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R-21 Al-Beruni - Star Gazing session in the dark skies of Pakistan

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In Dec 2013, I went for an astronomy dark sky session for star gazing in a village in Sindh, Pakistan. That event was a success and I learned a lot of stuff there with regards to Astronomy and Astrophotography. Since then I had been waiting anxiously for another such trip and with me lots of Astronomy enthusiasts were waiting for it. Finally, we decided to arrange an event and I took the lead to organize the event for Karachi Astronomers Society. We started to get a few registrations but by the end, we reached 50 plus people. Wow.

This post is not only restricted to my astronomy experience. It has all the amazing experiences that we had during our trip. If you are interested in reading other experiences and fun that we had on the trip, you can click on this link: In search of Milky Way.

The journey to destination

We left Karachi in morning so that we can reach the venue at lunch time and do some rest. This was our first and only trip in which we got lot of day time. The journey to the destination was filled with joy and enthusiasm as the participants were excited about Astronomy. We reached there after having lunch at the nearby hotel.

Participants Introduction

Then we decided to have introduction of participants which is KaAS’s tradition since years. We gathered and one by one we started to introduce ourselves while answering questions name, age, and marital status, how they got interested in Astronomy. It was a nice short session where we got to know each other. We got participants from many interests such as engineering, software, aviation and marketing. This trip was a different and a unique type of event.

 

Shooting the Sunset - Pakistan

We offered Asar prayers and then went to capture the lovely landscape. The Sun was about to set and I love sun set and I like Sun rise, so took a few photos along with my friends who accompanied me as well. We took some great photos of the Sunset. We could see the Sun setting till it touched the horizon at 2 degrees :)

Sun set   

Setting up the Telescopes

   

While I was coming back to the observation site, the telescopes were being set up. We had with us Sky Watcher’s 7.1” Maksotuv Cassegrain, Celestron C8, and 2 Sky Watcher’s 6” dobsonian telescopes.

Setting up the telescopes


Telescope ready to be aligned with North star Polaris

 

Night Sky tour

As the twilight sky started to get black, stars started to show up in the sky and we could see Andromeda galaxy by naked eye. Me and a few fellow from KaAS were explaining the night sky to the participants by using our green laser pointers. We showed the participants the North star Polaris, Andromeda galaxy and a few tips about star hopping. We explained them the 88 constellations and the 13 Zodiac constellations.

Observing Jupiter with telescopes

Our first telescope target was Jupiter and its 4 moons and so all the telescopes were pointed towards Jupiter. I observed Jupiter with 2 telescopes but watched Orion Nebula M42 with all the telescopes :)

Observing and photographing the Andromeda and Orion nebula

Time to do some Astrophography, my favorite. The 7” MCT was ready and I requested Mehdi hussain, the owner of 7” MCT to set the telescope on Andromeda galaxy so I capture the galaxy.

Then we targeted the telescope towards Orion Nebula (M42). I saw the nebula already in Celestron C8 and in 7” MCT, the views were amazing in both the telescopes, however, for astrophotography I selected 7” MCT as it had better tracking capability.

Naked eye Astronomy

Throughout the night, we all were doing naked-eye astronomy and were capturing photos of the brilliant night sky. By naked-eye astronomy, I mean we just look upwards either standing or lying on the ground and watching the heavens above.

The constellation of Andromeda is being set towards WestThe constellation of Andromeda is being set towards West

DSO hunt

Deep Sky Objects are the galaxies, nebulas and star clusters that can be only seen better in a dark sky. Over the night with telescopes we saw about 50 plus DSOs using the telescopes. A few are also visible with naked eye and by using a technique known as averted vision. I saw Andromeda Galaxy (M31) with naked-eye, Orion Nebula (M42) and a few clusters. This time I planned to photograph Andromeda Galaxy before anything else as it was about to set and was going in the light dome of Karachi.

 Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy.

 

The great nebula in Orion (M42) from Pakistan

Orion Nebula (M42) visible in the constellation of Orion.Orion Nebula (M42) visible in the constellation of Orion. Flame nebula, and traces of Horse head nebula are also visible.

Dinner

We were called for dinner while we were doing astronomy and astrophotography. The lights on the hut were turned on. And we all reached the hut to have the garma garam Chicken Biryani. At dinner we had fun and then we had tea. After that we offered Isha prayers and leave for the place where we had set up our telescopes.

Photographing the night sky

A lovely view of the Taurus constellation about to set.

 

The observation session with telescope and naked eye Astronomy is in progress  


 

Observing the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way galaxy

Around 3:30am I was up and a few participants were also awake because few of them had already slept in evening. I was up the whole day and night and didn’t want to sleep. I was looking at the constellation of Scorpio and was waiting for its tail to rise. I left with 4 other fellows to a far area to do some photography of scorpio. While I was finding a spot I saw the teapot of the constellation of Sagittarius and a thought came into my mind that if Sagittarius is visible, then the that part of the Milky Way galaxy will also be visible and while I was thinking I could see a cloudy and hazy foggy thing towards east. It was definitely Sagittarius arm of Milky way. To confirm I took a shot and boom; this it it. Then we had some great photography with Milky Way and here are the photos.

  And we are made of star dust. The Sagittarius arm of Milky way.

The lovely Milky way, our home galaxy over the lake.

Observing Saturn and the beautiful rings

While I was going back to the telescope site, Saturn was at a favorable position in the sky and so Zain called me and showed me saturn.

The lord of the rings - Saturn

Breakfast

It was more than 9 hours we had dinner and now I was very hungry. I didn’t eat junk food while I was up whole night and so hungry and thirsty. Finally the breakfast for 50 people was ready by 8:30 am.

The Astronomers of Karachi, Pakistan

We gathered near the telescope site and arranged ourselves for a wonderful and unique group photo. Here are the group photos :)

The Amateur Astronomers of Pakistan at a star gazing sessionThe Amateur Astronomers of Pakistan at a star gazing session

Back to Karachi

The sun has gained considerable height and it was getting warm and infact hot while we were standing for the group photo. We had already packed and it was time to leave the lovely and peaceful place and go back to the busy, noisy and light polluted city. :) It was an awesome experience and got to learn a lot about Astronomy, astrophotography, aerodynamics and photography. I will update this post with a few more photos once they are post processed. This was one of the best star gazing trips arranged by Karachi Astronomers Society.

 

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