Dark Sky trip to Hingol National Park, Pakistan

YET some active souls of our land have been witnessing these dimensions for years, alhamdolillah, and have well-learnt how to blend regular busy lives with overnight picnics, I would say, arranged for under dark skies for astronomical observations … Ratjagas with exciting learning ventures ..

Navigate through the re-done article underneath, and you will discover what “Sky is not the limit” really means… if the BEAUTY ENTICES you.. then just “Like” the KAAS page, visit, and be in touch with Karachi Amatuer Astronomers Society.. This is a brief travelogue of my first & the society’s 3rd Astro-Trip… Star-gazing night … Dark-sky-picnic… say what you feel like calling it … I am here to re-paint the trip for you… and in retrospect, saying Bon Voyage!

Shoot for the moon.. … even if you miss; you will be a star!

May 2010 brought for me, a night with darkest-sky for my life, the moments I have been thrilled for years… thanks to Karachi Astronomers Society So, I was all energized to witness beauty of the dark available in our rural skies… a scene never witnessed by city-dwellers. I just got free from my final exams of last year of BSCS from SZABIST, Karachi. What an amazing gift by Karachi Astronomers Society.

Among the Star-lovers present then were, the KaASian: Naveed Merchant, Zain Ahmad, Mehdi Hussain, Abbas Jafri and Abubaker Siddiq Shekhani. The Pak Wheelers: Hanif Bhatti & his fellows.

… Oh! where are we going?

On the 15th morning of the month, as all set I was, didn’t forget to take my 7×50 binocs. We all gathered at our meeting place around 2:30pm, now were ready for our destination: a dark site named Hingol National Park, Baluchistan… to be exact it was Nani Mandir… Finally the Land cruiser came.. and journey began at 4:00pm.

… to Hingol National Park

After some time, we stopped for the irresistible Lassi, full of rich milk & yogurt. The journey continued for 2-3 hours and we were on Makran Coastal highway. The mountains came into view and the ambiance around was full of sand dunes, plants, mountains … plus so much dust … we could barely see beyond 200 M. We could easily see the Sun, however. Though, it was quite hot outside and but the Air Conditioned of vehicle was there to care.


Hingol at last..

The sun has set by the time we reached Hingol and at a place where we took a right turn and into the mountains of Nani Mandir. In the darkness three vehicles were traveling, spreading dust all around. We reached there around 9:00pm at the spot. It was a place where we were occupied with mountains from all sides. When we came out of the Land cruiser, hot wind rushed into us. The temperature especially seemed very high to us when we got out of the car since we were travelling in an air conditioned car.

We were 5 in Land Cruiser, Naveed Shahab, his friend, Abubaker, Mehdi Bhai and Abbas. Hanif Bhatti’s Pajero had his friend, himself, Jagdesh, Zain and Fahdullah.

Hurrah! its dark sky, we’ll see a lot!

We looked up in the sky and were welcomed by a shooting star. When I first looked at the sky, my mind couldn’t absorb the number of stars and their brilliant shine. I couldn’t even identify a single constellation because I was shocked and excited to see so many stars

(Shot by Hanif Bhatti)

In the meantime I was looking up and trying to absorb the sky full of stars, we found a place to set up our telescopes. In about an hour, the telescopes were set up and we were ready for the observation. Our first target was of course the DSOs for which we had come to Hingol. After 1 and a half hour or so we had dinner in a rest house. When we came out of the room, I looked up at the sky and Subhanallah! The sky was even clear with all the dust settled, wind settled and brilliant shining stars of the Ursa Major were clearly visible. The Milky way was just awesome! I never thought I will be able to see Milky Way from Pakistan. I first saw Milky Way back in 1993 in Quetta when I was kid but didn’t realized at that time that what I was looking at. AWESOME!

Astrophotography & Hanif Bhatti

Every now and then the shooting stars were seen. We saw quite many DSOs. After a while, when I was lying down facing the sky, I saw something foggy and cloudy in the sky and I identified it yes….it was Milky Way our Galaxy. It was the second time I was seeing Milky Way. The first time I saw was in Ziarat, Quetta back in 2004 when I had no idea of what a Milky Way is. Another shock. The Milky Way was clearly visible.

(The Milky Way from Hingol    –     Shot  by Hanif Bhatti)

Group-photo with Milky Way

Then we had an Astrophotography session with Hanif Bhatti (pakwheels.com). He took various shots of Milky Way and many shots of KaASians and Milky Way.

(KaASians under the Milky Way. From left to right: Abbas, Abubaker, Hanif Bhatti, Fahd-ullah, Mehdi Hussain, Oodh Balow & Zain – Shot by Hanif Bhatti)

Spotting a galaxy – M31

The sky was getting darker and clearer as the night progressed. After a while, Andromeda was in view. Yes, the Andromeda Galaxy was clearly visible (see picture). Andromeda (M31) is the closest galaxy to us and I found it difficult identifying and searching for it in binos in the city. But here it looked as a fuzzy object and could be clearly identified. WoW! It was quite amazing.

(The fuzzy object is Andromeda Galaxy      –     Shot by Hanif Bhatti)

Telescope was targeted to M31 and we enjoyed observing our neighboring galaxy, a galaxy just like ours. We were full of excitement and saw too many other clusters. It was amazing to see the Sagittarius and its tea pot and the rich area near the Scorpios (see picture). The Sagittarius arm of our Milky way was the prime focus for rest of the night.

The glaring Jupiter

The night was a little bit cold. To keep ourselves warm we had tea and biscuits at intervals. Around 4am, we saw an object shinning brilliantly rising from the East. Guess what it was? It is the biggest planet in our Solar System. Yes, Jupiter. The time it had gained a reasonable height, Naveed Merchat’s 10” Meade SCT  was directed towards it. One by one all the members observed Jupiter. It was the first time I saw it with a 10inch scope and so clear that I could clearly make out its bands. Till morning, our prime target was Jupiter.

(Jupiter above the Pajero – Shot by Hanif Bhatti)

Milky Way just before Dawn

The sky was so transparent and clear the by the time the sky had changed the color to blue, we still were able to see Milky Way (see pictures). We offered Fajr prayers, had some photographs packed our equipments and were ready to leave Nani Mandir.

(Milky Way just after Fajr Prayers – Shot by Hanif Bhatti)

Back to the pavilion..

The treat didn’t end up here. On our way back to coastal highway, we saw Ibexes on the mountains. The mountains were so strange that we couldn’t resist and started taking photos. We were on the coastal highway when I saw mountains, beach and sand, all-in-one. There were mountains and on the opposite side was Sea. We stopped at the beach for a while, took some pictures, saw crabs running here and there and enjoyed the scenery.

(Ibex on the mountains of Hingol National Park – Shot by Hanif Bhatti)

(Strange Mountains – Shot by Mehdi Hussain)

(The mountains, the sand, and the sea – Shot by Mehdi Hussain)

(The beach – Shot by Mehdi Hussain)

(Crab captured by Mehdi Hussain)

On our way back to Karachi, we saw many mountains and some strange kind of mountains. Throughout the way back, I saw many stones on the road side. There were actually different kinds and colors of Marbles. I asked Naveed Sahab’s friend to stop the car because I wanted to have that Souvenir. He stopped the Car and brought one for me. Thank You Naveed Sahab’s friend.

We were home by 2pm the next. It was my first trip and the best trip ever till now after the Gorakh Hills Rutjaga by KaAS. The darkest sky, the Milky Way, the mountains, the sea, the sand, and the KaASians. Everything was amazing. It was a double treat.

Thanks to KaAS for giving us such a wonderful platform and an opportunity to see one of the darkest skies of Pakistan. Thanks to Naveed Sahab for his support, thanks to Hanif Bhatti for a wonderful photography.

Abubaker Siddiq Shekhani

Abubaker Shekhani is an IT Entrepreneur and Full Stack Developer. He is the co-founder and the Developer behind Mytabeeb, a health care solution. He has worked for 5 years in Microsoft Dynamics AX space with Techno-functional role and glad to be one of few Microsoft Dynamics AX developers/consultants in Pakistan. He is TEDx speaker and likes to speak in public. He is an Amateur Astronomer and Astrophotographer. He is the founding member of Karachi Astronomers Society. He can be reached at me@abubakershekhani.com.

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