Astronomy and Star Gazing With Friends!
Star gazing and Astronomy is one of my biggest hobbies along with photography and videography. This is so much the case that we attend a lot of star parties during the year. For those of you who may not know, a star party is an event held by astronomy enthusiasts with lots of telescopes and equipment in a dark open sky area to observe the celestial bodies together. There are lots of eats, drinks and like minded intellectuals to chat the night away, not to mention beefy telescopes to view constellations, planets, distant moons and galaxies. Today my friends and I are headed for a star party held in our nation's capital Port of Spain.
We arrived way too early, being as eager as we were but no worries, it was a great opportunity to head to the nearest mall where we could kill some time and grab some eats. We opted for Dairy Queen where I got a warm brownie with a scoop of vanilla (or whatever flavor of soft serve it was). This would serve as a great intake of energy to last me the whole night.
By the time we were finished at the mall, it was just about time to head to location of the event as the sun was beginning to set and parking might have been an issue. Believe it or not, Port of Spain, Trinidad is home to the world's largest round about (Queen's Park Savannah) and a playing field within it is where the star party was being held. We parked the car and entered the field within the round about and we saw scores of mats laid out ready for the night's sky watching as well as beach chairs. We had beach chairs and mats of our own and we proceeded to set everything up.
The sky was already amazing even though it was not yet fully dark. The northern range of mountains that overlook the city was lit in red and orange hues in the distance. The beautiful scene was an appropriate precursor to the night to come. The moon was also already out which may have been a problem depending on how bright it was due to it out shining the stars. At least the skies looked mostly clear!
There was this huge inflatable projection screen amidst all the mats and chairs for the key note speech and presentation. When it finally got dark, the event was started off with a brilliant speech and quick tour of the sky by one of the astronomers. How do they give a tour of the sky you ask? With a light saber of course! Its this huge high powered purple laser that was used to literally point at constellations and planets in the sky and give a "tour" for novices and those who were now beginning to be acquainted with their locations in the sky as well as theur names and shapes.
Once the presentation was completed, every one was free to roam around, look through the set up telescopes or use their own instruments. Most new astronomers are encouraged to use a binoculars at first to get acquainted with the constellations, much like ourselves. I did not get many shots of the instruments because of how dark it was. Astronomers are very particular about keeping their vision withing the night vision range (dilation of pupils as well as the activation of particular rods and cones in the retina of the eyes that occurs over a period of half and hour to fully activate for night vision). So you can guess how annoyed we get if someone pulls out a phone or a flash light.
I did, however, manage to capture some brilliant photos of the moon with my phone. It is quite hard to get the right position of the phone on the eyepiece of the telescope but it worked! Moon was extremely bright and burned my eyes when I looked at them through the telescope. You could see many craters and lunar features! You could actually also see from the photos how quickly the moon moved in the field of view of the telescope within the few minutes that I took to take the photo. That's why it has to be adjusted every few minutes by the operators unless it has an auto track feature with actuators which this one did not.
Another Celestial body that I managed to capture was a view of Jupiter and some of its largest moons. It was the first time I was seeing this with my own eyes and it blew my mind that I could actually see a planet as well as a few of it moons around it in orbit! It was like science fiction but happening right now in my real life! I was aware of this but actually seeing it was paradigm shifting for me! You can see it on the bottom right of the photo. The phone camera could not adjust the exposure low enough to get the details of Jupiter itself but with the naked eye, one could see colour, lines and the large storm on its surface.
All in all, it was an amazing adventure through the cosmos and spending time with like minded Astronomers and intellectuals and having deep discussions about the universe was awesome! When the night turned into morning, we all headed home with a satisfied feeling having being able to experience first hand that the sky is not the limit and that we were mere specks hurtling on a minute rock through and infinite amount of empty cold space.