement, a reason for the delay.
The centre expects to complete the works in 7-10 days, well in advance of the major space events set to occur in the next few months. A number of international sky-gazers as well as local amateur astronomers are expected to descend at the planetarium for the same.
“Within a week, we expect to see the comet Garradd pass by. Hopefully we can set up the telescope by then,” said Dr Siddharth, even as he assured that the public would be in for a treat once it is re-installed.
“The planetarium has plans to project high resolution images of the transit of Venus (when the planet Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun) on June 12. Venus can be seen as a black dot crossing the sun. In early March, Mars will be in direct opposition (Mars will rise at the same time as sunset). The images will be projected on to a screen placed outside the planetarium building,” he explained.
The `20-crore observatory has been set up in collaboration with the Paris-based NGO, Uranoscope de France.