Explore the Planetarium

A landmark of the pink city

The unflinching desire to fly unbridled in the sky is as old as the civilization itself. However, the yearning to break away from the shackles of earth's gravity to explore the unfathomable universe is as recent as a couple of centuries old. The dream became reality little more than half a century ago, bringing in an unprecedented growth of scientific imagination and innovation. The space age of the sixties and seventies saw tremendous achievements in space exploration starting from embedding human footprints on the Moon to flying past the distant worlds in the solar system.

Since then, an entire generation of people have grown old only dreaming about pushing the final frontiers of human limits and by contributing to the robotic sojourn of those distant worlds. These endeavours have enriched our experience and supplemented our knowledge about our home planet and have made our lives smoother by producing innumerable technology spin offs in the process.

The planetariums worldwide over these decades have played a pivotal role by disseminating the excitement of space exploration to the masses and inspiring generations of young minds to dedicate themselves for the progress of astronomy & space science. The excitement of the space age also touched the hearts of the corporate Birlas very early. A few planetariums dedicated for the public by the C.K.Birla group came up at different parts of the country in the eighties, These are B.M.Birla Planetariums at Jaipur, Hyderabad and Chennai highlighting the earliest examples of first corporate initiatives in the country to popularise science and especially astronomy & space science.

The B.M.Birla Planetarium, Jaipur has a long legacy in the field of popularisation of science and spreading awareness among the masses, especially among the school children. The efficient and uninterrupted operation of this planetarium since 1989 along with its various popularisation programmes and its widely appreciated shows are the hallmarks on the pink city landscape. Various nobel laureates and other luminaries from almost all parts of the world have graced this planetarium over the years with their talks and deliberations during various workshops and seminars conducted under its dome.

B.M. Birla Planetarium, Jaipur, is now an integral part in the intellectual landscape of the city and a valuable asset for its students and intellegentia. The planetarium is dedicated to serve the city and its populace for many more years, keeping alive the wonderful three centuries old legacy of its founder astronomer king - Raja Sawai Jai Singh.

 

A journey down the memory lane

The B.M.Birla Planetarium was inaugurated on March 17, 1987, by Sh. G.P.Birla and Smt. Nirmala Birla. Over more than a quarter century of its operation, the planetarium has produced and screened 25 shows, organised seminars on various topics related to astronomy & space science, conducted workshops to enthuse and educate an umpteen number of teachers and students and has held open sky observation sessions using binoculars and telescopes to mesmerise thousands of curious onlookers.

Ranging over as varied a topic as a simulated imaginary journey across the various latitudes of the earth to its frigid poles, to the most distant and exotic objects of the universe, the shows have been widely appreciated by people visiting from almost all parts of the country. The colourful visuals projected by tens of projectors on the 12 meter wide dome along with the crystal clear, pin pointed stars by the central GOTO projector and impressive story lines presented using post production techniques with ultimate care, have held its visitors spell-bound over the years.

How big and varied is this universe, how far are the stars which glitter in the sky, what exotic objects are abound in the depths of space, what are those other worlds revolving around the sun and other stars, are they inhabited, are we alone, are there others like us, these and many other questions agitate the thinking mind; and the planetarium tries to satiate them with its shows, seminars, live presentations, workshops, sky viewing sessions and occasional eclipse expeditions.

The planetarium prides itself with its widely researched scripts collated from the authentic sources, a library of latest books, subscribed periodicals, the internet and institutional original research. Here is a comprehensive list of planetarium shows with their inaugural dates.

 

Show Title

Date of Inauguration

1.

The Astounding Universe

December, 1989

2.

The Land of the Midnight Sun

June, 1990

3.

Wonders of the Night Sky & World's Greatest Mystery

February, 1991

4.

Visitors From Outer Space

June, 1993

5.

Secrets of the Universe

June, 1994

6.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Moon Landing

December, 1994

7.

The Blood Stained Jupiter

December, 1994

8.

Eclipses

September, 1995

9.

A Fantastic Voyage Through the Solar System

August, 1996

10.

Messenger From Mars

June, 1997

11.

Echoes From the Ancient Skies – Kumbh Mela

June, 1998

12.

The Hubble Universe

May, 1999

13.

Space in New Millennium

May, 2000

14.

The Violent Universe

June, 2001

15.

Planets Beyond

May 2002

16.

Reach for the Stars

June, 2003

17.

Mars Beckons

July, 2004

18.

New Cosmos

July, 2007

19.

Worlds in Collision

July, 2006

20.

To the Land of the Midnight Sun (Remake)

July, 2007

21.

Through the Eyes of Hubble (Remake)

July 2008

22.

Moon – Our Neighbour

October, 2009

23.

Our Solar System

March, 2011

24.

The Ancients & Their Stellar Connections

November, 2013

25. India's Pride - Mangalyaan

September, 2016

A galaxy of national and international luminaries have visited the planetarium to deliberate upon and participate in various seminars and symposia held over the years.

During a symposium on Science & Technology for Peace & Progress, March 21, 1990, it was an honour to host and listen to a renowned astrophysicist and noble laureate Prof. William A. Fowler, California Institute of Technology, along with various other national and international scholars, such as, Dr. Roser Lesgard, President of City of Science, Paris, Dr. James Sharp, Florida, USA, Veronika Hodkova, Checkoslowakia, Dr. Jairam Reddy, Tirupati, Prof. Leonel Takgar, USA, Prof. Bashir, Dr. S.S. Chhabonia, Dr. R.S. Shresth, National History Museum, Kathmandu, Nepal, Prof. H.B. Lilly White, Rootgars, USA, Prof. Winde, Beljium, Prof. Ashish Mishra.

Jaipur had the opportunity to listen to Prof. S.M.R. Ansari and Dr. S.D.Sharma, Aligarh Muslim University, Prof. S.D. Sharma, Punjabi University, Patiala, Dr. G.S.D.Babu, IIA, Bangalore, among others, during a two day seminar on Indian Astronomy & Jaisingh during May 9-10, 1990.

During a two day symposium on Indian & Other Asiatic Astronomy held from December 16, 1991, Prof. Iwaniszewska, Poland, former president of International Astronomical Union, deliberated upon 'Astronomy & Mythology'; Prof. T. Langermann, of Israel deliberated upon Moses, 'Maimonides & Astronomy'; Prof. Baheram Khalesseh of Iran presented 'A Brief History of Astronomy in Iran'; Dr. Richard Lorch of Germany deliberated upon 'Unusual forms of Astrolabe in the Early Islamic-Arabic Period'; Prof. D. King, a renowned historian of astronomy from Germany deliberated upon 'Survey of Indian Astrolabes (Arabic/Persian/Sanskrit)'; Prof. George Salibha, Chair, Department on Mid-Eastern Studies, Columbia University, deliberated upon 'Astronomy at the court of Ulughbegh'; Dr. & Mrs Hicks and Prof. R.N. Anderson of University of San Jose, California, deliberated upon 'Vedic Chronology'; Prof. Cui Shi Zhu of China deliberated upon 'The Studies of Beijing Ancient Observatory'; Dr. D. Pingree, a renowned scholar of Indian astronomy from USA, deliberated upon 'Siddhantic Astronomy'; Prof. Takanori Kusuba, a scholar of Indian astronomy and mathematics from Osaka University, Japan, deliberated upon 'Different aspects of Narayan Pandit's mathematical compendium'; Prof. K. Plofker from USA, deliberated upon 'Bramh Gupta's Formulae Relating to the Phases of Moon'; Prof. V.N.Sharma, a renowned scholar from University of Virginia on Jaisingh and Mahabharata, deliberated upon 'Sawai Jai Singh's Precision Instruments & his Astronomy'; Prof. S.M.R. Ansari of Aligarh Muslim University, deliberated upon 'Ghlum Husan Johan-Puri – A 19th Century Astronomer and Instrument Maker'.

Other eminent scholars attending the symposium were - Mr. Steve Pizzey, U.K., Prof. S.R. Sarana, Iran, Prof. Bandopadhyay, India, Mr. R. Sarkar, India, Prof. Deivanayagam, India, Prof. Zhen-Tao, China, Dr. B.G. Sidharth, India.

The symposium generated a wide publicity in the media. It was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Mr. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

An international conference on “Tessitori & Rajasthan” was held during February 21 - 23, 1996, at the planetarium, in memory of the early twentieth century Italian scholar from Udine, Dr. Luigi Pio Tessitori (1887-1919). He was an Indologist as well as a linguist with a formal command over Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit. Since 1914, till his death in 1919 he stayed in Bikaner and did an extensive work on local Rajasthani dialects and literature including some archaeological work in association with the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). His work lead to the discovery of Harappan civilisation relics at Kalibangan later on.

The conference was spread over two cities, Jaipur and Bikaner. A proposal was made during the conference to announce Udine and Bikaner as sister cities. The conference was attended by - Dr. Fausto Freschi, Udine, Italy, Indian Society “Luigi Pio Tessitori”, Antonio Rigopoulos, Indian Society “Luigi Pio Tessitori,” Giuliano Boccali, Venetian Academy for Indian Studies, Gian Giuseppe Filipino, Venetian Academy for Indian Studies, Colette Caillat, Sorbonne University, Bruno Marcolongo, University of Padua, Italy, Enrico Fasana, University of Trieste, Stefano Piano, University of Turin, Carlo Della Casa, University of Milan, Romano Lazzeroni, University of Pisa, Saverio Sani, University of Pisa, Donatella Dolcini, University of Milan, Giorgio Milanetti, University of Rome, Manlio Michelutti, Friulian Philogical Soceity of Udine, Nalini Balbir, Sorbonne University, J.D. Smit, University of Cambridge, Alan Entwistle, University of Washington, S.R. Rao, Bangalore, I.K. Sharma, Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad, V.N. Sharma, Deccan College of Pune, H.C. Bhayani, Gujrat University, S.D. Kaviya, University of Jodhpur, G.S. Sharma, University of Rajasthan, K. Sogani, Apabhramca Sahitya Academy of Jaipur, P.C. Bhargava, Dept. Of Archaeology of Bikaner, Hazari Mull Banthia, Kanpur, Sobhag Singh Sakawak, Rajasthani Language Culture, Bikaner.

The planetarium nurtures a local amateur astronomers society by guiding initiating, guiding and supporting their activities. Members of the society organise sky viewing sessions from the planetarium premises as well as from outskirts of the city away from the lights and dust. Organising occasional three/four days long workshops targeting different age-group of people is also within the aims and objectives of the society. The planetarium hosted and provided all the backup support for such workshops partially funded by the local Department of Science & Technology in 2009 and 2010. Dr. Ranjan Gupta, Inter University Centre of Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, Dr. Sandeep Sahijpal, Punjab University, Chandigarh, and local scholars (Dr. Sudhir Raniwala, Rajasthan University, Dr. M.K.Pandit, Rajasthan University, Dr. Aalok Pandya, JECRC University etc.) in allied subjects presented the popular aspects of their respective research fields to the much delight of the participants. The participants were also taken through sky-observations sessions from a village near Shahpura along the Delhi-Jaipur highway.

The society members regularly join hands with the planetarium to celebrate the four astronomically important dates of the year – spring equinox (March 21st), summer solstice (June 21st), autumnal equinox (September 23rd) and the winter solstice (December 21st) by organising a guided tour of the Jantar Mantar by an expert. Depending on the availability of the funds, one day or, half a day long workshops are also organised at the venue for people of all age-groups.

Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous body under the National Council of Science & Technology Communication, DST, New Delhi, joined hands with the planetarium to organise a series of three workshops during 2011-2012. A rare transit of Venus, the second and the last transit of this century took place on June 6, 2012. The three day workshops were organised on the eve of the event targeting school teachers from all over the country. More than 120 teachers were trained to view the transit and conduct experiments with readily available material to enthuse the students during this rare event. The participants were mesmerised by the venue, the quality of presentations and efficient organisation of the workshops. A regular contact is being maintained with many of the participants through a yahoo group by disseminating periodic crucial informations on the subject.

The planetarium has designed a unique structure with material available from local decorators to project telescopic images of the Sun for mass viewing of eclipses and other events involving the Sun. The structure facilitates photography and live telecasting of the celestial event.

A planetarium is a window to the universe at large. There are innumerable mysteries hidden deep within the unfathomable depths of the universe. We have begun to unravel those mysteries one by one only by now. As technologies improve, so do our techniques to peek within those depths of darkness and fish out answers of our age old questions: where do we come from; where are we going ? The planetarium showcases these developments in a layman’s terms. It is not just regular screening of shows, workshops and sky observations, the B.M. Birla Planetarium intends to educate and train more serious enthusiasts through various projects and occassional astro-photography sessions utilising its Celestron 11 inch telescope and a paraphernalia of back-end equipments.

The planetarium has made its presence felt through invited lecture tours and telescope making workshops at Shillong in Meghalaya (May 22 – June 2, 1995 and June 24 – July 7, 1999), Bhubaneswar in Orissa (July 10 - 21, 1995), Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh (December 21, 1998 - January 2, 1999), Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh (July 25 - August 7, 1999), Jaipur during April 18 - 30, 2003, Ranchi in Jharkhand, Dhenkanal in Orissa, Kashmir, Patiala in Panjab and at Kurukshetra in Haryana. Schools, colleges and NGOs in and around the city are regularly visited by the planetarium personnel with their array of popular lecture topics and conduct evening sky-watch sessions through telescopes for the young enthusiasts. The planetarium has helped and guided umpteen number of astronomy enthusiasts to manufacture their own six inch aperture Dobsonian telescopes besides helping quite a few others to fabricate scientific models for submission in schools or, other competitive forums. One of them, along with 53 others, was awarded the prestigious Balshree title by the President of India in 2010.

 

VARIOUS OTHER PROGRAMMES CARRIED OUT AT THE PLANETARIUM & SCIENCE MUSEUM THROUGH THE YEARS

A “Make your own Intercom” workshop, sponsored by Department of Science & Technology, Jaipur, was held during 1-3 February, 1996, at the B.M.Birla Science Museum. Dr. Y.K.Vijay, Department of Physics, University of Rajasthan, was the chief resource person during the workshop. Twenty students and ten accompanying teachers from different schools around the city participated in the workshop.

Young Astronomers Quiz contest held at B.M. Birla Planetarium:

1. Quiz Contest held on February 26, 1996 (24 schools & 48 students)

2. Quiz Contest held on February 27, 1997 (25 schools & 50 students)

3. Quiz Contest held on February 07, 1998 (33 schools & 66 students)

4. Quiz Contest held on February 23, 2000 (19 schools & 38 students)

5. Quiz Contest held on January 31, 2001 (88 students Sr. group & 15 students Jr. Group)

6. Quiz Contest held on February 07, 2002 (21 schools & 42 students)

Science modelling competition & exhibition held at B.M.Birla Science Musem:

  1. Science Modelling Competition & Exhibition held during November 23 - 30, 1996. Particpants: 66 students from 9 schools.

  2. Science Modelling Competition & Exhibition held during November 8 - 10, 1997. Participants: 95 students from 17 schools.

  3. Science Modelling Competition & Exhibition held during November 2 - 4, 1998. Participants: 17 students from 2 schools.

 

Internet workshop:

The B.M. Birla Science Museum organised a two-day workshop on Internet on 24 & 25 January, 1997. This workshop was organised in active collaboration with the Udbhav Computers Pvt. Ltd., Jaipur. The workshop topics were -

1. Introduction to Computer Communication

2. History & Technology behind Internet

3. Application Services available on Internet

 

Photo-Exhibition On Emergence Of Modern Science 1895-1905:

Designed and fabricated a photo-panel of Photo Exhibition on Emergence of Modern Science 1895-1905 for State Council for Science Technology & Environment, Shimla (Himachal Pradesh).

 

Astronomy Olympiad:

1. Astronomy Olympiad held on December 17, 2000 organised jointly by NCSM & IAPT. This year 50 students enrolled themselves for the first round from all over Rajasthan.

2. Astronomy Olympiad held on January 20, 2002 organised jointly by NCSM & IAPT. This year 182 students participated in the preliminary examination. Out of them 60 belonged to junior group and 122 belonged to senior group.

3. Astronomy Olympiad held on November 27, 2005 organised jointly by NCSM & IAPT. This year 25 students participated in the preliminary examination. Out of them 2 belonged to junior group and 23 belonged to senior group.

4. Astronomy Olympiad held on November 26, 2006 organised jointly by NCSM & IAPT. This year 178 students participated in the preliminary examination. Out of them 123 belonged to junior group and 55 belonged to senior group.

5. Astronomy Olympiad held on November 25, 2007 organised jointly by NCSM & IAPT. This year 12 students participated in the preliminary examination. Out of them 6 belonged to junior group and 6 belonged to senior group.

6. Astronomy Olympiad held on November, 2008 organised jointly by NCSM & IAPT. This year 34 students participated in the preliminary examination. Out of them 18 belonged to junior group and 16 belonged to senior group.

7. Astronomy Olympiad held on November 22, 2009 organised jointly by NCSM & IAPT. This year 50 students participated in the preliminary examination. Out of them 14 belonged to junior group and 36 belonged to senior group.

 

Telescope Making Workshop:

1. Two telescope making workshop sponsored by NCSTC/DST, New Delhi, were conducted at Shillong. Each of these workshops were held for 20 groups of students and teachers from all over the north-eastern states during May 22-June 2, 1995, and June 24 – July 7, 1999. Both the time the workshops were hosted by the North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong.

2. A similar “Telescope Making cum Training Workshop” sponsored by NCSTC/DST, New Delhi, on the eve of total solar eclipse on November 5, 1995, was conducted for students, teachers & science communicators of adjoining states Orissa at Pathani Samanta Planetarium, Bhubaneshwar, during July 10- 21, 1995. The Orissa Council/Dept. of Science & Technology and Education collaborated in organising the workshop. A total of twenty Dobsonian telescopes of aperture 6 inches, were manufactured during the workshop.

3. Similar telescope making workshop was conducted at Bhopal during December 21, 1998 - January 2, 1999.

4. Telescope Making Workshop was held in Hyderabad during July 25 - August 7, 1999, sponsored by NCSTC/DST. The B.M.Birla Science Centre, Adarsh Nagar, Hyderabad, hosted the workshop inviting 40 students and twenty accompanying teachers from various southern states.

5. A telescope making workshop was held in collaboration with DST, Jaipur, during April 18 - 30, 2003, for 20 teacher-student groups from neighbouring schools.

 

Eclipse Expeditions:

An eclipse expedition was carried out during the total solar eclipse on October 24, 1995, at Pragpura near Paota in the Jaipur district. Mrs.G.P. Birla, Dr.B.G.Sidharth & Mr.V.D.Mathur joined the expedition to view and photograph this spectacular event.

During a total solar eclipse on August 11, 1999, a two member team consisting of Mr.Indra Khatri and Mr.Gautam Gurtoo, of local amateur astronomers association went to Kachh in Gujrat, chasing the eclipse. Unfortunately, it was monsoon time and the sky remained cloudy throughout the day.

An eclipse expedition was carried out to Bhopal for a total eclipse on July 22, 2009.  A 20 member team of amateurs joined us to observe and photograph the eclipse from the historic site of Bhimbetka near Bhopal. The early morning eclipse was totally clouded out with heavy to light rainfall all along starting the preceding day. The members of the team however, enjoyed the momentary darkness of the eclipse, as the sun got blocked out by the moon behind the clouds for a while. The pre-historic cave paintings of Bhimbetka were quite an attraction for the expedition members. Later in the day, the entire team visited the Budhist Stupa at Sanchi little away from Bhopal. The Tropic of Cancer line drawn on the road, on the way to Sanchi, created quite an excitement among the amateurs.

 

Robotics Workshop:

The Planetarium organised a week long workshop during May 13-19, 2013 on ROBOTICS for the students of age-group 9 - 16 years. A total of 15 students participated in this workshop. They assembled and programmed various robots using commercially available kits. The participants exhibited their exploits of the workshop on the last day for the general public.

 

First light ceremony of a motorised telescope:

The planetarium has added to its kitty a prized eleven inch Schmidt Cassegrain Celestron telescope. The 'first light ceremony' of the telescope was presided over by Prof. Ranjan Gupta, IUCAA, Pune, on January 25, 2013. The telescope is equipped with various back-end instruments for astro-photography and astro-photometry and is freely is available for use by trained professionals and amateurs with prior intimation. In-house observational research programmes are being carried out using the telescope and various outreach programmes are being organised to train the uninitiated into serious observational programmes.

The planetarium, a dream project of Shri. G.P.Birla commomorating the memory of his illustrious industrialist father, Shri. B.M.Birla, is now not only an architectural landmark of the city, but also, is benefiting scores of people who take advantage of this unique facility by watching its various shows over the years and participating in many of its activities.