The first sight was obviously the jackpot of the year, Comet Holmes! The telescopes and binocs alike were trained to the comet with magnetic precision and a successive set of exclamations of delight confirmed the beauty was still around. An awesome binocular sight and simply mind boggling through the scope, it’s a sight no astronomer worth his salt should miss. Naveen and Deepak promptly set up their cameras to get some wide angle shots, whereas Akarsh and I tried to wrestle the scope to point to zenith objects.
I was hoping to get a few pics as well, but to my misery the tripods were taken so I ruefully was flitting my binocs across the sky, which stayed excellently clear. Akarsh was in the mean while pointed M42 out on his 8" scope to Shweta. Mars was nice and shiny, so Akarsh and me, tried to get a glimpse of the polar ice caps, alas the lack of eye pieces had done us in. We managed to see the triangulam galaxy naked eye. Then it was a session for amateurs conducted jointly by Naveen and Akarsh.
We had Akarsh explaining the principle of Horizon and Zenith and the general distance measuring system. This was followed by a set of interesting exercises to work it out. This kind of made people aware of what it actually meant when they practically applied it. Deepak and Shweta in particular were very enthusiastic about the whole exercise. After which some basics of the clock face system were discussed followed by another exercise. Once again made it very interactive. Thereafter Akarsh proceeded to give a little brief on the brighter stars and a little some thing about stellar life cycle.
By the end of this the ubiquitous spoiler of all star parties, the cloud, crept in stealthily. Within minutes by 200 hrs the sky wan a little more than a blanket of cloud with a few stars peeping out coyly. There is nothing more devastating to the astronomer than an angry mass of weather clouds. Ever the optimists we opined that we should get a couple of winks before the sky clears up. So we all wrapped ourselves, feeling the pinching cold for the first time and tried to catch some sleep.
The few winks lasted two hours before the sky cleared and once again the splendor of the sky was there for all to see. The session for amateurs continued with introduction to constellations and a look at Saturn. The view was quite magnificent though I decided that I preferred to see Saturn in my dreams, the oohs and aahs were quite evident. The bee hive cluster in Cancer was something which also received quite good applause.
Over all it was an excellent session for amateurs who got to learn a lot of fundamentals and also got some practical observing tips. We have decided to have one such session on each trip of BAS. So amateurs make sure you have your camping gear packed!!