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Birla Planetarium in Calcutta Reopens

Largest planetarium in India continues its educational work using ZEISS technology

Germany – WEBWIRE
Birla Planetarium in Calcutta reopened with ZEISS technology
Birla Planetarium in Calcutta reopened with ZEISS technology

Following an extensive restoration, the Birla Planetarium in Calcutta reopened on 18 July 2017. Originally built 55 years ago, the planetarium has a 23 m dome and is now equipped with ZEISS STARMASTER VELVET hybrid planetarium technology. The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, officially reopened India’s largest planetarium together with the Mayor of Calcutta, Sovan Chatterjee. The Chief Minister recalled the first time she first visited the Birla Planetarium as a child: “Since that day I was fascinated by space science and astronomy.” She is convinced that “students from every school must visit the place.”

The hybrid system comprises a ZEISS STARMASTER optical-mechanical planetarium projector in combination with a ZEISS VELVET 360° video projection system. The STARMASTER replaces the ZEISS projector from 1962. The 9,100 stars normally only visible to the naked eye under the best of conditions now come to life at different brightness levels. The quality of the artificial night sky was particularly important to the Birla Planetarium. The video system consists of nine ZEISS VELVET projectors. The nine partial images produce a seamless, dazzling display on the dome of the planetarium with 20 million pixels. The VELVET technology from ZEISS enables the smooth overlapping of stars with images of astronomical objects such as astronomical grids, nebulas and galaxies. The joint control system ensures that the optical-mechanical night sky and digital video projection are always in sync. “The renovation of the Birla Planetarium is a really special project for ZEISS and our local partner, the company Orbit Animate,” says Dr. Martin Wiechmann, Head of the Planetariums business unit at ZEISS. “A trust-based collaboration of many years has yielded a modern planetarium whose daily educational work will delight millions of young people and encourage them to focus on science.”

Modernizing the Birla Planetarium has made it possible to present content in completely new ways. Now visitors can take a virtual journey, leaving the earth and flying through the solar system and out beyond the Milky Way. Astronomy will be the focus of the planetarium in the future, but, thanks the new technology, programs on other scientific and cultural topics will also be on offer. With half a million visitors every years, most of them students, the Birla Planetarium is one of the world’s most frequently visited planetariums.

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