Posts Tagged ‘Night sky’

Wishing Upon A Star

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have this wish I wish tonight.

 

Living in a big city, I miss seeing the stars at night. There’s always a glow from the street lights though – which astronauts term as “light pollution,” and when we look up at the sky, we see that it’s filled with clouds and smog – no wonder then that stars in the night sky are disappearing faster than we can imagine.

Over the years, I’ve realized there’s nothing better than being away from conurbations and being able to look up and get soaked up in the stars. I like to call this experience “counting the stars” which gives me a sense of a ‘nothingness’ as I simply look up and see the entire sky in all of its beauty. Some of my best thinking has been done looking at stars. For me, it’s a meditation – peaceful and relaxed.

Stargazer's delight

The stargazer’s delight

There was a telescope floating around the house where I often visited as a child [my father’s ancestral home] . In fact those days – in the early 1980’s-  you could see a lot of “sky”. Lying on the terrace watching stars is a memory I cherish even today.

My cousin gifted me a scope when I was 10 years, lying in the hospital bed and didn’t have much of activities to do. It was a SkyWatcher basic telescope, good enough to see the moon pretty well. Sometimes, I would spend frosty hours striving to look at faraway objects, Mercury, Jupiter and Orion’s Belt… Some of those explorations were made in the cold dark nights that brought out the best stars — they shimmer more brightly in the winter.

The best stars I have ever seen were at sea [quiet sea beaches] and mountain tops, dark forests and not to forget the planetariums [though that’s a momentary pleasure].

Great Bear, the most conspicuous constellation in the heaven

Great Bear, the most conspicuous constellation in the heaven

The sky seems huge, filling horizon to horizon with the glories of galaxies and our Milky Way. It’s like a river that flows across the sky. It’s no wonder that ancient Egyptians discovered an year-long calendar that included 12 months with 30 days by looking at the night sky.

They were inspired by the heavens, and built their pyramids in Giza to reflect what they saw – There are today two shafts built on to the sides which were built at the location facing the passing of two stars. One was Thuban, that was near to the Pole Star and Alnilon, a star situated in Orion’s belt. The ancient Egyptians discovered the Orion with ‘Osiris’, who was known to be the god of rebirth.

Recently, Nasa scientists discovered seven Earth-like planets just beyond our solar system that could potentially Harbor life have been identified orbiting a tiny star not too far away, offering the first realistic opportunity to search for signs of alien life outside the solar system. The planets orbit a Dwarf star named trappist-1, about 40 light-years, or 235 trillion miles, from earth.

Over the next decade, the researchers want to define the atmosphere of each planet, as well as to determine whether they truly do have liquid water on the surface and search for signs of life.

But life too comes in many forms and bacteria thrive in bubbling sulphur pools on the edge of volcanoes, in vents at the very deepest trenches of our oceans, and even now as we have recently discovered, in crystals in deep and hot caves for more than 50,000 years.

When we see photographs taken from the International Space Station of our blue Earth below, there is a wonder in the clouds and the oceans. It’s fun to try and figure out exactly where the space station is flying over, trying to identify the coasts or terrain far below.

The artists’ impressions of new worlds to be fascinating too. They almost bring those new worlds bravely to life, as if life exists there, waiting for us to visit and introduce ourselves, like new neighbors in this wonderful universe we all share.

But when you look at the stars, and try and understand the sheer size of space, the universe, you feel lost, astound. The distances are vast, the time taken for the light from stars to reach us can be measured in thousands of light years. And the sky we look at is actually a kaleidoscope of different lights emitted from stars in the past. We are not looking at the here and now, but a collection of pasts — though in the present.

At times, when the sky is full of stars, you can almost reach up and immerse yourself in the depth of the sky. In this universe we are but small, some would say rather insignificant. I would say, our  life is beyond messed up. But when we wish upon a star, we get more than we bargained for and that explains the power of Space.

 

A Speck of Dust!

The earth is a tiny speck of dust in the vast universe

The earth is a tiny speck of dust in the vast universe!

A recent visit to the City Planetarium brings back a lot of memories. My favorite childhood destination, I have some of my best memories under the virtual cold and dark star-studded sky. I always felt I have so much to learn from the universe. While not much has changed over the years, in the way the narrator speaks or the dome looks … what changed was my realizations, my perspective on the universe, which in all its glory, has still given me a message… This time, a much stronger one!

I sit there mesmerized, looking at the vastness of the man-made heaven, while parading my eyes across the sky in all its magnificence! Mankind has been fascinated with the heavens since the earliest times. I wonder if there’s truly a place beyond time and space in which the past, present, and future exist wholly as one… and hit with the realization that everything is infinitely possible!

As the narrator takes us to that part we call the “Solar system”, and shows us where we stand in the universe, it did take a few seconds to fix my eye on that dot with great astonishment. That’s there. That’s home…. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

As Carl Sagan said, “The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” – They are all there!

The earth is just a tiny speck of dust in the vast universe. Man is a tiny speck of dust on earth, almost nothing, maybe a millionth tinier dust in the universe. Despite being just a tiny speck of atom, man never stops boasting! I wondered why we behave, act and think as though we are the center of the universe?

It may be humbling a thought to consider that man is actually nothing but a dust with a life of breath in it. But with just a tiny achievement, with just little riches and possessions, with only a car or a mansion, or a business, man thinks he is already God, acts and behaves with an overweening pride! Forgetting the stark reality and fact, that with just one snap of time, one accident or one illness or disease, everything will be nothing and he returns to dust where he once came from, I think for a while!

I doubt how many of us (including me) will think  – to live and breath fresh air every day is a cause of gratitude by itself. For life is very fragile and totally unpredictable. I am here today, I am gone tomorrow. And all that I have done will just be a mere book at the most, a tiny little book piled under the billions of books in the archive of books throughout time. And soon will be forgotten by the next generation. This tiny little fact is a reminder to bow down before the Creator in deep humility, acknowledging the truth that we live because of that Creator.

My thoughts are shaken by my six year old son, my companion to the planetarium this time. “Look there mummy, that’s Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system.” he points at the big round planet. I come back to the stark world of reality, which in itself is a mere illusion, albeit a very persistent one! The thought makes me smile – Is it some sort of awakening, I wonder!

My Night Time Playmate

He watchfully opens the door of disruption and comes to me every night. Yes, lately, every night I stay wide awake and impatiently wait for him to come. I know he would. And some nights, even if I succumb to sleep, he comes and wakes me like a lover and tells me ‘let’s play!’

I have learnt to enjoy this game

I have learnt to enjoy this game

I set out to ‘play’ with my night playmate – no one to disturb, nobody to question and none to feel misunderstood. I do not feel the burden of time any longer and there’s a certain reprieve from deep within. During the playful night, I rediscover the night sky: so dark and intense and steeped in mystery.

We look up to see the wonders of the night sky: the splashing light of stars and bright constellations that beholds the power of night. A patch of white cloud slowly sails across the sea of night moving to some far off lands where dreams are meant to come true. A cool breeze blows silently whispering to the trees the song of freedom. The white coolness of the moon brings with it some relief. The frosty, silver light dribbles through my veins taking me to the realms of dream. I yearn to fly in the night sky, but my feet stand still on the land. My eyes started to close – I started to fall asleep.

“Of late, I have learnt to enjoy this game,” I whispered in his ears. He gently kissed my hand and bid me goodnight. For you I can sleep by the light of day, dreaming of better tomorrows and awake in the night… amidst the glowing stars and creamy moon only to see those dreams come true…just with you! Keep coming to me every night, my nighttime playmate – thy name insomnia!

My Stargazing Nights

starry-sky

stargazing night

Stars of wonder, stars of night… stars with royal beauty bright…

Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to thy Perfect Light…

Millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, and each one with a message of its own – they touch my heart every time I look into the endless dark blue velvet sky.

In my growing up days, power cut nights were a frequent phenomenon. Although a dampener for many, in a way, it worked to my advantage. It turned me into an avid sky gazer. On a hot summer night, every time when the power went off, my parents and I headed straight to the terrace. Watching the night sky – lying down on the terrace – was amazing. And each time, it was a new revelation!

Viewing the world of constellations, the Milky Way, planets that are visible to the naked eye and several members of the star family – is a simply fascinating experience. And not to forget the mighty moon – shaping the fantasies of poets and painters alike. Moonlight dinners were a common thing on such occasions – something I still long for, but regret not having. Even today, I love to sneak out onto the balcony and gaze up at the breathtaking panorama played out in the night sky.

I have a special fondness for the November sky (when the sky is at its best). You get to see the gushing down of sparkles that last only for a few seconds. It’s amazing to watch those Shooting Stars. If you are lucky, it is said that they will not escape your eyes and several times my roving eyes caught them unaware.

As I sit to think of starry nights, every time, a small village in Bengal comes to mind. The night sky in Lolegaon – where we went for a family outing – was just out of the world! At a place so high up, there were no city lights to lighten the sky. And we could see so many stars that there was almost no space between them. The other fond memories of star studded nights were those of my college days when I went trekking and camping. At Panchgani in Maharastra, where I used to camp, we were given lessons to find the North Star, few constellations like Orion, Taurus, Great Bear, Arcturus, Virgo, to name a few – I cherish those days of yore.

Night stars stand as a testimony to my life on several occasions, for I attained bliss under a star studded sky. Those experiences turned into moments of great revelation in my life and there are many such occasions – The recent one being watching the night sky at the City Planetarium, while setting out on a journey to explore the cosmos with a special friend. As the lights fade away, our eyes got adjusted to the darkness, and the night sky emerged directly above. Suddenly I felt that I am miles away from the city life. All the distractions of the day are lost in the far reaches of space. We were beneath a beautiful night sky, caught up in the wonderment of the universe. We started gazing at thousands of stars, constellations; comets and the shimmering Milky Way – a sense of euphoria, Just for that half an hour – it took away all my worries and gave me a new meaning of life. A virtual world, but a world worth living!