In a “smalltalk” between me and Sir Naveed, the date of 2nd February was chosen for 2nd “Fly to the Moon” Telescopic Observing Session. We decided the date, got the poster and flyers ready, and officially announced it through the notice board. Very soon, everyone was talking about it.
I was amazed with the number of people who showed their interest in the event, it was far more as compared to the 1st event back in October 2011 when we celebrated World Space Week.
Finally, the Thursday evening was there, and I left home for the University with my telescope. On my way to university, I peeked out through the car’s window to find out that clouds were inbound from the West. It started worrying me but nevertheless I came over the worries and joined Amjad bhai and Zeeshan in the University parking lot at 7:26 PM.
The sky was getting loaded with clouds slowly when we set the stuff and saw Sir Naveed coming in. The aligning of Finder Scope of the telescope is one hectic task, which is always accomplished by Sir. Very soon, we were visited by more clouds and we could do nothing but welcome them with fake smiles.
The event kicked off with the views of Planet Venus, which is the second planet of the Solar System, but is the brightest and (Literally) the hottest planet. It is sometimes referred to as “Hell” because of its extreme atmospheric conditions. It has a cover of clouds made up of Sulfuric Acid, which reflect the sunlight as a mirror, thus causing the brightness of the planet.
The presence of an enormous amount of Carbon Dioxide and Sulfuric Acid in its atmosphere give rise to the stiffest Green House Effect found in the Solar System. Apart from it, it has a mean surface temperature of 460 Celsius, which is highest of all the planets. Venus orbits the Sun in every 224.7 Earth days.
By the time, people had started arriving and we turned the telescope towards the Moon. It was no more than a few minutes when the clouds completely took over and refused to let any star light pass through them. Negotiations with the clouds failed, leaving us in a bit of hopelessness.
This is what Astronomy Events are all about, even with the most accurate weather forecast indicating clear sky, we always encounter weather conditions that halt the observing session for up to many hours. A session without even slightest of clouds has a probability of 1/5. When I was with Karachi Astronomers Society at a local village in Balochistan for a Deep Sky Session, more than 5 hours of us were wasted due to clouds. And at Baddo Jabal Event, we were received by winds that constantly kept destabilizing the telescopes. That is how Astronomy is, as Mr. Khalid Marwat says “It comes in bits and pieces”.
Kept praying for the clouds to go. My mood was getting down to Earth. To keep the audience busy, I created a huge playlist of Astronomy videos in my laptop and projected it on the big screen.
“Oh there’s Jupiter, right there in the West”, and before I could respond to the call, Jupiter again went hiding behind the clouds. It kept playing hide n seek with us for a few minutes. Those were amazing moments when Jupiter and the Moon would show up from behind the clouds for a moment or so, and then again clouds would take over. Finally we got the sky totally clear as a glass and I could now take a deep breath of peace.
Jupiter and the Moon were prime targets. The audience looked more interested in the Moon than in Jupiter. But I did not move the telescope away from the King J until almost everyone had seen it. The people were amazed to see the Galilean Moons of Jupiter. As the name implies, Galileo Galilei discovered the moons in 1609 when he first turned a telescope towards heavens. Galileo was the first person to discover that the idea of a Geocentric Solar System (The one in which Earth is at center and everything else including the Sun orbits around it) which was a long held belief and put forth by Ptolemy as a theory, was wrong. Galileo thus started to publicly support the Copernicus’s theory of a Heliocentric Solar System. The Church accused Galileo of heresy and put him under the house arrest for the rest of his life.
The questions of audience were interesting. It showed their quest for answers to the questions which they had in their mind since a long time. As I always expect, the most questions put forwarded were about “Astro-LOGY”. Why do people ask this particular question the most? I don’t have answer to this question. But I answered all of the questions of audience that included;
- Astrology, and difference between Astronomy and Astrology
- The 13th “Star”
- Dark Matter
- Dark Energy
- Big Bang
- Moon Landing Hoax/Reality (Whatever it is)
- Mythologies behind constellations and need of a constellation
- Properties of Stars, Planets, and other Astronomical Objects
A girl argued with me that the USA never landed on the Moon, and that we should never believe on it. I humbly referred her to Wikipedia. Questions including Dark Matter, Constellations, and Big Bang were posed by other people. For the best understanding of audience, I show them Constellations through the Stellarium software. Constellations are mere divisions of night sky in the same way the Earth is divided into countries. 48 of these were created by Ptolemy (c. AD 90 – c. AD 168) whereas 40 more were added by other scientists, and were later recognized by the International Astronomical Union. The current night sky is divided into 88 Constellations. Scorpius, Sagittarius, Norma, Crux, and Perseus are some of the constellations.
Constellations provide an easy way to locate any Astronomical Object on a given date and time just as a City can be located once its Country is known. The stars belonging to a particular constellation are not connected with each other as they might appear to from the Earth. In fact, they do not lie even in the same plane and may be light years away from each other.
Reading out the Greek Mythology behind the Constellation Gemini loudly was not the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, Amjad Bhai and Zeeshan were busy with the audience. Zeeshan was locating the objects through the Stellarium. A boy argued with Amjad Bhai that the object visible from the telescope was not Jupiter, but just a photograph. Good question, isn’t it?
I grabbed the binoculars, and started showing Pleiades to the people as it was most demanded. The Pleiades looks best through a binoculars. Through a telescope, it does not look as glorious. Pleiades is one of the best known open clusters and is easily visible to the naked eye as seven stars. It was observed and individual stars were named by Greeks after the seven daughters of Atlas, a giant whom Greeks thought to be supporting the world on his shoulders.
The telescope was now turned to the Pleiades and people looked towards it with both the binoculars and the telescope. The night was falling so many people started leaving. Soon, we were left with only around 10 people. I pointed the telescope to the Orion Nebula (M42) which is a Star Birth site in our own Milky Way Galaxy, and with this, a new question and answer session was started based purely on Nebulae, Star Birth, Milky Way Galaxy, and all the other related stuff.
Nebulae are generally clouds of gas and dust, and serve as a flour for the creation of star. As the gas and dust starts accumulating at a single point, it collapses under the influence of gravity to form a ball shaped object that is dense enough at its core to start a fusion reaction, fusing Hydrogen atoms to Helium atoms, emitting light and heat as a result. This is called the Star Birth. There are various star birth sites in our own Milky Way Galaxy, prominent being the Eagle Nebula (M16), Cone Nebula, and the Orion Nebula.
Afterwards, I started a slideshow of the nebulae pictures collection I have in my laptop and started guiding the people about each of the nebulae that was being shown on the screen. Everyone was amazed and kept asking questions.
Had quite a good discussion with a lady over Islam, Science, and Spirituality.
We decided to pack up after the last bunch of visitors left the venue. Of course, there was a photo session before packing up. The pack up was completed by me and Zeeshan. We left the University at 12:48 AM in a great happy mood, and again clouds and fog took all over. This time, even the car in front of us on the road was not properly visible.
I returned back to home at 3:01 AM. Feet and Spine were feeling broken after a very busy day in University, evening in office, and then more than 6 hours of constant standing and walking, but I say “Anything for Astronomy”.