Astronomy is for everyone, believe me. Before we invented electricity and realized the potential of the motor, before we had computers and and before application software started guiding our every move, before we had modern cities and the technology of today, we used to rely on stars and patterns in the night sky and the changes that occurred in these patters with time to make our day to day decisions. Civilizations have been built, have grown, flourished and evolved just out of observing patterns in the night sky ,such was our relationship with stars and with the Cosmos. Today technology has taken over and so we have to some extent lost that link that we had with the sky and the stars. But, astronomy is for everyone, for anyone who is interested in it ,because amateur astronomy in its simplest and most basic forms is just about observing the night sky. And why not be interested and inquisitive about it, after all we are but the stuff of stars, literally!
My interest in it was built up by reading articles about meteor showers in the news paper until I finally decided to stay up one night to actually observe one. It was the annual Geminids Meteor shower of 2014 and that is when it all started for me. It was also after this that I started reading up about meteor showers and their origins and I realized what actually all the fuss was about shooting stars that fascinated our young and innocent minds. Today, astronomy is one of my favorite hobbies.
I had clicked this picture above in July 2012, when I woke up early one fine morning to go birding. At that time, Astronomy to me was an alien field and the only celestial body I ever slightly took interest in was the Moon, Earth’s natural satellite and the most prominently visible celestial body in the sky after the sun. It was the Moon after all, I knew about it, everyone knows about it even if they don’t want to, unless they are some creature who was born , nurtured and continues to grow and survive in some dark underground city away and aloof from surface dwelling ghouls,oh! I mean humans. Alright, coming back to the surface, something about what I saw this morning in the sky was different and it enlivened me, I saw two very bright objects in the sky along with the Moon and their perfect conjunction with the Moon made me wonder and had me curious enough to click a picture so that I could later investigate into what was it that I was looking at. Time flew by, I didn’t know whom to ask about what I had seen and I didn’t try and find it out myself as well Alas, the question and inquisitivity generated out of this event got stored in a secluded corner of my mind maybe never to be explored again.
Two years and a well articulated and informative newspaper article later, meteor showers happened, they re-kindled my curiosity about celestial bodies and events. I started reading about stars and planets and patterns in the sky. And with time I knew enough to realize that meteor showers were annual and thus I waited for the next one and observed and the next and observed and tried photography experiments and read up more on the topic and started observing planets and patterns and so on and forth until today when we’re being treated with the sight of a phenomenal planetary conjunction where all five naked eye planets are visible in the sky in the northern hemisphere just before dawn.
Jupiter and the Moon
During this time, I was going about observing Jupiter rise over the horizon in the night and this time particularly because it was in close proximity to the moon. I took out my camera and started clicking pictures and bang! then it hit me, I suddenly remembered clicking similar pictures back in 2012 and completely forgetting about it 😀 I was very excited as I switched on my computer and started searching up and opening old picture albums and looking for a particular folder. I opened a picture folder named Tamhini 2012 which itself brought back a lot of memories as it was my first jungle trek with Foliage Outdoors, but this folder didn’t just have pictures from the trek , it had pictures I had clicked a month and two after the trek as well, which including some birding outings and, voila, it also included THAT very picture ,clicked out of curiosity. I’ve thought of naming this picture ‘CURIOSITY’ today ,I like the sound of it :D, and no it has nothing to do with NASA’s exploratory rover which is currently busy clicking selfies on Mars .
But the most amazing thing happened when I opened the picture this time around because ,this time I knew exactly what those two amazingly and characteristically unique bright balls of light were just below the the waning gibbous moon, this time I realized that I had observed a unique planetary conjunction of Venus and Jupiter with the Moon. I was amazed when the realization of how the story of this image had come full circle and hit me with a bang!
There is also a star in the picture and I wanted to find out which one it was. Now this was going to be a very difficult and if it would not have been for an amazing App known as Sky Maps by Google, I would have probably never found out which one it was. I knew that Sky Maps has an amazing feature known as Time Travel, where you enter the date and time of the night sky from the past that you want to look into and this App literally takes you back in time. I remembered that I had clicked the picture early morning and I confirmed the date and time using the photo’s EXIF data. This data confirmed that the photo was clicked on the 15th of July 2012 right around 6.30 am. I entered this data into the time travel feature of the app and this was the result.
Google’s Sky Maps helped me to not only confirm that the planets were indeed Venus and Jupiter, but also that the star visible in the picture is Aldebaran, a resident of the constellation Taurus 🙂
I felt so satisfied that after three years I was able to solve the mystery of the photo ‘Curiosity’ without having to ask for help from anyone else and that joy and satisfaction whispered in my ear to write a simple post about it, something that said…
ASTRONOMY IS FOR EVERYONE! 🙂