Star Gazing trip to Badro Jabal – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter Conjunction
On 7th May 2011, we planned to leave for Badro Jabal, Sind, Pakistan. This is one of the most amazing trip, not because of the location but because it has significance from Astronomy point of view. This is the only dark sky session in which all the planets that are visible to naked eye were visible, the one and only dark sky session in 18 sessions that we have done so far.
Badro Jabal (we also call it Badhra Summit) is a place situated in Sind, Pakistan. It is about 3000ft high, about 50 kms from Sehwan Sharif and 320kms from Karachi.
Highlights of the event
- 5 planets visible over the night; they are Saturn, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury (by the way Uranus was also in the sky but not a naked eye object like always)
- 4 Planets triangle; Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury
- 18” Obsession Telescope
- 1 Coaster and 2 SUV and 1 Corolla, a total of around 20 people
- A surprise in the dark sky late night
Are we going to see this?
In early morning just before the sun rise, we were going to witness the event that comes once in decades, 4 planets together to be visible. They are Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury.
This is the major highlight of our event R-14. The 4 planets visible just before dawn. Photo credit: Stellarium screen shot
Why the event is named Al-Beruni?
We dedicated this event and others to come this year to the Muslim scientist Abu Rehan Al-Beruni celebrating 1000th anniversary of his landmark astronomy work. He has many accomplishments in mathematics, astronomy, physical and natural sciences. He was also a geographer, historian, chronologist and linguist. It was our 14th trip since we have started Rutjaga in 2010, we named it R-14 Al-Beruni (R short for Rutjaga).
Journey to Badro Jabal/Badhra Summit
It was 7th, month of May with no clouds, and a shiny blue sky. The sun was upon us and so the daytime temperature was quite high. I was in coaster and along with me were
- Asim Qadri
- Bilal Mughal
- Mehdi Hussain
- Dr. Yaqoob
In Toyata Land Cruiser were Naveed Merchant with 18” Obsession and his family. Mr. Khalid Marwat was in his Toyota Corolla and Mr. Hanif Bhatti was in his Pajero with other passengers.
We stopped at a hotel on our way for Lunch. It was a filling and awesome lunch. We knew we will get dinner late and at the same time have to travel so we had to keep balance. I didn’t eat much.
The roads were properly paved that even a Suzuki Mehran can go to Badro Jabal. The mountains of the Badro Jabal are amazing. They are somewhat different from usual mountains. The mountains are flat and are stretched for many kilometers without any space.
The amazing mountains of Badro Jabal. Photo by author (Abubaker Siddiq)
The Sun Set and Telescope set up
I was excited about the 18inch Obsess
ion telescope, to observe with it, for the first time under dark skies. I was waiting eagerly to reach the destination and finally around Asar time, we reached the Badhra Summit and we offered Asar prayers. We took out our stuff from the vehicles and started to make camps and the telescope owners started to assemble their telescope. I helped Mr. Khalid Marwat assemble his 18” Obsession and learned some really good stuff.
Mehdi Hussain (Current President of KaAS) carrying the Bazooka.. ooops sorry… Telescope tripod over his shoulders. It is a heavy tripod, I have hold it myself before.
By the time we were ready, the Sun was almost set. The sun set was amazing as always. I love Sun set and Sun set at Badro Jabal was as amazing as Sun Set at Gorakh Hills.
The Sun is almost Set
Mr. Khalid Marwat asked all of us to gather in a circle and in about 2 minutes all of 20 15 people were standing in a circle. It is KaAS tradition in which you stand in a circle before observation and one by one every person gives introduction about them by answering the following questions
1. Your name and what do you do. Your age
2. How you got interested into astronomy
3. Have you been to any Rutjaga before
This way everyone gets to know about everyone, about their interest in Astronomy etc. After the introduction it was time for Magrib prayers, so we got ourselves ready for Magrib prayers.
The 18inch Obsession was the attraction of the night. The crescent moon was there and without thinking much we targeted the scope towards crescent Moon. I saw and WOW! It was awesome. I could feel it, I could feel the craters, the shadows on the Moon and the image was so crisp and bright that after watching and moving my eyes out of the eye-piece I could still see the Moon in front of my eyes. I wasn’t able to see with my right eye as I can still see the bright white light in front of my eyes. Man it was very bright and all my dark adoption of the eye was lost. Me and Bilal took out our smart phones and started to take some shots of Moon. I managed to get some shots but not impressive. Bilal had a better smart phone camera with him and he managed to get a very nice photo of the Moon.
Discussion and Questions and Answers
There were many new folks with us in this event. The first thing I told them about was the North star “Polaris” and the constellation of Ursa Minor. We observed that constellation for a few minutes and I told them it is just like clock-hands but in the sky. This clock hand moves anti-clockwise and one rotation completes 1 earth day. Orion set earlier but we had Leo with us.
The Sky tour and the 12 Zodiac Constellations
Some folks gathered around me and I explained them the constellations in the sky. What are the constellations and what are the Zodiac constellations. Then I told them the difference between Astronomy and Astrology. The sky started to get clearer and darker as the time passed. We could feel the cold breeze, smell of the dust while sitting under the Starry Night Sky. Remembering the names of Zodiac constellation wasn’t that easy for the new participants. There are 12 Zodiac constellations Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scropious, Sagittarius, Capricon, Aquarius, and Pisces.
There is an easy way to remember these Zodiacs constellations that Mr. Khalid Marwat has taught us and after him I always try to help new people to memorize the Zodiacs using the following
RamBle Twins Crab Livrish Scaly Scorpions Are Good Water Fishes
Observing the “Lord of the Rings” – Saturn
As soon as I got done with the discussion, the Obsession was already targeting towards Saturn. I could see a small queue as everyone wants to see Saturn with the Obsession. The Obsession doesn’t have tracking so an object gets out of the field quite fast so we have to get it back every now and then and this is what I did for another half hour or so. People were coming again and again to see Saturn as some of us were watching Saturn with a telescope for the first time. Clear skies, dark skies, Saturn with 18” Obsession gathering too much light and also providing a wide field of view.
We could feel the emptiness and the vastness of the universe. There were tiny moons near Saturn. Saturn has around 48 moons and few of them are visible in a telescope at a magnification of around 300x. The rings around the Saturn were looking brilliant. The rings around Saturn are actually small pieces of rocks that are orbiting Saturn. Scientists believe that they could have become Moon of Saturn but the mass wasn’t enough to make one. I was obsessed by the obsession and so were others. I stayed there for so long that by the time everyone had a chance to see watch Saturn, I took out my iPhone 2G and then started to shoot Saturn through the obsession. Five minutes of hard work and attempts, I managed to get these 2 shots.
It wasn’t that easy as I was standing on a still holding iPhone in one hand and have to center the scope again and again on Saturn. It is because our Earth is rotating and the telescope was still, so after a while the object that is visible in eyepiece of the telescope gets out of view. We also have telescopes that does the tracking themselves like 10” Meade LX200 and 7” Sky Max Maksotov. Once set to an initial position (usually North Star Polaris), these telescopes are capable of moving themselves and keep them aligned with the object in view. These telescopes are capable of finding objects themselves and then they point themselves, you just have to search and press enter.
Deep Sky Observation and Milky way
We had 3 telescopes with us; 18” Obsession, 10” Meade LX200 and 100ED refractor. We saw various clusters, nebula, galaxies, star clusters and nebulas in Sagittarius.
Milky Way behind Al-Beruni
When everyone was done with observation, dinner and photography, Mr. Khalid Marwat asked us to gather around. He was to write R-14 Al-Beruni to make it KaAS achievement and as a memory. Mr. Hanif Bhatti was ready with his DSLR for some serious long exposure night photography. In about 2mins, Mr. Khalid Marwat and Mr. Hanif Bhatti achieved what they were aiming for. Finally, the photography came out like the following. The best part is that everything went well and the photography is composed very well with telescope in it and Milky way in the background.
Object of the Night – UFO?
Me and Bilal gathered once again and started to spot different objects in the night sky by asking to find the objects to each other. We were kind of playing and learning at the same time. We ask about star location to each other and that helped us learn the constellations and the stars in it quite well. Then came a time when we continuously observed ‘Tea Pot’ in Sagittarius. It was looking awesome with so many stars and clusters in it. We were observing with naked eye while few of us were sleeping and some of us were busy with telescope observation.
I was watching the Tea Pot and so was Bilal. The 3 stars on the right side of the Tea Pot were my focus. Suddenly, I saw a faint star like thing between end of tail of scorpio and Tea Pot. I thought it would have been some star of this constellation either of constellation. But it was faint and was getting bigger and bigger but fainter at the same time. It went into the Tea Pot from the front. It was still very small but I could see it with naked eye. I asked Bilal what it is. Bilal acknowledged and said that he is wondering that too. He called Zain (a fellow amateur astronomer) and then Zain said “Look there” quite loudly and those who were sleeping were awakened. Now what, we had 100ED with us that could be targeted really fast manually to the object. One by one, we saw the object and now it seemed to be moving. It wasn’t there were I initially found it, it was moving into the Tea Pot and getting fainter as it goes by. What was it? A UFO? Ofcourse, it was a UFO because UFO means Unidentified Flying Object, it was flying and an object and so it was unidentified unlike the stars, planets and artificial satellites. You don’t believe me? Here is the photo taken by our fellow Astronomer, traveler and a photographer, Fahdullah. We were lucky that he was up at that time with this Canon DSLR ready. This was photo was taken at 12:30AM. See the photo and find the object in the Tea Pot. The object was not a line like in photo. This photo was taken at an exposure of around 130secs so instead of a faint circle object, a line is created.
UFO in the Sagittarius (Photo by Fahdullah. http://www.fahadullah.com/)
Photographing Milky Way
It was time for some long exposure photography of Milky way. As always, our guru Mr. Hanif Bhatti was with his DSLR ready and prepared for photographing the night sky. By that time I went for a short nap. Suddenly, I woke up due to the cool breeze and went to Hanif bhai while he was taking some amazing photos. I asked him to take my photo with Milky Way in the background. Thanks to Hanif Bhai. My eyes will seem to be closed as I was sleepy and it was a 30 seconds exposure. It means the camera shutter was opened for 30 seconds and for this time of period my eyes could have blinked many times and so me sleepy in photo.
M – J – V – M (Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury)
A few other fellows had them photograph with Milky Way and then we started to point the stars with our green laser pointers and started finding the DSOs. The nights were short as it was almost summers. Saturn was set by then and we were waiting to see other planets rise from East. We had informed all the participants about the planets conjunction earlier so everyone was prepared and ready to see the wonder. As the time approached towards Fajr, we could see Venus and Jupiter shining brightly. They both are usually very bright in the sky. Mars was not so bright and difficult to spot with naked eye as it is on the far side that is on the morning side of Earth. What that means can be understood easily by the simulation below. Note that Venus, Mars, and Jupiter all are on the far side (behind the sun) and so visible in morning sky. Mercury was also not that easy to spot but not that difficult either.
View from outside the Earth
View from inside the Earth
The 4 Planets visible just before dawn. Simulation from Stellarium (a planetarium software)
View from the Hanif Bhatti’s Canon DSLR
Photo with Mr. Khalid Marwat and his 18” Obsession
I was tired by then and quite sleepy. But it was morning and time to pack and go home. While Mr. Khalid Marwat was ready to disassemble the Obsession, I requested him for a photo with Obsession. Mr. Hanif Bhatti was so kind to take a photo. Thanks Hanif bhai. I look quite sleepy so consider that I was up for most part of the night.
Good Morning Badro Jabal
We started packing our stuff, load telescope in the SUVs. By that time, the Sun has already risen and Mr. Hanif has already started shooting it.
End of Amazing and memorable event
As mentioned earlier, this Rutjaga had many significant events. This Rutjaga happened in 2011 and I still remember most part of it and here I have written what I remember. Thanks to Mr. Hanif Bhatti for arranging stuff for us and thanks to Mr. Khalid Marwat and Naveed Merchant who were the key force behind the Rutjaga and the 18” Obsession.