100 hours to celebrate astronomy year in Jantar Mantar


New Delhi : Jantar Mantar, the 18th century observatory in the heart of the capital, was crowded with young students Saturday as they got together to learn the use of astronomical instruments and celebrate 2009 as the international year of astronomy.

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Aiming to create interest in astronomy as a fundamental science in daily life, the Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) has been conducting ‘100 Hours of Astronomy’ at the Jantar Mantar since Thursday.

The celebration, which will culminate Sunday, saw school students being taught how to use astronomical instruments like sun dials and telescopes.

Shourya Aggarwal, a Class 7 student, said: “I am a part of the SPACE club at my school where we learn how to use a sun dial, a telescope and a lot more. The classes are very interactive and enjoyable. I wait every week for my astronomy class.

“I am enjoying the celebrations here since we have got a chance to learn how to use instruments that are more than 300 years old,” he added.

In fact many astronomical instruments are still popular by their Indian names – samrat yantra (to measure time using sun’s shadow), jai prakash yantra (to trace the earth’s equator), mishra yantra, and ram yantra.

And the students learnt to use these.

“I am a part of the astronomy club in my school and I find it very interesting. We are a group of 46 students and we do activities like ‘solar hunt’ in the club. Today, we have learnt to calculate time by following the position of the sun’s shadows using the samrat yantra,” Shrishti, a Class 9 student, said.

According to C.B. Devgan, president of SPACE, there is no better way to celebrate the astronomy year than by initiating activities that aim to kindle interest towards the subject in youngsters.

“The international year of astronomy is celebrated with the joint efforts of the UN and Indian astronomy unit. Many international projects are happening around the world and this five-day long event is a part of these projects.

“Here, we have set up SPACE clubs in different schools around Delhi to develop student interest in astronomy,” Devgan told IANS.

Nearly 500 students have been coming for the celebrations at Jantar Mantar every day, he added.

The Jantar Mantar observatory was built in the 18th century by the king of Jaipur, Jai Singh II, who was an astronomy enthusiast.