The Tropic of Cancer - an imaginary line encircling the earth on which the sun shines directly overhead - and the 90-degree east longitude line intersect at the south of Bhangardia village of Bhanga upazila, Faridpur. The government has chosen this spot to set up 'Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Space Observatory Centre' at a cost of Tk222 crore.
Visitors from home and abroad can observe space via telescopes from the stage of this 100-metre high structure.
Explaining the geographical significance of Bhanga, the experts said that the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricon – three imaginary lines – encircle the earth from east to west. On the other hand, four longitude lines- 0 degree, 90-degree east, 180-degree east-west and 90-degree west - surround the planet from north to south.
The three lines that encircle the earth from east-west intersect the four longitudinal lines at 12 points, of which ten cover the oceans. Only two points are on land.
One of these two intersection points straddles the Sahara Desert, and the other in Faridpur's Bhanga. Here, the Tropic of Cancer and the 90-degree east longitude line intersect each other. Of the 12 intersection points, this is the only one easily accessible to travelers.
Last year, eminent writer Professor Zafar Iqbal brought the fact (of this rare intersection of two geographical lines in Bhanga) to public attention. He proposed the set-up of a 'Bangabandhu Space Observatory' during a meeting of the celebration committee for Bangabandhu's birth centenary.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accepted his proposal and directed the Ministry of Science and Technology to prepare the project.
As per the directive, the Ministry of Science and Technology has prepared a project proposal (DPP) worth Tk222 crore to set up Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Space Observatory Centre, scheduled for completion by June 2023.
According to the project proposal, a 5-storey circular (annular) building will be constructed on 10 acres of land. The main observatory tower, one meter in diameter, will rise to a height of 100 metres from separate installations built on the ground in the center of the building.
The tower will have a horizontally rotating platform of 10-metre diameter suitable for reflector telescopes. The ground floor and circular platform of the observatory tower will serve as a secondary observatory.
The height of the observatory tower will be kept at 100 meters, to commemorate the birth centenary of Bangabandhu. The 5-storey annular building will have office rooms, classrooms, laboratories and accommodation. The entirety of the project cost will be allocated from government's funds.
The Museum of Science and Technology will implement the project. The observatory centre will be set up in coordination with the Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization (SPARRSO) under the Ministry of Defense.
Science and Technology Minister Yafes Osman told The Business Standard, "Bangladesh now wants to set its sights on space following the successful launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1. An observatory centre will be set up in Bhanga for this purpose, from which visitors can observe the constellations."
Abul Kalam Azad, who chaired the Project Evaluation Committee (PEC) meeting held last month and a member of the Planning Commission's Socio-Economic Infrastructure Department, said, "The project site is a rare spot in the world and will attract tourists from home and abroad. Keeping tourists in mind, the aesthetic value of the building and beautification of the project area will be prioritized."
The project proposes an allocation of Tk1 crore 10 lakh for the travel and training of 11 officials in Japan, the United States and European countries.
When questioned about this allocation during the PEC meeting, Director General of the Museum of Science and Technology, Mohammad Munir Chowdhury, said the cost of overseas training could be reduced by conducting seminars and workshops with local and foreign experts.
"Steps have been taken to reduce the cost by revising the project proposal. Work on setting up the centre will be expedited after ECNEC approval," he told The Business Standard.