The planetarium ready for a tech upgrade

Astronomy enthusiasts have reason to rejoice because in due time they will be able to gaze at the stars at the Anna Science Center-Planetarium using digital technology.

“The Tiruchi Planetarium operated with an opto-mechanical projector for the Sky Theater donated by the Government of Japan, when it opened to the public on June 10, 1999. The projector, placed in a domed hall, helps visitors understand how the solar system works and how to view the night sky.Although this machine has served us well in the past, its technology is gradually dying out and we are not able to source the spare parts for the The incandescent lamps it needs generate a lot of heat, so we are planning to replace it with a digital projector,” said R. Ahilan, Project Manager, Anna Science Center – Planetarium. Hindu.

The Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Center in Chennai (TNSCTC), which operates the Tiruchi Planetarium, has also established similar centers in Coimbatore and Vellore.

According to the center’s official website, projector accessories worth 50 million yen (₹1.5 crore at the time) were also part of the gift from Japan.

“Although we have a personal attachment to this machine, it is getting old and needs to be retired,” said a senior Chennai-based TNSCTC official, who added that the projector would be on public display after it was replaced.

In the digital system, two projectors, each with a 4K definition (3,840 X 2,160 pixels) will be installed. “The new projectors will show not only the same star patterns as the existing machine, but also the coordinates of the sky. This can be done in the existing machine, but requires manual inputs. The digital system is much more streamlined and can be used through any electronic device,” he said.

The most expensive aspect of the new conversion would be the proprietary software, which is currently only available with a handful of companies.

The technology upgrade is expected to bolster the presence of the education center on Airport Road which had been closed for nearly two years during the pandemic-induced lockdown and then flooded during heavy winter rains.

Despite this, the center inaugurated an Innovation Hub center to encourage science education in October 2021, as well as an electronic scale with a display board that allows people to check their body weight on different planets.

“We receive a good amount of visitors every day, mainly from schools. We hope to improve attendance once the campus renovation is complete by next year,” said Ahilan.

Arline J. Mercier