After reaching Jamunamarathur – the capital villages of Javadu Hills, and having lunch, that we brought along with us from home, we are told by the guest house care taker that they will allow into the observatory only by 5 pm, to watch through the telescope. So he suggested leaving by 4 pm as it is 10 km from there and since having two more hours to go, we decided to explore the small lake and garden at half a km from the guest house. The lake and garden were not so attractive, and the lake is nothing but a conversion of already existing village lake that used for irrigation to the fields around. The real pretty sights are beheld around the lake, where fresh green paddy fields gleaming at us to expose to sunlight amid mild step farming.
The main course of this trip was to check the observatory and it was first time for me visiting an observatory, other than the only place I visited regard to space was Chennai Birla Planetarium. Vainu Bappu Observatory located at Kavalur village on the Javadu Hills holds the largest telescope of Asia, which was named after the great Indian astronomer and discoverer of Wilson-Bappu effect, Manali Kallat Vainu Bappu. VBO is an astronomical observatory behind many unique discoveries on space and reading remarkable cosmic rays, through the 1 and 2.3 meters telescope, the observatory has detected atmosphere around the Jupiter’s satellite Ganymded and rings around Uranus and Saturn. In 1988, a new minor planet was discovered using the 43cm Schmidt telescope and it was named after mathematics genius Ramanujam.
The observatory is isolated from any activities of being and almost surrounded by vast reserve forest, stands as a testimony to Indian astronomy. We reached the observatory early in time traveled thought the dense forest, but we were not allowing inside the campus and requested to wait sometime until the early batch comes out. I know that we need to walk nearly a km from the entrance to the main observatory; I kept my power wheel chair fully charged but enquiring a couple who came out we become uncertain about the distance. Even though we decided to progress, the guard noticed me allowed to take our car inside and we find more than 100 school students come out of the observatory.
First I was mislead by the white cylindrical building with dome that holds 43” telescope which resembles the 93” telescope, the largest among the observatories inside the VBO. Then we were redirected to the main building with more widely in breadth and spectacular height. The observatory being elevated from the others, cool breeze brushes once get out of the car and we were taken by the lift to the top floor where the largest telescope was assembled. The telescope was attached to a huge hydraulic machine that turns and moves up and down, manually and as well automatically sitting on two wide column. It was like a dream come true when the aluminum plated dome open to sky view, and rotate through a rack rail which could go around 360 degree.
I felt rotating along with the dome when looking above and goose bumped, stimulated by the entirely new setting and following the conversation with one of a scientist demonstrating the operation of telescope, took me to infinite stage. Many of us generally know the universe that exists within our solar system, but there could be immense such systems in our galaxy with earth like spheres where people could live and seek to connect alike. The observatory plays a vital role in studying the universe and does a front-line research with the telescopes here. It was something amazing that I couldn't even image that we were standing close to an object that beholds the mystery which is impossible through naked eyes. And I feel like touching an endless height.
The floor below the telescope has a round iron platform which I first through to rotate, but the scientist cleared our doubt later by operating the hydraulic platform that lifts to make easy the service of telescope. He explained that it is a kind of facility that any other observatory doesn't hold and they keep an eye clean on lens always. The observatory has a steal platform; going around the dome outside the building holds a 360 degree view on the landscape of total forest area. So it is out of noise and light disturbance, which is the main obstacle for reading light rays and except the entrance, overall campus doesn't have a light facility and was completely electric fenced to keep away wild animals.
I feel bad for not taking my camera inside the observatory thinking they might not allow, because of security. But some took photos with their mobiles and there were no restrictions, and I only got to capture the building and natural setting of the campus. I was really wishing to watch something through the largest telescope but these are used only at night and not for public to watch. They have a 6” telescope for public to view stars and planets after dusk and we really had to wait for an hour to watch through telescope. But for me that even wasn't a chance because the viewing point of the telescope was kept high and need to climb few steps.
[To be continued….]