For quite some time the weather was observed to be splendid. Skies were clear in Bangalore too with no signs of clouds. This encouraged BAS to have a Mega-star party. The location was chosen to be one of our best destinations – the very beautiful COORG. We turned to Keemale estate as our site as it had given some of the best views to us star-gazers.
The trip started off, with all participants leaving Bangalore on the 4th of March. The Monster Scope - the 17.5” was to join the party the next day. The journey to Coorg showed the superb skies which all of us could expect. The morning of 5th March was spent with a good trek in the scenic areas around the estate. Everyone enjoyed the relaxing nature trail.
In the afternoon, everyone assembled for a small class by Naveen and Amar. The participants were taught the basics of sky-watching and introduced to the night-sky. Also, star charts were provided with instructions on how to utilize them. Queries were also addressed.
Everyone was now in high spirits to start the observation session. The first session started as soon as the first star was seen – though it was a planet - Jupiter. At around 6:30 p.m the journey thru the magical skies began. Firstly, an intro to the constellations was given. The first object viewed thru the 17.5” was the brightest star in night sky – Sirius. Then the pace quickened as we had 3 telescopes and the Dino – Bino (The 25*100 Binoculars) at our disposal. Numerous open clusters were observed – Pleiades, beehive, M36, M38, M41 just to name a few. Then came the double cluster which astounded everyone. Now it was the turn of the ever beautiful Orion Nebula – M42. Next it was a difficult object which many saw (claimed!!) – The Horsehead Nebula and the Flame nebula in the constellation of Orion. With this high note we moved on to have our dinner.
The second session started with one of the spectacular objects the Whirlpool galaxy. The pace quickened with a whole list of faint objects like the Leo Triplet, Crab Nebula, Bodes Nebula, Pinwheel galaxy, Ring Nebula just to name a few. A special mention has to be made of the objects which I think everyone enjoyed the most – Sombrero galaxy, Antennae galaxy, Omega Centauri and ofcourse the planet Saturn. The clear visible bands on Saturn and its moons were greatly appreciated. This session went into the early morning (A few first timers stayed up all night!!!) with the view of the morning star – Venus.
With a highly satisfying observation session it was time to leave. We had our breakfast which was followed by a photo session with the telescopes. It was a very successful star party with over 30 participants. But the main highlight was that over 50 objects were viewed. This is the highest number achieved in any star party. Finally, I must thank all the participants, the volunteers and BAS for an amazing night of star gazing.
--- Report by Gautham G Ambekar