Islamabad: Pakistan’s science minister on Monday launched the Islamabad Space Observatory project to attract the younger generation to science and technology education. The purpose is to offer the public an understanding of space science and to inspire the next generation of scientists.
“This is a historic occasion” Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said, announcing plans of establishing state-of-the-art observatories in each province. Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) chairman Dr Shahid Baig, Ruet-e-Hilal committee chairman Maulana Abdul Khabir, and other scientists and experts also attended the launch ceremony.
The observatory would help resolve the moon sighting issue in the country while educating students and sparking an interest in science and pave the way for space science education in the country, Minister Fawad said.
Pakistan’s space programme was among of most advanced in Asia in the 1960s but has fallen behind since, he regretted. The minister underlined the need to transform the role and enhance the capacity of Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) which he said had much room for improvement at a time when the global community is in the process of launching space tourism flights. SUPARCO has planned to send its first space mission to the moon in collaboration with China which is a move towards regaining past glory, he added.
Discussing the scientific advances and contributions to the field by Muslims over thousands of years, he said there was a need to revive the legacy created by Muslim scientists around the world.
The Islamabad observatory will be established under a joint initiative of the Ministry of Science and Technology and PSF for which the Institute of Space Technology (IST) will provide technical expertise. The observatory would include a full-dome projection system, guided tours that teach about the solar system, educational science films offering visitors a unique view of the universe, Dr Tariq Masood, who is leading the project, earlier told Gulf News. The attraction will be open for all where people can enjoy both day and night sky views.
The facility site in Shakarparian is far from ideal as the best sites for observatories are located away from the cities and at a high altitude, however, its location in the heart of Islamabad city will offer easy access to visitors to view the sky through the telescope, experts say.
Observatories play a key role in offering the public an understanding of space and astronomy and to inspire the next generation of scientists with enriching and engaging experiences. Islamabad-based amateur astronomers have urged the government to dedicate a research center at the facility to offer education and hands-on training besides the sky gazing opportunity.