-by Aeishna, core member, SEDS Celestia
If you are in the habit of taking a leisurely stroll past the Cricket Grounds after dinner, you know that sometimes, vague shapes can be seen moving around at the center of the grounds, in pitch darkness. If you ever stop to take a better look, you will also see green flashes of laser, pointing deep into the sky. And if you are reasonably well informed, you know that this is a Night Sky Observation by Celestia, in process.
If you have seen posters for this event, and are curious about what goes on in these observations, then this article is a fun introduction and guide for you. In short, you can guessthe basic process from the name: we get telescopes to the Grounds and practice what is called, Observational Astronomy. But if you actually happen to be at one, this is what a session generally involves:
Level 1: Beginners
The easiest thing to locate, observe and most importantly, feel awe at, is the Moon. So naturally, that will generally be the first thing you observe through the telescopes in your first session. It takes special filters to observe the moon, since it is too bright to view without decreasing the light intensity. While you wait for your turn at the telescope, the green lasers are pointing out the famous constellations and stars in the sky; the ones you have probably heard of before. While Observation Team members are probably already explaining handy tricks to be able to locate them, there’s a cheat code: Star Trackers. Since this is likely to be the coolest takeaway from your first observation session, you can find out more for yourself at the cricket grounds (Celestia even has an in house version if you are interested). Now you can go ahead and pretend to be a star geek in front of friends.
Level 2: Regular Attendees
If you think observations become boring after the novelty of the first few sessions wears off, you might want to take a peek at what you are missing out on. The bustling crowd from the first observations of the year now thins out, leaving the cricket grounds more peaceful for observations. Once you are a familiar face here, you might be allowed to tinker around and actually try using the telescopes by yourself. While the beautiful white Dobsonians are simple to understand, definitely don’t touch the more conventional looking Celestrino without supervision (try finding out more about why the word ‘balancing’ strikes fear among the best of us). With enough interest, you now know how to locate the more prominent constellations and have heard the buzzword, ‘Messier Objects’, being thrown around a lot. Bonus: you can now boss around not-so-regular attendees for not following the Commandments of the Grounds (see section named thusly).
The Commandments of the Grounds:
While you are here, take note of these precautions that every attendee must adhere to.
1.No flashlight within a 5 metre radius of the observation spot.
2.No pointing lasers into hostel rooms and at airplanes, tempting as it might be.
3.Shielding the mouth of the telescopes from any bright light, such as lasers, phone screens or flash lights.
Level 3: Loyal Attendance
You have achieved this level of expertise if you now despise the Moon and know the distasteful nickname for Orion’s sword. And if you really belong here, you have heard the Lore of the Black Dobsonian. While we make no promises, on a certain dark night of the year, you might be summoned to the assembly of this monster. Keep your fingers crossed.
Bonus Levels: “Stars aren’t my thing.”
Even if you are simply unable to get the hang of astronomy, there are still great incentives foryou to attend Observations. Suit yourself:
For the Photographer:
If you are up for a challenge, Astrophotography is a whole new set of techniques and equipment to master. You can find many astrophotography enthusiasts at the grounds on any observation night. And if you decided to give this addictive pastime a try, do consider contributing to Celestia’s existing repository of starry pictures.
For the Bonfire enthusiast:
No, we do not hold bonfires on the cricket pitch. But we often sit in cozy circles on the ground to gossip, listen to ‘life gyaan’ from seniors and explain the mythology behind the constellations. If some of these mythologies sound made-up, it is because they very often are. If you are good at making up stories, join the party. If you are already used to doing these things, might as well do them under a starry sky at 3:00 am, as far away from the lights as you can get, on campus
For the Spotify Playlist enthusiast:
Yes, bluetooth speakers are a regular. Come over and fight for control over the music and then contemplate life with appropriate background music.
Come to Observations. They may be more interesting than you imagine.