The Telegraph
Saturday , March 1 , 2014
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CM fillip for capital sky theatre
- Foundation of Rs 27-crore planetarium laid in Chiroundi on a rainy day, deadline 2016

Stargazers all, the sky’s your limit.

After being stuck in limbo for over a decade, hopes brightened for Jharkhand’s planetarium project on Friday as chief minister Hemant Soren laid its foundation stone in Chiroundi, Ranchi, to mark the National Science Day.

Now, if the astronomy theatre — envisioned for Rs 27 crore on the sprawling Regional Science Centre premises — manages to escape bureaucratic red tape and funds sloth, the twin bane this state is infamous for, it will be ready in exactly two years and six months from this day.

Hemant, who arrived for the ceremony behind schedule, carried out the honours despite drizzle, saying it was good omen.

“The skies are supporting us in our initiative. The project will offer students a window to the space about which they have only read in books; or perhaps seen in movies. Not just them, everyone with a knack for stars and galaxies will find the planetarium worth a visit,” he told the motley gathering of visitors, including schoolchildren.

The National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), an autonomous organisation under the Union ministry of culture that developed the 13-acre regional centre in Chiroundi, will build the planetarium (see model below) for which an MoU was also inked on Friday.

Subrata Sen, the managing director of Creative Museum Designers, Calcutta, which is a wing of NCSM, said the sky theatre would cover 42,000sqm and boast two sections — an astronomy gallery and an amateur astronomy club. The gallery will have an auditorium that can seat 150 people, besides exhibits related to the celestial world.

A dominant feature of the planetarium will also be the large dome-shaped projection screen for realistic simulation of the complex motions of celestial objects.

“Once complete, this place will be a stargazer’s paradise. One will experience space travel sitting in a gallery. We also plan to run films on astronomy five times a day. Exhibits of cosmological models will be added attraction,” Sen said.

On the astronomy club, he added: “It will have some state-of-the-art telescopes and classrooms to train enthusiasts on making telescopes among other things.”

The planetarium project has hung fire since 2002, when it was first mooted by then state science and technology minister Samresh Singh.

The government gave the plan serious consideration only in recent times, particularly after the Regional Science Centre came up in Ranchi in 2010.

Additional chief secretary (science and technology) A.K. Pandey said he was sanguine the project would meet the set deadline.

“There have been many issues in the past, but they have been sorted out. The department is fully committed to completing this second phase (planetarium) of the science centre on time,” he added.