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Aug 01, 2017 at 13:46

My daughter Kyra has recently taken an interest in scientific toys and experiments. Ever since she got her own starter telescope she has been eager to explore the skies. So, for an introduction to the heavenly objects we took her to the Nehru Planetarium in New Delhi. This was the perfect Sunday outing as a run-up to Children’s Day as she got to learn not just about our solar system but also about Jawaharlal Nehru. The following account of her experiences and learning is in Kyra’s own words

“I got such a big surprise on Sunday when papa told me we were going to a place from where we can see space! I have been trying to see the stars with my own telescope but did not know what to do. So papa told me I could get some idea of what is in the skies at the P.L.A.N.E.T.A.R.I.U.M.

On our way to the planetarium papa told me about how our country India is becoming famous in the world for going into space. He told me about how the spacecraft I see in movies are very costly to make in real life and that India has become very good at sending spacecraft for not much money, so different countries like France, Germany, Italy and Japan have asked India to help them send space missions. Wow!

When we got to the planetarium, papa told me that it was named after Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. He was very fond of children and wanted them to learn a lot, which is why he was called Chacha Nehru by children.

Like the planetarium in Delhi, there are four others in India named after Chacha Nehru. But the planetarium in Delhi is built in Teen Murti Bhavan, which used to be Chacha Nehru’s house when he was Prime Minister.

Inside the planetarium, I was excited to see such a large bowl – a dome roof – on top of a large hall. And after we sat, when all the lights were switched off, and the dome started showing twinkling stars, it was just amazing and scary! When you look at the sky and all the stars and dark space you feel like you are floating up.

There was a voice commentary that showed us all the planets in the solar system one by one. It was very funny to know that in old times people thought that there were aliens on Mars making canals and roads!

Through the planetarium telescope we saw what the planets actually look like when you get close to them. Papa says, with my telescope, I will only be able to see the craters on the Moon because to see other planets we need a more powerful telescope.
There were some parts of the commentary I did not understand very much about the space missions but papa explained it all to me later. Even when the commentary got a little boring I was not bored because looking up at the sky, the planets and rockets was a lot of fun. Papa told me how when they launched a spacecraft to Jupiter, they sent it bouncing against other planets like a carom board shot! After the planetarium visit, I also learnt the difference between planets, asteroids and comets.

There is a gallery outside the planetarium where you can see the spacesuit worn by Rakesh Sharma, who is India’s first astronaut to go into space. You can also see the space capsule, Soyuz T-10, in which he travelled – it looks all burnt and papa told me that this happened because when a capsule re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere at very high speed, it gets heated up and catches fire!

I also saw the big projector, Antariksh, which they used to use for the planetarium. After our trip to the planetarium, papa showed me different constellations, which are patterns by stars, and planets in the sky at home. I saw Mars which looks like a red star and behind it I saw the constellation of Great Orion. I can’t wait to use my telescope to see the Moon and its craters too!”

Kyra Kanojia

Student Reporter