Planetarium a parsec away from tech

Something as basic as interactive physical models for children demonstrating high school physics are in a pathetic condition.

But what ails Karnataka’s only planetarium is funding.

Barring the odd grant from other sources, the State Department of Science and Technology is the lone funding source for the planetarium’s programmes through the year. Without funds, the planetarium cannot innovate in programmes. Director Chandrakanth Shukre says money has started flowing in only in the last two years. “We have been always operating in a frugal mode, but now we are slowly beginning our process of upgrading. It will take another year to see the results,” he adds.

For a comprehensive overhaul, the centre requires a whopping Rs eight crore. “For the last two years, the funding agency has been generous and we have been getting Rs 75 lakh a year, but they balked at Rs eight crore,” laughs Shukre.

Even the 10-day astronomy festival ‘Kalpaneya Yatra 2010’, was no easy affair.

Shukre said the event was planned on a mega-scale and the original idea was to have a display and exhibition, double its present size.

“But funds were hard to come by and we had to cut down our estimates, design and concept by half,” he said.

The exhibition is being conducted at a cost of Rs 50 lakh. Though the International Year of Astronomy was celebrated in 2009, the inability to collect funds in time forced the planetarium to put it off to this year.

Shukre regretted the inability to manage a mobile van so they could reach out to people in other districts.

The event is being funded by the Department of Science and Technology, the Indian Space Research Organisation, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the National Centre of Science and Technology Communication and Vigyan Prasar.

But all is not lost yet. A planetarium that is being constructed at Pilikula in Mangalore is bigger than the Bangalore Planetarium. Once constructed, it is expected to draw 10 lakh visitors a year.

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