Dip in annual footfall at city planetarium

The state-run  Pathani Samanta Planetarium here has failed to catch the fancy of visitors, if the Odisha economic survey 2011-12 is any indication.

The annual footfall of visitors at the planetarium has been steadily declining since 2006, even as the state government recently announced to establish a second planetarium at an initial cost of Rs 5 crore at Sambalpur.

While 1,33,289 people, including 60,000 students, visited the planetarium in 2006-07, generating a revenue of Rs 1,219,350, the footfall went down drastically with only 47,934 visitors in 2010-11, but the revenue shot up to Rs 5,81,657, official sources said.

The tickets at the planetarium are priced at Rs 10 per child and Rs 15 for adults. Students often enjoy concessions of up to 50% if they visit in groups. “Price difference is the reason for uneven revenue collection,” a planetarium officer said.

Established in 1990, the planetarium aims at creating awareness on astronomy, astrophysics and space science among people, especially students.

Deputy director of the planetarium Subhendu Pattnaik attributed the low turnout to “obsolete” technology at the institute. “The old equipment, including manual planetarium projector has been affecting the turnout,” he said.

Pattnaik, however, expressed confidence that the situation will change by March-end. The planetarium is undergoing massive renovation at a cost of around Rs 7 crore to woo back visitors. It was closed in August for renovation.

“We have procured latest digitized mechanical projector at a cost of nearly Rs 5.5 crore from the US to replace the old one. The gadget is a first of its kind in eastern India. This will definitely improve the quality of the shows as opposed to the previous manual projector,” Pattnaik said. “Earlier we used to show only a handful of static pictures on screen. Soon we can screen any number of films with 3-dimensional effects. We can also screen live cosmological events with the help of the Internet. This facility was not available earlier,” he added.

The seating capacity of the planetarium is also slated to increase to 180 from the existing 140. A host of other amenities, including new ACs will be installed in the planetarium as well.

Students are eagerly waiting for completion of the renovation.

“I was a regular visitor to the planetarium to watch different activities to hone my skills in science. I hope, it resumes its service soon,” said  Prateek Nanda, a Class VI student of a city-based public school.

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