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      Volume 11 |Issue 28| July 13, 2012 |


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Star Gazing Under a Dome

Sarara Hasan

The sophisticated exterior of the Novo Theatre is certainly an eye-catching spectacle. Photo: Amirul Rajiv

As your eyes wander over the millions of stars in the deep and dark sky above your head, aligning them into different shapes, you can suddenly discover the beautiful specks of dust and rock gliding around a golden yellow planet known as Saturn or encounter the scarlet red atmosphere of Mars. No, this isn't a trip for a mission to space from NASA. This is what you will experience at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Novo Theatre, the first and only planetarium in Bangladesh. Located right at the centre of Dhaka, along the Bijoy Sharani road in Tejgaon, the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Novo Theatre is really something to look at. The first thing that catches your eye when you pass by the Theatre is its big blue tilted dome situated right at the centre of the building. With its modern and sophisticated architecture, many onlookers passing by have been seen to take second glances at the beautiful structure.

Once you enter through the gates of the Theatre, you will see an array of green grass and fountains complimenting the exterior architectural grounds of the planetarium. Inside-the planetarium, the first thing-you will notice is the spacious interior, perhaps a bit too spacious. At one corner of the building, you will find models of planets such as Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn, Mars, Earth etc. hanging above your head. You will also find a few instruments illustrating and explaining how the Earth orbits around the Sun or how planets are aligned in the universe.

The big blue tilted dome, seen from the outside, is actually a large format motion picture screen on the inside where you can see a 60 minute clip, lying on a comfy sofa seat, about the planets in our galaxy and the various different forms of stars. The documentary starts out by introducing the different shapes and alignments of stars in the sky as explained by the Greeks and Romans centuries ago and then goes on to describe the different characteristics of the planets in our galaxy, such as the texture of the ground of Mars, the size of Jupiter, the temperature of the sun etc. It makes you feel like you're looking through a huge telescope. In a place like Dhaka city where there isn't even enough space to walk without bumping into one another, it is almost impossible to find a place to lie down and gaze at stars peacefully at night. Therefore, the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Novo Theatre is a perfect place for experiencing that.

Photo: Amirul Rajiv

The Novo Theatre also offers a 30 seated rocket simulation ride where you can have the feel of what it is like being an astronaut launching off to space. The first thing you feel on the ride is the rumbling of the launch of the rocket ship and an adrenaline rush when it finally launches into the sky. You have an empty sensation in your stomach when you feel that the rocket is way above the ground. The movement of the whole rocket and the vibration on the seats seem almost real.

The planetarium opened on September 25, 2004 and was established by the Ministry of Science And Technology. The high-tech state of the art equipments, instruments and technology were imported from countries like Japan, Korea, India and the United States of America. The main aim of the Ministry was to create public interest in astronomy through entertainment, especially among the younger age groups, according to the staff members of the planetarium.

Beside the few artworks and models of planets on one small corner of the inside of the building, the rest of the spacious areas have nothing to offer the visitors, unfortunately. There are hardly any decorations, and no sculptures or exhibitions of anything related to astronomy. The Novo Theatre hasn't changed since its opening in 2004. The same models and artwork still remain and no additional features have been added to the building since 2004. The number of customers coming in per day into the theatre is very few, according to the ticket sellers there. It's a shame to see that people come into the building not to enjoy the shows or the artwork that the planetarium has to offer but to use it as a place for dating as if it were a park. There are, however, a few times when students are brought here from different schools on their field trips but such visits are very few. Maintenance is another big drawback of the theatre. Despite the neat facade, the inside is quite ill-maintained. The paint can be seen coming off the walls; the floors are very dirty and also the few exhibitions in the building are very dusty and look as if they are coming apart. Another anomaly of the building is that despite such an abundance of space, there is virtually no place to sit and many visitors simply sit on the floor or on the staircases.

It is rare to have something as extraordinary as this modern infrastructure in the centre of Dhaka city. It aims to engage the public in astronomy but unfortunately, it lacks in a lot of things which inhibit people to take an active interest in the planetarium. There is, however, a great potential for this theatre to be developed into a delightful, informative and an enjoyable place to visit for both tourists and the city dwellers.


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