Bengal school observatory to function again after 120 years

Kolkata, March 10: Restored and revamped, the astronomical observatory – one of the oldest in Asia and the largest among educational institutions in India – at the St. Xavier’s College here may be soon opened to the public on weekends, the college principal said Monday.

The establishment houses two observatories – the astronomy observatory for night time observations and an entirely new solar observatory for daytime experimentations.

The revamped one, with ‘Advanced Technology Hemispherical Rotating Motorised Dome’ for studying night-time celestial observations was inaugurated Monday.

“We have dismantled the older structure and preserved it for its heritage value. The new observatory with latest features will be put to use very soon. We could also take a step to open it to the public on Saturdays and Sundays…if need be,” principal, Father Felix Raj, said here.

Set up in 1865 by Father Eugene Lafont, the observatory has been inoperative for around 120 years. It was this very observatory that predicted the 1867 cyclone.

Now christened Fr. Lafont Observatory, it replaces the archaic, manually-operated structure.

The Astronomy Observatory Dome is the largest in the country with a diameter of 24 feet and height of 15 feet.

Installed by Bangalore-based engineering company, Astro Creations and Impex Pvt. Ltd, both the observatories were built at a cost of around Rs. 1 crore.

“The structure also has an anti-vibration device to cut off external vibration sources,” said company managing director Shailen Aggrahari.

It is aimed at observational sciences and computational astrophysics research, outreach programs for school students, exchange programs and workshops and astronomy projects for BSc. students.

IANS