Sunday, January 27, 2008

Party of The Stars, Part 2 where was I last time? The self-promise of taking out time to blog almost every day has unwittingly fizzled out into nothingness! Time seems to have taken affinity to the F1, and drains out as quick as the washing machine PVC pipe these days![I got the idea of the weird comparison coz I'm sitting near the blessed machine right now, hearing it rumbling away serenely, at its own pace, with not a care about the world! Fortune doesn’t just favour the brave; it favours the non-living too! NOT FAIR man!]

So..yeah..coming back to...yes! THE star party! First of all, for those who came in late, a star party is a sort of astronomical gathering; where amateur astronomers[in this case, the COEP Astro Club] gather officially[at NIGHT, obviously!]to observe the path and position of heavenly bodies in the lovely star-spangled sky. Typically a dark sky site away from 'light pollution' is chosen as a location. Telescopes and binocs are the basic essentials, among others. So armed with li'l more than this sundry information, I had set out on this celestial [for want of a better word] venture.

Well. Kamshet. Quite a lazy town I would say. We chugged in at around 5'o'clock, only to find the folk shutting down shop for the day! With a bit of difficulty, and loads of dhakka-bukki, we managed to stick ourselves into 2jeeps...& 32 "healthy" people in two jeeps is hardly a joke, I tell you!! I was cramped beside the driver, making it potentially dangerous for the 17 lives[including the driver!] in the vehicle, as I was scandalisingly close to the handgear! Anyhow, the predicament was soon forgotten in the light of...aahhh.. THE VIEW! :D

Milton's inspiration, nothing less! Mine is just a naive attempt to capture the panorama...but let's try.

The rough-hewn path bumped us away. The brimming Panshet dam, the gentle caressing, comforting, cool breeze arising over it, as if taking us in its warm, effervescent embrace; protecting us, telling us 'I AM there'. The rose fields were a sight to behold...bunches of hybrid teas and grandifloras swayed round at intervals, as if waiting to serenade the Gods themselves! The budding corn twinkled innocently in the waning sunlight... And the sun itself! Setting in all its eternal glory! As if the hilltops yonder are basking in the wake of a lustrous crown... A lovely golden ball in the sky; full in the eyes; gently, gradually, but FIRMLY melting away into the horizon; pure in essence, transforming even the ugliest children of God into plain beauty; the greenery assimilating it drop by drop, till I never knew which is hill and which is sun...the goldenness overwhelmed me, shined through me, IT BECAME A PART OF ME. And it is during such times that I dearly wish I had a camera-phone on me...Ohh how I wish I could capture 'life' on print as in words! The greenhouses, the cute li'l homely cottages, the shady foliage, cattle; all the village needed was a bit of snowfall to look a perfect Christmas card in the top view! [too much of graphics! :D]

Anyhow, after an eventful ride of 40 minutes, we reached kshitija's farmhouse. Freshened up. Fell upon the food like TWO starving boar-hounds EACH of us!! My consequent oncoming sleep fled after being chased round the field by a cute (= mortifying) puppy named 'Vaghya'[I am mortally afraid of dogs of all shapes and sizes.] Got decked up in mufflers and jerkins till we couldn't recognize each other! And set out; a tight group of campers, aiming to conquer the heavens!

The fields provided a perfect site for mounting the telescopes. It started off with the seniors giving us the basic info about the sky, its layout, conventional ways of identifying the positions of stars, constellations, satellites, and flashes w.r.t others. I tried to memorise everything simultaneously; ME, with one of the sharpest memories humans can have, but it just went on and on and on! I gave up! Confusions abound. The seniors were practiced experts; but beginners like me were lost.

Anyhow, once we started the actual observation and got the hang, it was sort of easy. We collimated the moon, Mars, Orion [The Hunter], and a hoard of M-objects[short for Messier objects; lovely star clusters, fuzzy patches more like to the naked eye]. We saw almost 21 meteors! And, [I’m a li’l unsure] maybe just one Iridium flare blazed across the velvety sky! We traced all the 12 zodiac constellations. Plus Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Pegasus, Perseus, Sirius, Regulus, Aldebaran, Canis Major[The Great Dog], Canis Minor[The Lesser Dog], Ursa Major[The Great Bear], Ursa Minor[The Li’l Bear], Mensa, Lyra, Pavo, Hydra, Leo, Aries, Draco…Gawd!! Simply amazing the brilliant imagination of the human mind! Stars and shapes! I managed to capture the moon[just as it was setting] and Saturn at my first go! I was thrilled to the core, flushed and dizzy with excitement! Goosebumps erupted on my skin! [Although that maybe coz of the less-than-6deg temperature too! hehe]Stars and ONLY stars danced in front of my eyes! I definitely needed a break! As a matter of fact, every one did!

The cold seeped in as I went down. And it was THEN, while simply lying there, shivering in a flimsy jacket, gazing up at the heavens, cracking silly jokes, gorging on chocolate to keep awake, among some of the most wonderful and knowledgeable people I’ve known in my life; THEN, suddenly, outta the blue, it struck....the submissive vastness, the perpetual infinitum of the universe. Could anything ever try to emulate it? The all-pervading. Omniscient. You could sense its expanse! It absorbs EVERYTHING; takes ALL of us in its stride; the enormity of the responsibility the universe undertakes uncomplainingly overwhelmed me! I felt like a small dot in this gigantic stretch, moaning about my silly day-to-day troubles; all my bitterness towards so many others melted away in that single instant! I felt at peace with the world. With mankind.

The Milky Way stretched across; white on inky-black, like some mischievous li’l angel’s spilt his milk across the heavenly floors![Hope his mom spares him! :D] God is so romantic ain’t he! To have designed the lovely sky! Just the perfect scattering. Uncertainty sure has its own charm! I always used to wonder why folk always say “I wanna go to heaven!”…I mean… Don’t you love to live?!!? That used to be my point of argument. But lying there, I realized that, THAT, if anything, WAS a place I would love to die for!

Well, with much persuasion, it was around 4am when we finally got our asses off the ground. Scorpio was out as Orion had sunk. Scorpius is the only known constellation which has a clearly traceable shape in the sky befitting its name. You can look at it and instantly say THIS is Scorpio! Clearly defined forelegs and the magnificent sting. The mythological creature that was the downfall of the hunting great, Orion. That is signified by the rising of Scorpio during the setting of Orion! Cool na!

The whole night’s work had taken its toll on the telescopes. Dew settled snugly on the lenses, making any further clear viewing highly impacting on the eyes. Trupti called pack-up. My mind was still full of the night as we put away the instruments. The exhaustive but indispensable knowledge of the others simply bowled me over! Made me feel still more of a novice than I really am! But one always begins at the beginning innit?! I hadn’t slept an inkling!! I guess that says it all!

Garam chai and steaming hot kanda pohe[our hosts were Godsent!] back at the farmhouse revived us enough for the bumpy ride back to the station. Cameras clicked, good-byes said. And in true filmy ishtyle, three of us rounded the party off by hanging off the rear of the jeep through the whole of the 18km back to the railway station!! It felt awesome to feel the icy-cold air whipping through my hair [that AGAIN rhymes! i DO have something in common with Milton, after all.]; feel the astounded stares of the sleepy villagers sweeping me over as I hung on to the roof of the jeep; weaving through the early-morning stragglers...and then you know!



greySith said...

Scorpius is the only known constellation which has a clearly traceable shape in the sky befitting its name. You can look at it and instantly say, THIS is SPAAAARTAAAAAAAAAAAA!! err Scorpio.

Couldn't resist it, what with the THIS in capitals.

Well written...

anu said...

And Sparta goes HOM333 !!!
thnx for the complo neways! :D

JD said...

This is pretty creepy - Recently, a bunch of people from IUCAA had come to our tech-fest (I'm in BITS, Pilani - Goa Campus, for the record), and we were told almost all of the things you've written about. Finally an astro post i could actually relate to :P

anu said...

wel..the only reason I can think of that U could relate to ASTRo in this post is that YOU are as much of a novice in the field as I AM[no offence meant! :P] If u'd noticed, effectively the post is not even half as much of the technical astro part as it is of other here-and-there things...the thoughts it provoked more so..

And the IUCAA incident confirms the above! :D