Capital to have its very own observatory in Shakaparian

Published January 25, 2021
The observatory will be set up in Shakarparian where a site has been approved by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Board. — Reuters/File
The observatory will be set up in Shakarparian where a site has been approved by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Board. — Reuters/File
  • CDA approves site for facility
  • Space museum to be set up as well
  • Observatory to help resolve longstanding moonsighting issue

ISLAMABAD: The federal capital will have an observatory and a space museum which will not only resolve the moonsighting issue but also provide astronomers the opportunity to study the cosmos and celestial bodies.

The observatory will be set up in Shakarparian where a site has been approved by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Board on the request of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST).

It will be established on the location of a fountain near Pakistan Monument.

“This will be the first observatory focusing western views of moonsighting,” said Dr Fazeel Mahmood Khan, associate professor of space science at the Institute of Space Technology.

Dr Khan, who is providing technical expertise to MoST for the project, said the observatory would be helpful for sighting the moon, facilitating researchers and creating awareness among students of science and space technology.

Sources said the CDA Board had recently approved a summary to allow the Ministry of Science and Technology to set up the observatory.

The summary stated: “The Ministry of Science and Technology has started a pioneer initiative to establish an observatory in Shakarparian Hill Park which will enable students, researchers and general public to observe moon and other celestial bodies.

This observatory will also settle the long-standing issue of moon sighting in Ramazan.”

According to the layout plan, 50x47 (261.11 square yards) is proposed for establishment of the space/planetarium/observatory.

The summary said the ground floor would be used for the museum and a display screen connected to a telescope would be made available to facilitate the public.

It said MoST and the Institute of Space Technology would be responsible for execution of the project and running of the observatory.The CDA Board approved the summary and decided that the finance wing would determine the cost of the land, and approval would be sought from the federal government before handing the site to the MoST.

“The federal government has already been supporting the project so its approval will be a formality. The main issue was the approval from the CDA Board which has been accorded,” an official of the civic authority said.

He said the civic body would have no role in the project other than allocating land for it, adding that the project would be executed by the ministry.

Islamabad already has a telescope, capable of observing the solar system, Milky Way and neighbouring galaxies. It has been set up on the rooftop of the Institute of Space Technology about 17km from Zero Point on Islamabad Expressway.

However, one is unable to see the moon through it as it is designed for research purpose only. However, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Pluto, Neptune and Uranus are visible through this telescope.

Met Office also has a meteorological observatory but it only function is to analyse the weather pattern.

“Met and space observatories have two very different functions,” said an officer of the Met Office.

Sources in the MoST said the provinces had also be requested to explore options to establish observatories and the ministry would provide them technical support.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2021

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