An astronomical waste – literally
Pakistan’s government institutions and universities own valuable astronomical resources which are being wasted. There are telescopes – that could be put to good use by amateur astronomy societies like the KaAS (Karachi Astronomer’s Society) – which are currently doing nothing.
One of these, a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, is stationed at Pakistan’s answer to NASA: Suparco (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission).
According to market evaluation by Zain Ahmed, the vice-president of the KaAS, the current price of the 14th Schmidt-Cassegrain at Suparco as a complete package would be between $4,500-5,000. The telescope has not been used for 10 years. Officials at Suparco say that there are some “technical issues” and explained that this was the reason for its not being used. When pressed regarding the matter, the official admitted that there was something wrong with the tracking motors of the telescope.
However, this is not the only resource being wasted. The University of Karachi has very powerful binoculars which are supposed to be used for visual astronomy. The university has cooperated with the KaAS before.
The KaAS people however said that while these were the largest binoculars in Pakistan, they were stowed away in boxes collecting dust. Recently, the binocular has been used on a few occasions, but its potential is seriously compromised in the city due to smog and pollution.
“Ideally, it should be lent to an active astronomy group which regularly conducts all-night observation sessions in remote locations away from the city,” a KaAS office-bearer said. These events attract enthusiasts from all across Pakistan and the dark, pristine skies will ensure that the astronomical gear performs as best as they can.
Suparco should conduct viewing sessions with its telescope for schoolchildren, students and the general public every two or three months. It and the KaAS could organise joint outreach sessions for the community as well.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.