A Night Under The Stars - Saphale Overnight Sky Observation

I am a winter baby. And I proved it yet again! Day before yesterday, I went on an overnight trip to Saphale (about one and a half hour away from Thane, ahead of Vasai) for a star gazing session which lasted through the whole night. This was the second year that I went through the college.

Caption: That's all of us thanking our "stars" that we made it alive after spending the entire night in an open field, under a star filled sky, without turning into ice princesses. P.S - Temperatures during that night were anywhere between 8-14 degrees celcius. Also, the shiny dot there on top of us is Venus (which we got to see through a telescope)

Last year when I went, everyone started shivering at around 4:30am. But this time, that very same cold got to us at 10:30 in the night itself. We made sure that everyone (even the juniors, because college students somehow tend to have a lot of garam jawaan khoon, and say "didi, humko thandi nhi lagti" but invariably end up taking all our blankets) took their sheets and jackets with them. Now the irony of trips is that.......

....... no matter how old or young you are, when you're home, you long to be out. But when you're out and it becomes night time (especially in conditions of extreme heat and cold), somewhere, deep inside your heart, you want to come back to your bed, takiya and chaddar. I don't know about you, but this sure happens with me!

We reached Saphale at around 8:30 in the evening. There were two classrooms of the village school which were allotted to us to keep our bags. We then proceeded to the field which was 5 minutes walking from where we were. There are no street lights there, so we had to carry high powered torches around (to help us see the cow dung which was EVERYWHERE and to prevent us from getting our feet wet in the water. We had to cross this small mini daldal which had extra slippery stones). Also, phones were a big No-No for the simple reason that it takes close to 15-20 minutes for your eyes to get adjusted to the darkness. So until then, you wouldn't be able to see anything much.

 The Telescope through which we saw all the objects

Now the best part about star gazing is that, unlike Nehru Planetarium, where you have to sit on chairs and adjust your head at a very painful angle to see the video, here you had to lie down flat on the ground. That itself was really relaxing. In that cold, all you could do was cuddle up to your friends under layers of blankets and look up at the night sky and admire its beauty.

The reason why we went to a village was mainly because there was:
1. No pollution
2. No artificial light
3. No tall buildings to obstruct your view of the sky

Thanks to these factors, we could see close to 300 stars from the naked eye. Through the lens of the telescope, we could see a million more. And I'm not exaggerating. Now, the reason why we went at 8:30pm the first time was because there were certain constellations which could be seen only during that time. Something about their rising and setting time. Honestly, all the stars looked the same to me. And whatever twin, goat, bow and arrow pattern they showed made no sense to me (or maybe I was interested only in Capricorn; my star sign *wink wink*). But I could definitely make out the Pole star and Orion belt (which, by the way was a big improvement since last year). Now all these stars, constellations and planets keep shifting through the sky because of Earth's rotation. So you would see the Orion belt 5 metres to your left at first, and then 3 hours later, it would be somewhere behind you.

The first object our 3 guides (who were well studied and had a great deal of knowledge of the universe) showed us through the telescope was Moon because it was the closest to us. That night it was a crescent moon. Through the telescope you could make out the craters on it's surface. To put it plainly, it was HD quality. Next up we had Mars which looked like a tiny sphere. Because of the light, it had mixed hues of red, blue and white, but later on, the colour changed to red (because of the enormous iron content on the planet). We also saw the Andromeda Galaxy which is the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way (around 2.5 million light years away from Earth).

After an hour long break for dinner (in which we all had 5 different types of Biryani), we came back to the fields to spend the night and see the other planets. As the night progressed, we learnt about the different objects in the night sky, how a supernova may occur in the astronomical near future (which could be the very next minute or anytime in the next one million years), how astrology is all nonsense and the life cycle of a star.

Towards the morning we saw Jupiter and it's moons , Venus (don't even think of saying "yeh toh mere ghar se bhi dikhta hai. Itna door jaane ki kya zarurat thi?" ) and Saturn. The last planet was the best. I went four times to see it. Since it's far, we couldn't see the planet as big as the Moon but it was quite clear. There sure is a difference on seeing it on Google images and seeing it in real. The rings could be made out distinctly.

We saw the sunrise, and came back to the school to leave for home by 7:30 in the morning. The experience was wonderful even though the cold was a bit too much. It's bearable as long as you have enough of warm clothing on you.

Star Gazing in the open is an event which everyone must experience at least once in their life time.

Knowledge never goes waste. If you say No today, you've already missed 100% of your chances of doing something new!

Read more at: Tips for star gazing


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