Mumbai, May 18 (UNI) Contrary to conventional wisdom, internet and media have played a part in popularising astronomy among the country's youth, observes maker of India's largest amateur telescope, Nilesh Vayada.
''One might expect young people to be glued to the television and computers, but internet and media has actually sparked an interesting astronomy,'' country's leading amateur astronomer Mr Vayada told UNI.
Mr Vayada himself caught the astronomy bug while he was in school in the early 80s' and spent all his free time hunting Mumbai's Princess market and Chor Bazaar for parts to build his first telescope.
Leaving a lucrative job as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in 1991, he started the country's first telescope manufacturing company-Galileo Telescope Makers.
Galileo's telescopes were made by core team of 10 highly skilled personnel who took 15-days to three months time to manufacture the instruments. Price for five-inch telescopes starts from Rs 5000 that can show the moon's craters, Saturn's rings and Jupiter and four of its satellites to ones that cost upto Rs 10 lakh that can be used by professional observatories.
''Right now, we supply 100-300 pieces to a wide range of customers from small astronomy clubs, to corporate houses, schools and the defence departments. Orders literally come from all over the country,'' Mr Vayada said.
To unite the country's amateur astronomers and promote the activity, Vayada and 11 other enthusiasts founded the Confederation of Indian Amateur Astronomers (CIAA) which conducts a number of seminars, workshops and projects around the country.
''We're also making preparations for 2009 which will be 'International year of Astronomy' with Astro Fairs, plays, school visits and among underprivileged kids,'' he added.
According to him, it is actually easy to start an astronomy club.
Most existing clubs are started by a group of friends who contribute money to buy a telescope and share notes. Even individuals can get initiated into the hobby of astronomy by buying an affordable telescope. And its easier to cultivate the hobby in smaller towns than cities.
''The light pollution in the metros can make stargazing difficult,'' Mr Vayada explained.
The beauty of astronomy is seeing the heavenly bodies for real, states Vadaya. Captain Kirk and Luke Skywalker would be pleased.
UNI ZC GR AE KP1414