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If there’s one place in the world that can help you explore the magic and mystery of the universe, it’s a planetarium. It’s almost unreal how these simple buildings can hold inside them whole galaxies and dreamy constellations. So, next time you have a hankering to take your stargazing game a notch higher, visit these iconic Indian planetariums. By Sushmita Srivastav
M P Birla Planetarium, Kolkata
Reminiscent of the celebrated Shanti Stupa in Sanchi when it comes to its impressive architecture, the M P Birla Planetarium is a landmark in the city of Kolkata. Inaugurated in 1963 by the then prime minister, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, it was recently renovated in 2017 with one of the most advanced Carl Zeiss Hybrid Projection System. Earlier, its Universal Planetarium Projector from Carl Zeiss, Germany, was operational for approx 1,00,000 hrs over 52 years from its inception and had catered to 25 million visitors.
Nehru Planetarium, Delhi
Strategically placed inside the well-known Teen Murti House, which used to be the official residence of India’s first prime minister, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the Nehru Planetarium, Delhi was built in 1964 with a vision of promoting astronomy interests in students. An extended wing of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, it hosts four solar system shows in a day and is home to Sky Theatre, a space museum and diorama, and even the Soyuz T-10 that was used by Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian cosmonaut who travelled to space!
Indira Gandhi Planetarium, Lucknow
The next time you are in the City of Nawabs, drop by the Indira Gandhi Planetarium, Lucknow for a good dose of 3D space shows and a lesson or two in astronomy. Tucked by the River Gomti that zigzags through downtown Lucknow, the building is shaped like a giant dome that looks like Saturn and has on display a variety of dioramas, including one featuring NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission, with a replica of the Sojourner Rover that moves on a fake Martian surface.
Birla Planetarium, Chennai
Located in the Tamil Nadu Science & Technology Center in Kotturpuram, the Birla Planetarium, Chennai has been around for over 30 years now. A part of the Periyar Science and Technology Center, it hosts regular exhibits, 3D shows, and 35 special programmes in English and Tamil that talk of the solar system, life cycle of stars, comets, and more, with themes changing every three months. Once done with the outer-space experience, take a walk to explore interesting exhibitions, walk-through galleries, and even beautiful parks around.
Nehru Planetarium, Mumbai
With the clear objective of fostering scientific curiosity through the means of edutainment, the Nehru Planetarium, Mumbai was established in 1977 bang in the middle of Annie Besant Road in Worli. Over the years, it has grown into a centre for a scientific study of astronomy and for meetings of scientists and scholars over discussions and lectures. Many science quizzes, Astro-painting contests, science elocution, and Astro-poetry sessions are also held here from time to time for students.