The place is owned by Umair Asim, who also runs a private school but identifies himself as an amateur astronomer
Aamna Saleem says she has had a penchant for astronomy since childhood. However, there were never any avenues available to her to explore stars and planets. A few years ago, she discovered Zeds Observatory. She says she learned about the Lahore Astronomical Society (LAST) through a radio show where some people associated with the society had been invited as guests.
At the regular meetings of the society, Saleem was introduced to the Zeds Observatory. Since then, she has been a regular visitor to outreach programmes held at the observatory, located in the Defence Housing Authority.
The place is owned by Umair Asim, who also runs a private school but identifies himself as an amateur astronomer.
Asim says it was named after his mother, Zahida. “She has always been supportive of my passion for astronomy.”
He says he had bought his first big telescope, a Celestron C14 SCT, in 2003. “In 2004, I set up the observatory on the roof of my house… the family still lived there,” he says. For 10 years, the observatory remained private and accessible only to his close friends and family. The place was opened to public in 2014.
In a year’s time, Asim says he has registered over 2,000 members. He says 40 of them are regular visitors.
Since 2014, the observatory has been hosting monthly meetings of the LAST and guest lectures.
Other activities at the observatory are outreach programmes and viewing sessions. “We also gather astronomical data and track the position of some stars and asteroids,” says Asim.
There are no charges for attending events hosted at the observatory, including the night-sky viewing sessions.
Asim also uses the premises to display the telescopes he sells. From October 4 to 10 every year, the observatory celebrates the World Space Week with daily events. These include viewing and imaging sessions and lectures.
Another activity is a monthly meeting where a speaker is invited to deliver a talk on topics related to astronomy. The talk is held on the first Friday of a month. This month Kasier Tufail, a retired air force officer, spoke to about 25 enthusiasts about optical telescopes. He discussed the history of telescopes and explained the technical terms associated with them and various categories of telescopes. Tufail says he has been a regular visitor to the observatory since his retirement from the air force. “My job had earlier prevented me from pursuing my passion for astronomy,” he says.
Tufail lauds the observatory for its equipment and accessibility. “The observatory is equipped with advanced telescopes. The owner has dedicated the entire house for use as an observatory. Visitors can freely roam around the place without any hindrance,” he says.
Roshaan Bukhari, a fourth year medical student, has been a regular visitor since before the observatory was opened for general public. He says the high-grade equipment at the observatory serves not just recreational purposes but is also used to generate a vast amount of astronomical data.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2015.