Khalid Marwat



On 11th October 2014 in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, in a crowded and chaotic eastern district of Karachi a landmark astronomy event for Pakistan was unfolding. The President of Karachi Astronomers Society (KaAS), Muhammad Mehdi Hussain had invited members of KaAS, few friends, and the media to his rooftop to inaugurate the appropriately named KaAStrodome. 


KaAStrdome has a tumultuous construction history only the immediate family can aptly narrate. A handiwork of four determined brothers - Mehdi, Akbar, Ashraf, and Ayaz - KaAStrodome is a privately owned urban space observatory. That astronomy runs in the family is evident from the fact that Mr Anwar-ul-Hussain infused love of astronomy in his children from youth. Knowledge would trickle down through books and “Sk’Eye-I”, the first refracting telescope built around 60mm lens was prepared in 1996 for the visiting Hale-Bopp. The family also liked sharing the knowledge, so the next natural step was the establishment of ‘Pakistan Amateur Astronomers Society’ which now has evolved and merged with our KaAS. By 2004, the Transit of Venus was welcomed with SkEye-III.  I first saw them pointing SkEye-III at the partially eclipsed Sun of 1st August 2008 in the PIA Planetarium in Karachi. That 6” refractor stayed with the family till the dream of a dome and a befitting aperture became a reality. Custom designing was the basic modus and bigger aperture required shifting over form lens to mirror. From; design to assembly of “Sk’Eye-IV”, to trials & testing, to the first light, and to the construction of KaAStrodome it has been an exemplary effort. Full-hearted family support has unfortunately been marred with injuries and medical difficulties. Their pioneering father while climbing KaAStrodome stairs fell and injured himself, and cancer in the family has tested but never impeded their undaunted effort. We all wish them quick recoveries from their ailments. 


With IYA 2009 Pakistan’s astronomy gained a lot of momentum. The results have truly been multidimensional. We evolved into KaAS, started cooperating internationally, and made dark sky camps a regular feature. Karachi and Lahore took the lead and brought about following major changes. 

1. Sahal Telescope and Binoculars has made astronomy marketplace accessible. Acquisition of astrogear had been almost impossible in Pakistan. Now, the efforts of Zain Ahmed has made easy availability of affordable telescopes and binoculars in Pakistan. 

2. Enthusiasm of Abubaker and Sajjad, combined with the efforts of father-son duo of Qadris, has resulted in various outreach events in Karachi. Astronomy workshops are now doorstep available to institutions and schools across Karachi. 

3. The photographic genius of Ramiz, technical and optical skills of Abbas, and the managerial abilities of Imran make KaAS fill many voids created by the dearth of support from government institutions or public sector.

4. Pakwheels through HB (Hanif) has time and again made dark sky camps available for safe journey and comfortable lodgings. 


Pakistan’s purely private astronomical effort whether from KaAS in Karachi or from LAST in Lahore seem to be coming of age. It all started with IYA of 2009. Astronomy camps around Karachi and Lahore, and various international coordinated events with Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) have brought about this relentless momentum to the astronomy spirit in Pakistan. We are about to launch Peshawar Astronomers Society end of 2014. Additional encouraging fact is the involvement of youth and gender element. 


Future is bright for astronomy in Pakistan and is even glossy enough to attract a jealous derogatory remark from across the border. It said, “KaAStrodome is Pakistan’s Mars landing”. 


11th October was indeed 

One typical evening in Karachi
One giant watershed event for astronomy in Pakistan




Dome on its way to its home.



First light SkEye III



PIA Planetarium, using SkEye III  observe the partial solar eclipse of 1st August 2009.


 Inauguration of KaAStrodome.


 The promising youth, KaAS and AWB.


Inauguration Day.


 Briefing the media.


 KaAS members with the owner in the centre.


 From inside KaAStrodome, the SkEye IV


 Stairs leading to KaAStrodome with AWB logo.


 The instrument.


 Some KaAS members.


 Initial stages of SkEye IV


 The eldest of the brothers, Mehdi Hussain.


 Briefing the media.


 The project.



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