REPORT : Coorg Star Party - Nov 2009

By admin; Published 25 Oct 2010

This report has been long overdue .Besides considering the high quality of the Star Party , it is but apt that the event be reported despite the delay.  
The Coorg Star party at Keemalee Estates held in the month of November 2009 has to be amongst the best star parties that we have had. The Quality skies and the prestiness of  Estate have greatly contributed to the success of the Trip. This Star party was the first of the Observing season and many people had their hopes attached to this one ,especially after a long cloudy monsoon.
Twelve of us left Bangalore in a Tempo Traveller on 20th of November 2009 ,our destination-Keemalee Estates in the Kodagu district. Although we did have a delayed start , we managed to reach the place in time. The Kemalee Estates – located in the the vicinity of Virajpete , is truly a divine place. With a large bungalow ,built in traditional Kodava style, and an array of  Dorms. ,it provided the ideal accommodation  for all of  us.
We arrived at the Estate at around 6 in the morning and after a long drive most of us just went flat on the beds of our Vast dormitory. It was almost noon when we decided to go trekking .Our trail was not well defined but was really exciting. With mist covered mountains all around , the 12 of us hiked to the top of a small hill,Once we got to the top we had a customary introduction session  and rested there for while. On our way back to the estate we stopped at a very picturesque water fall. None of us ventured into the water ,as we were advised not to :(
Nonetheless our morning was spent well . When we got back to the estate we filled our tummies with some delicious food and went back to bed.
At around 5 pm a small troop  went outside the room to assess the skies. Although we did see a layer of haze we discounted its effects.  
By 6 pm the entire group was up & ready for the night and so we started assembling all of our equipment. Since many of the participants were first timers ,they were introduced to the telescope and it's functions. Demonstrations on the usability and types of instruments was given to one and all and it did prove to be a useful session. It our first encounter with Astronomy in the trip :)
With the equipment all ready , we awaited nightfall. On nightfall Amar , our observation specialist , introduced the night sky to the people . Constellations and  Stories associated with them  , types of objects in the sky and all such details were explained in a very elaborate yet non-classroom manner. Each participant was handed over  sheets of printed  material describing the objects that they would see during the session. They were even taught to use the instruments and techniques of observing.
With the moon setting at around 8pm ,we  began to realise the pristine nature of the sky. It was really breathtaking . Although we had intermittent fog cover for short durations the sky stabilised after 10pm. We took the opportunity and covered the objects one after another . We started with Jupiter and then moved on to a few DSO's. The clusters in Auriga ,Messiers in Gemini,Orion ,Canis major,Cassiopeia were all covered. It must be said that M42 and the sculptor galaxy were picture perfect. Some of us even tried our hand at the Fornax Cluster of galaxies and managed to pick a few of those faint Spots. All in all we must have covered over 30 odd objects during the night .First timers also got an idea of using the telescope and most of them even managed to find objects on their own !  At around 2.30 am , all of us were exhausted and decided  to call it a night. It was indeed a successful session.
We returned to Bangalore on the next day. En route, we did try our luck at The Somnathpura Temple , but to our disappointment we were late by 15 minutes :(
We probably reached Bangalore at around 10.00 pm , The entire group  was  really happy on having such a wonderful trip. The sky at Kemalee is truly amazing and surely deserves a revisit.
We only wish such pristine skies were available nearer to Bangalore. Our close friend ,  Naveen , often says  “ I love the night more than  day , she is so lovely”,  this quote made sense to many after this trip.