Count Down to 2009
International Year of Astronomy
Activities of the Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi
2009 will be 400 years since Galileo first trained his telescopes towards celestial objects and made observations that allowed people to slowly accept the paradigm shift towards a Copernican view of the Universe.
2009 will be about 100 years since the meticulous efforts of Samanta Chandrasekhar of Orissa to make poignantly anachronistic celestial measurements with very simple handmade instruments and succeeding remarkably well!
2009 will be 300 years since Sawai Jai Singh embarked upon construction of massive masonry instruments to correct ephemeral elements. Another poignantly anachronistic effort and yet, an effort that was ahead of its times in terms of possibilities of teaching astronomy to the layman.
2009 will be 700 years since astronomers working in the court of Feroz Shah Tuglaq thought of celestial observations through Zenith tubes to correct accumulated errors in water clocks.
2009 will be 1600 years since Aryabhata had remarkable insights into the movements of celestial bodies, remarked on terrestrial rotation and gave optical explanations of Lunar and Solar eclipses.
In India, 2009 would still be the year when a large section of the population remains unaware of these landmarks and would be too involved in facing an increasingly unfriendly everyday environment. A segment of the population would not only be unaware of these landmarks, but, would consistently and stubbornly remain superstitious and believe that celestial movements affect their lives, as predicted by astrologers.
Notwithstanding the reality of every day unfriendly environment for so many of the children in India and the superstitions of many of the adult population, it has yet been a fruitful experience for the Planetarium to share of its meager resources as well as borrow resources from amateur astronomers, to bring celestial observations with moderate telescopes and simple quantitative measurements related to celestial phenomena, alive for visitors to the Planetarium.
This sharing has become possible centered around small celestial events. We took advantage of (and plan to do so for the coming years) many small but, interesting celestial events to ensure that all the citizens of Delhi and its visitors, who have an interest in the skies, get to see through moderate and state of the art amateur telescopes - the craters on the Moon, the Galilean moons of Jupiter, Saturn's rings and the phases of Venus. Not just these celestial observations, of course, any possible additional observations with the kind of equipment that we have, or can borrow.
In addition, we have always been also emphasising the possibilities of making simple measurements of celestial quantities with handmade instruments and helping students compare the observations with theoretical data and look for ways of improving accuracies.
Some of the activities at the Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi, in collaboration with the Amateur Astronomers Association, Delhi and other organisations as we count down to the year 2009
Solar System Marathon 2nd June 2007
Lunar Occultation of Venus 18th of June 2007
Venus Saturn Conjunction 1st of July 2007
Weekly meetings of the Amateur Astronomers Association Delhi - Special sessions for the countdown.
Planetarium programs and exhibition
And finally, the one celebration of Astronomy that we have been passionately involved in, has been to work towards the calibration of the masonry instruments of the Delhi Jantar Mantar Observatory in an ongoing process, to help towards their ultimate restoration.