International Astronomy Day: The starry sky beckons more folks than ever before - Hindustan Times
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International Astronomy Day: The starry sky beckons more folks than ever before

By Ismat Tahseen
May 18, 2024 04:31 PM IST

Budding astronomers are making a beeline for open areas outside the city, to pursue the hobby.

Nothing comes close to lying down under the open sky with the carpet of shimmery stars above. Stargazing is definitely high on city lovers' lists for that reason. It takes folks away from the urban noise and congestion into quiet, clear areas where there is no light pollution, for the best views. 
Today, on International Astronomy Day, here's looking at this hobby… 

'There is a lot more interest as curiosity has peaked towards stargazing'
On weekends, groups of stargazers take to these designated spots to watch the celestial wonders and that number is increasing. “Yes, there is a lot more interest than before as curiosity has peaked and people are wanting newer experiences. This is happening all around India,” says astronomer Vikram Virulkar.

More city dwellers are heading out to open areas to take up the hobby of amateur astronomy(Pexels)
More city dwellers are heading out to open areas to take up the hobby of amateur astronomy(Pexels)

The skies offer a complete celestial treat at night from the outskirts of a city (Pexels)
The skies offer a complete celestial treat at night from the outskirts of a city (Pexels)




'People now travel even 100-150 kms from their homes to search for dark skies'
Vikram adds, "So many more people are going in for hobby astronomy and astrophotography. People have access to cameras and are heading out. Earlier, if you had a camera, you only shot wildlife or scenery, but now there is a vibrant community of astrophotographers out there. YouTube has fuelled this growth along with Covid years, when all people had to do is point their camera at the sky from their balconies. Now, they are travelling even 100-150 kms from their homes to search for dark skies, which also have become increasingly difficult to do."

Best part? This is it for anyone
Stargazing or amateur astronomy is a hobby that anyone can take up, but the place matters. Vikram explains how the celestial objects are best seen from certain places. He says, "From a city, you can spot the stars and moon, but in order to see dimmer constellations with the deep sky telescope, you need to move out of the city for a bit. It also helps to have to have a guide or astronomy expert to explain and show you what each star is about. The expert will give a good understanding of the objects and the stories to them. Being at a camp allows you to meet other hobby astronomers and more importantly, it helps you avoid mistakes that you may be making."

Celestial treats like the Milky Way are a beauty 
There's a lot to see for sure. Elaborates Vikram, "Nebulas are a definite upgrade from rural skies. Watching the Milky Way with the naked eyes is a experience that most won't forget especially people who have grown up in cities and have no point of reference as to how it will appear."
 

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The Milky Way makes for a breathtaking spectacle(Unsplash)
The Milky Way makes for a breathtaking spectacle(Unsplash)


He continues, “The Milky Way first appears like a cloud between the constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius. For the longest time, people don't realise they are looking at the dim light of the core of the Milky Way containing billions of stars. As the Milky Way rises higher above in the sky, it approaches zenith (the highest point above you) and then becomes apparent that it's no cloud. It appears as a faint whitish band stretching from one end of the sky to another. No colour is seen. The colour is only visible in long exposure photographs.”


FIRST-TIMER? TAKE NOTE OF THESE

⦁ For the best view from dark skies minus light pollution, head out of the city.

⦁ Go stargazing in a group as it is safer with a campsite, etc.

⦁ Urban folks have no idea of the night sky and its heavenly bodies, so they should go beyond downloading an app and take the help of an expert.

⦁ Take along a pair of binoculars and an overnight bag with essentials. Campsites will have their own telescopes, which they provide.
 

 

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