Astronomical journey – A night in the dark skies of Pakistan
Astronomy is at its peak in Pakistan. It was February 2015 and my 3rd dark sky trip within 3 months. In Feb, it is winters here in Pakistan (in the northern hemisphere) and so skies are quite clear at night with many deep sky objects available in sky throughout the night. Some of them includes Andromeda Galaxy, double cluster, Pleiades, Orion Nebula, Flame Nebula and Horse head nebula. It was a Saturday when we left for the dark skies.
Pakistan match in the ICC World Cup 2015
We usually go with a group of 70+ people but this time due to World Cup Pakistan match, only a few people who are the hard core Astronomers joined us. So we were 15 people who solely joined us for Astronomy. Sometimes people come only for traveling purposes but we infect them with Astronomy.
There were two surprises for the participants in the trip. The first one was that a participant who came in his own Car brought his 10″ Orion Star Quest dobsonian Telescope 🙂 Even I was surprised with it when he showed it to me.
A journey from Earth to the space – KASmos (inspired by Cosmos)
We reached at the venue quite early and so after a group introduction, we sat together and started discussing Astronomy. I took the lead by telling the history of Astronomy in Karachi, Pakistan and how far we have gone in this field as a hobby. Then we started with constellations and what we can see in the sky during day and night. We started with Earth and traveled to the Sun. Discussed the properties and formation of Sun and then moved to each planet one by one discussing the following
- Where to see it from Earth
- How does it looks like
- What impacts it has on our Earth
- Formation and features
Then we discussed the Solar system in general along with Asteroids, Comets and the kuiper belt and oort cloud. Then we moved out of the Solar system and discussed the different stars, star clusters, nebulas, and galaxies. We explained the participants where to see these objects in the night sky. Inspired by the Cosmos by Carl Sagan, we had a very informative session followed by Q/A session. Each and every one there participated fully and tried to gather as much questions as possible and we tried to answer as much as possible. I still remember people were asking questions even at night time and were trying to relate the sky with our tour given during the day time. Later when we told this to our KAS (Karachi Astronomers Society) fellows, I kept the name of this session as KASmos (inspired by Cosmos).
We discussed in detail the path of the comet and a recent comet pass Lovejoy! We shared photos of it with the participants
The conjunction of Moon Venus and Mars
As soon as the sun set, the equipment was ready and the sky was looking beautiful in the twilight with Moon, Venus and Mars shinning very brightly towards the western horizon. It was a conjunction of Moon, Venus and Mars.
Objects seen with Telescope during the whole night
The list is compiled by Sajjad Ahmad.
M31 – Andromeda Galaxy
Double Clusters of Perseus
M42 Orion Nebula
M46 open cluster
M81 Bode’s Galaxy
M82 Cigar Galaxy
M51 Whirlpool Galaxy
M101 Pinwheel Galaxy
M3 Globular Cluster
M65, M66, NGC 3628 Leo Triplet
NGC 3384 Galaxy in Leo
M104 Sombrero Galaxy
M13 Great Cluster of Hercules
M5 Globular Cluster
Epsilon Lyrae (Double Double of Lyra)
M57 Ring Nebula
Collinder 399 (Coathanger)
M7 open cluster
M6 Butterfly Cluster
M20 Trifid Nebula
and few meteors and satellites.
The other surprise that I gave people was the rise of the Milky way long before Sun rise. I woke all the participants who were sleeping to witness the Sagittarius arm of the Milky way.
Orion in the restaurant
The following morning while going back to Karachi from the dark site location, we stopped for breakfast at a local dhaba. We were served with water bottles with the name “Orion” on it 😀 What a fully Astronomy filled event it was!