Welcome to the Vainu Bappu Observatory, which has the largest telescope in all of Asia!
Located in the tranquil hills of Kavalur, Tamil Nadu, this observatory is owned and operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.
But did you know that the history of this observatory dates back to 1786 when William Petrie set up his own private observatory at his garden house in Madras? Later on, it moved to Kodaikanal and became the Kodaikanal Observatory. However, due to limited observation nights, the observatory was moved to Kavalur after India gained independence. And who was responsible for finding this gem of a spot? None other than M.K. Vainu Bappu, the director of the Kodaikanal Observatory in 1960.
But let’s get to the important stuff – the observatory itself! The staff is friendly and the facilities are well-maintained. And the sight of the largest telescope in Asia in operation? It’s out of this world! Bring your little ones to kindle their interest in astronomy – they won’t be disappointed.
However, be warned that the accessibility rating is only 3/5 as local buses can be a bit erratic. If you’re coming from Chennai, take a train to Vaniyambadi and then catch a local bus that goes directly to Jamunamarthur. You can get off just outside the observatory. Alternatively, take a bus to Aalangayam, a mini hub from where you can catch buses coming in from various nearby towns.
Tickets cost only INR 50/- and even come with a modest tea or coffee in the canteen. But if you’re planning on bringing the whole family, it’s best to pack some food as there are no nearby hotels. You can either head to nearby Chathram or to Jamunamarthur (10km from the observatory) for some grub.
But the effort to get to this observatory is definitely worth it. Even if you’re only allowed to view through the 16cm telescope (the 1-meter telescope is reserved for research purposes), it’s still an unforgettable experience. And who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of a shooting star or two. So pack up the car, grab the kids, and head on over to the Vainu Bappu Observatory – at least once in your lifetime!