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KARACHI, Aug 26: With the World Space Week (Oct 4 to 10) approaching, astronomy enthusiasts in the city are gearing up for activities that will be both informative and fun.

A number of such persons are working hard to build the common man’s interest in astronomy. They, along with the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), plan events for the common folk to create space awareness among them.

Karachiites are fortunate in a sense that the night skies here are clearer than in most of the country, and that too, just a few kilometres east of the city.

An astronomy buff, Naveed Merchant, says we have one of the best night skies in the world.

“It’s human nature to be drawn towards beauty, and for that we plan vacations to places where we can connect with the glories of nature,” says Zain Ahmed, a member of the Karachi Astronomers Society. “Astronomy is a very effective way to accomplish that goal.”

Unfortunately, few among us spare a glance to observe the inhabitants of space, which nature has so splendidly canvassed across the universe.

If we do take an interest in astronomy, it would teach us to appreciate the blessings of our planet. “Earth is the only celestial body we know of right now which harbours a perfect blend of beautiful, sophisticated, varied, and yet complex forms of life,” adds Mr Ahmed. “When one sees the many massive forces at work in the universe, which can be frightening as well, it becomes a powerful incentive towards saving our ecosystem.”

“A pair of eyes and an inquisitive, open mind,” says space enthusiast Khalid Marwat when asked what it takes to be an astronomy lover. But if one develops a serious interest in the subject, one could begin with a simple home binoculars, going on to a small telescope, and then a medium one, and ultimately to a large amateur one. “Equipment should be purchased only when the interest has developed to that specific level,” cautions Mr Marwat.

Perhaps a good start to gauge one’s interest in the subject would be to work in groups, read up on one aspect of astronomy, and star gaze. The subject is more than just sighting the moon of Ramazan and Eid. All it needs is commitment and time, and the world — even the worlds beyond — is your oyster. And for those looking for something more exciting, the various astronomy societies in the city can become the platform for holding events, and developing awareness of the subject.

Mr Marwat says a lot more can be achieved in this regard, but it requires government and public sponsorship and encouragement. “In Karachi alone, we have the potential to make three to four major societies and we can then league them up through one national or two regional grids,” he says. “The relevant government departments should encourage astronomy activities at their sites and on campuses. They should gel their academic or research activities with the local astronomy society. We have the potential to highlight our glorious astronomical past. That's what other countries do.”