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Reaching out for the stars…

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Swati Tirunal and his Observatory
John Caldecott, hailing from far away Scotland met Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, sometime in 1836, through a mutual connection, the Travancore resident Gen Stuart Fraser. That meeting would serve to herald the science of the stars and space not only to the Gentry of Travancore comprising a mishmash of Europeans, the public, the Brahmins and the ruling family, but also many aspiring students. Travancore was chosen by astronomers with a specific purpose, for it was close to the equator. It was also to serve some purpose in the magnetic crusades of the time and in the creation of almanacs for the populace.
Centuries later, Travancore would serve to become India’s launching pad for all space efforts due to the location near the equator. The rocket launching station Thumba, the liquid fuel plant, thorium plants, they all would get located there….The unlikely friendship between the musically minded king and the amateur astronomer would lay ground for many of…