Mehbooba bats for planetarium at Srinagar


SRINAGAR – Calling upon the country’s top scientists to play their role in popularizing the subject of astronomy, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, on Thursday said she will wholeheartedly support any endeavour which aims to inspire state’s young generation towards a relatively alien field.
She also evinced keen interest in how astronomy and astrophysics can foster development of tourism and agriculture sectors, which for long have been the backbone of state’s economy.
The Chief Minister was interacting with a group of leading scientists from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, at the Civil Secretariat this afternoon.
Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, Advisor to the Chief Minister, Prof. Amitabh Mattoo, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Navin. K. Chaudhary and Vice Chancellor, University of Kashmir, Prof. Khurshid Iqbal Andrabi, were also present on the occasion.
Inviting suggestions from leading scientists for inculcating a culture of exploration and research among our youth, the Chief Minister highlighted the advantages of benchmark technologies like remote sensing in addressing the concerns of the state, particularly in preventing disasters and reaching out to people in far-flung and inaccessible areas, which remain cut off for long periods during hostile weather conditions.
While interacting with the scientists, the Chief Minister also floated the idea for setting up of a planetarium at Srinagar, primarily for presenting educational and entertainment shows to the students about the movement of celestial objects. “It will also be a real attraction for tourists at night if we are able to create such a facility here,” she added.            
The summer capital was recently in the news as it offered the best site for watching ‘Transit of Mercury’, a rare celestial event when Sun, Mercury and the Earth were in near unison.    
The Education Minister, in his remarks, informed the meeting of his recent interaction with ISRO Chairman at Srinagar. He said he will meet him again to discuss wide-ranging issues related to how the state can benefit from ISRO’s outreach programmes in the field of advanced scientific research.
On forging greater collaboration between IIA, IUAA and the University of Kashmir in the field of science, Dr. Sumak Ray Chaudhary said a concrete plan for establishing an ‘Advanced Centre for Research in Observational Astrophysics’, affiliated to the Department of Physics, KU, will be submitted shortly. “To begin with, the research centre can start educating and training young students which will be then taken forward by having interface with colleges across the state,” he added.
Dr. G. C. Anupama of IIA Bangalore, in a detailed presentation, explained to the Chief Minister how J&K can take advantage of the excellent locations to build in world-class astronomical facilities. She also presented a brief report about the current status of Himalayan Chandra Telescope, a cutting-edge observatory operated by IIA at Hanle, Leh, which has emerged as one of the top five locations in the field of astronomy. “Given the top-notch facilities available at Leh, we intend to have two more observatories at Merak and Hanle,” she said.  
Also present in the meeting were senior scientists, Dr. P. Sreekumar, Dr. Dipankar Banerjee and Dr. Ajit Kembhari, besides HoD Physics, KU, Dr. M. Malik.  


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