• Laksh Arora

Introduction to the Night Sky in Mashobra

Getting hooked to astronomy in Mashobra is easy. The skies are clear, air crisp, and the altitude makes sure we have great sightings throughout the year. Here's my little guide to an introduction to the night skies!

The entire guide focuses on observations with binoculars or naked eye. I am learning telescopic observations and will probably take years to reach a level where I can blog about it. This blog covers most objects within our galaxy. For a guide more objects to spot including The Moon, satellites, deep sky objects (Other galaxies, star clusters, and nebulas), read Part 2 (Coming soon) of this blog.


Where to spot?

Even within Mashobra, bright street or building lights will block out most of the night sky. However, these lights are not as strong as you'd think and if you just walk away to a dark spot, or shut the lights down, the same sky would offer you a spectacle!


Tips and Tricks:

  • Binoculars are a handy instrument to see the moon, planets, and star clusters easily!

  • It takes about 10-15 minutes of staring in the dark for the night sky to get clear

  • Avoid using your phone as the brightness will spoil the night sky clarity

  • Keep noise levels to a minimum, late night astronomy is a quiet activity, specially if you are are outdoors

  • The moon is brighter than you think and will block out almost everything, time your observations to times around moonless skies.

Apps to install


First and foremost, when you start, it is not important to remember exact locations of everything. You have technology to the rescue! Sky View is an app available on Android and iPhone that can help track and predict the path of the objects easily. I insist you install it and observe every bright light you see in the sky starting tonight! What looks like a bright star might just be Jupiter or a constellation.


Milky Way


The very galaxy that all the constellations, planets, our solar system, and almost all the stars you see are in. Visible as a faint river of light spanning across the sky, the Milky Way is one of the most sought after sights of the night sky.


The purple hues that you see in most pictures of our galaxy is due to long exposure photography (image captured over 15 seconds). With the naked eye, it's less colorful but magnificent nonetheless.


Planets


The most fascinating of them all are planets. Star twinkles, and the planets do not - And that makes them easy to spot. With our naked eyes, we can spot the following planets:


Jupiter: One of the brightest lights in the sky, if you look at the spot with binoculars, you should be able to see anywhere between 1-4 small dots next to the big light (that is Jupiter). These are the 4 biggest moons of Jupiter out of the 79 confirmed moons the largest planet of our solar system has.


The image above shows how Saturn and Jupiter (with 3 moons from a telescope)


Saturn: Bright planet that is easily identifiable. With naked eyes, the rings of Saturn are not visible and it looks just like a rather brighter star. However on some clear nights, you might see Titan, Saturn's largest moon, as a bright dot next to Saturn.


Venus: The easiest planet to identify as it is astonishingly bright! Easily outshines all other lights in the night sky, and is second only to the moon. No visible features or moons to spot through, just a slight yellow or bluish tint.


Mars: Although much smaller than the other planets, the reddish hue helps spot Mars with naked eyes! Not as bright as you would think though, instead of a red it's more like pale yellow or orange.



Mercury, Uranus, Neptune: These 3 are also visible from time to time but look like dots more than anything else.


Shootings Stars

The 2 lines that you see in the picture above are shooting stars captured while we were attempting to capture the milky way!


These are nothing but small meteorites burning up while entering or passing by the Earth's atmosphere. You can spot several per minute or not even one for hours, but the trick here is patience. Shooting stars vary from distant trails that last less than a second to giant rocks that glow in shades of green and last for several seconds.


Constellations


Orion: The most famous constellation in our sky and is easily visible from even cities in India. The striking shape that you imagine- Of a warrior with a belt, sword, and a complete body, makes it a captivating night sky observation.



Ursa Major: Big Dipper, as it's famously known by the 7 stars that make a question mark in the sky. The constellation is almost always visible in the north side. A helpful tip here is that if you extend your line of sight from the far end of the bucket (or question mark), you'll lead to Polaris or the North Star.


Ursa Minor: Also known as little dipper, this constellation is famous for containing the North Star, or Polaris.


Other named constellations: Using the sky viewing apps, you will be able to spot many more striking constellations like Scorpio, Leo, Taurus, Aquarius etc. depending on the season!


Named stars


North Star:

The North Star or Pole Star – aka Polaris – is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. That’s because it’s located nearly at the north celestial pole, the point around which the entire northern sky turns.


Sirius: The brightest star in the sky after our Sun. Sirius is often confused as a planet due to its brightness but can be differentiated because it twinkles! You would be amazed to know that Sirius is actually a double star system - which means there are 2 stars, one the bright Sirius A and the dimmer Sirius B. Incredible, isn't it?


Part 2 (Coming Soon) of this blog will cover deep sky objects including other Galaxies, Nebulas, and Star clusters and 2 really really close objects - The Moon and satellites.


When you stay at The Nilaya, we offer a complimentary night tour of the sky. This is offered daily, except when it is raining, snowing, or overcast. We recently got a telescope as well and are teaching the staff how to use it.