Jaipur: Rajasthan has become the first state in India to announce the introduction of night sky astro tourism in all 33 districts of the state.
In fact, four tourist spots in Jaipur will become the venues of this new tourism product which will help people, including children, gaze at the stars during clear skies.
Jantar-Mantar, Jaipur, Amber Fort, University of Maharaja, Jaipur and JKK will become the venues to watch astronomical events this year.
Bikaner House situated in New Delhi will also become the hub of Night Sky Astro Tourism where a telescope will be installed for tourists for sky-watching, said Mugdha Sinha, Rajasthan's Department of Science and Technology Secretary.
She shared how the novel idea was conceptualised during the lockdown period.
"The fear of Covid has packed the people inside their houses. There was a strict lockdown, students were busy studying online and there was silence on the roads. However, there were hectic astronomical events happening in the sky that were reported in different media.
"Inquisitive, I thought of watching them and hence got a telescope. The sky was beautiful. There was a lot of news about the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and I watched it; in fact, I also called a few neighbours and they too were excited to watch the most distinctive event in the universe and hence came the idea to launch astro tourism in the state."
"Then we planned to organise the stargazing session at the secretariat and the officials there were also excited to watch the stars. Then we decided to launch it for the public and it kicked-off on January 21, 2021. There was a huge queue, especially of children, who had come from distant places to watch it."
Soon, recommendations started coming in from officials from distant districts for sky gazing and hence we thought we should expand it.
The idea was accepted and chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced the launch of Night Sky Astro Tourism in all 33 districts on March 3. This comes as a great motivation for our team, she says.
"Now, we shall get telescopes for all districts and for Bikaner House too," Mugdha said adding, "The most distinguished feature of this novel product is that it will be managed by calendars of the sky. The sky will guide us to fix the dates. We shall study the pattern when there is clear sky and then shall schedule its date in 33 districts," said Mugdha.
Will the public have to pay? No, we want science to be free for all. I wish, watching these stars and space, some girl student gets inspired and takes space as her subject and becomes like Kalpana Chawla. We want at least one student from Rajasthan to go to space, to set an example like Rakesh Sharma, she adds.
Also, when children are learning coding, they can also learn astrophotography, they can become artists and poets watching the stars. The idea is to give scientific exposure to students, she adds.
Any idea of revenue collection from it? "We shall organise workshops like astrophotography and others and those interested shall be charged a minimal fee," she adds.
Mugdha said, "Soon after we started, the Nainital district administration, along with the support of the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) in the lake town, announced to develop Takula as an astro-village where visitors can indulge in star-gazing."
Then recently Ladakh also announced astro tourism. So we are the first to lead the show for promoting astro-science, she adds with pride.