Kavalur observing report - 7th May '11
By amar_universe; Published 17 May 2011
This was a trip envisaged for new BAS members Anusha and Swathi's classmates. It was only restricted entry. For once, it turned out it was a majority of girls, with totally 7 girls versus 5 boys (including Naveen, Udayan and Me). ;-)
I had to leave home at 6:30am to go all the way to Sivanhalli inside Bannerghatta National Park to pick up Nikolas' 10" f/5 GOTO. Returning en-route when it was all fine, the TT developed an anomaly and was emitting lot of scary looking fuel-smoke. Wasting nearly an hour in this and exchanging the vehicle I still managed to reach Planetarium by 10:30am where everyone was to be picked up.
Last moment Naveen offered to get the Monster 17.5" in his Innova and picked up Udayan. The latter's parents would later on drop by on own with his 8" SW Dob. We reached Kavalur by 4pm and had to wait a long time till we could get room keys.
In any of my trips, this was amongst the only times when the day-time skies all the way from city till Kavalur were a magical blue, with no haze or clouds! I was informed by the kitchen manager at Kavalur that it had been raining heavy till 2 days ago, and only now had it cleared. We had been really destined for good luck that night, that's all.
As usual, being a Saturday and public day, we headed to the 2.3-meter dome where the demo was going on. Everyone enthralled in clicking pics and were sure awe struck looking at the gargantuan equipment sway. Returning back to the kitchen, we were just mesmerized by the evening sky and plethora of stars (a feeling you don't get often for most of your life is spent under bad weather).
Since it was a public day we had to wait for them to retreat so we could freely setup our equipment on our regular observing site; the beautiful lawn beside the public 6-inch scope shed. It was only after dinner and by 10pm that we could start setting up the equipment in dark. First the Monster easily, then Naveen set on to the polar alignment of Nik's GOTO.
The session had already begun with some members looking up, spotting meteors from the Eta Aquarids passed just a day ago. Whirlpool galaxy as usual sported its spiral feature, but the show-stopper was Omega Centauri. How many ever times you soak your eyes in the myriad of stars within the large globular, seems you have not had your heart's fill. It was downright resolved to the core..too good! I am pretty much lost what all we saw next like the Leo Triplet, because it was just the same star party objects which for most of the newcomers was just too much to resist.
By 2am, we lucky bunch were witness to an unidentified object which would wreak havoc for any observer posed with the sight. Since its physical appearance did not have anything with a plausible explanation. Since I had witnessed this kind of sighting many years ago, I immediately suppressed the crowd's panic and branded it a - rocket dump. It happened in Sagittarius and was bright and fuzzy naked eye. With an optical aid, it looked like a stark drawing of a bright comet's coma with 2 tails emanating. We reveled in it as well as the ongoing meteors.
Before all this, in evening, Swathi among all was infused with the excitement and prospect of being inside the 93-inch scope while the researcher was working on it. She quickly learnt the observer for the night was a young research student, and rapport building was in place. She had gotten permission for us to enter the dome at midnight :-)
We all proceeded toward the small lawn below the 2.3 meter dome, while dividing us in 2 batches, heading up. We were with the 93-inch while it was doing its task, analyzing light from some distant source (err, what was it?). The research student just managed a few minutes to show her computer screen. We headed down and decided to settle there.
Oh I never mentioned...Sagittarius & Scorpius Milky Way risen high up! Oh what a divine sight it was, with its dark rifts and details in all glory. It was just too good and the sky was mesmerizing. Just tried to gaze at it endlessly while with Naveen's camera we tried to get the dome in foreground of Milky-Way.
By now I went back to our observing site few hundred meters away and decided to pick my 25x100 binoculars and bring it to the place where the girls were. One after the other I covered the various types of objects in this part of Milky-Way; M22, M8, M20, M24 etc. Stars, stars and only stars filled in the field of view! We spent more than an hour here and it was an hour before dawn. The girls sure were gone gaga over the wondrous celestial sights!
I remembered I have Neptune to spot, apart this medium bright comet C/2011 C1 McNaught, which could be a good sight. We quickly decided to walk back to our base site to access the Monster for the dawn objects. I tried the comet but surprisingly it missed my sight, so did Neptune. I wonder it must have been the suppressed time pressure! But there low on the eastern horizon we could spot Venus, Jupiter with its moons, the elusive Mercury, and Mars which now was visually more elusive and faint. All of them had not glimpsed these planets through the Monster and were excited. It was getting strong day-break by now and what best we ended the session with a jewel of the sky; Albireo double star. Simply beautiful!
After dozing for sometime and delaying breakfast against the stipulated time, we left the premises late, by early noon and reached city by 5 or so. It was just a good general star party with the Milky-Way being just luring. Oh, and that bizarre sighting of some kind of satellite.