Wednesday, 8 April 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy: Day III

April 4
Of all four days, this was easily the finest. The 100 Hours of Astronomy couldn't get any better for me. This was the busiest and most noisy day as well. After the good reaction to the events of the first two days (reports: Day I, Day II), people came in pouring. In fact, at one point, it became quite difficult to manage the crowd and, you won't believe this, count the attendance. It was overwhelming in every possible way.

Non-observing session

I intended to start from 11:00 a.m. For various reasons I had to start 30 minutes after the scheduled time. And when I started, I barely had a moment to breathe. I was completely clueless about what I should do.

To my great relief, the Internet service was active once again. So I was able to what I couldn't do for the first two days. I had the webcast ready. I was showing the live feed from 80 telescopes around the world. It was very enjoyable to watch the webcast. I also undertook the task to explain everything that was being shown on my computer screen. I also had to reply to specific queries. Then I showed them the NASA DVD "Ring Worlds."

As it was difficult to manage such a large number of people together, we decided that the guests should come in batches. And so they did. We allotted every batch about 1.5 hours of time to view the webcast. We invited every batch to come back at 6:30 p.m. to attend the observing session.

Reaction to the first part of the programme
I believe everyone enjoyed the webcast as much as I did. The webcasts were very informative and enriching for everyone. The reaction was great. As was the reaction to the NASA DVDs. The images fascinated everybody.

Observing session
It was much better than that of the earlier days. For one, the sky was less clouded till 7:30 p.m. But, to our surprise, not everyone from the day session came back to attend the observing the session. But the number was high, nonetheless.

As the number was high, it was not possible for me to show anything apart from the Moon and Saturn with two telescopes. It was great seeing them watching the sky with wonder etched in every line of their faces. I had to keep giving lectures while they were watching.

The reaction to this session was much better than that of the non-observing session. The craters of the Moon, as always, made them "spell-bound," to quote a member of the audience. The reaction to Saturn's rings were much better. I promised to organise some more observing session on a Moonless night for them in near future. So the reaction was, in one word, spellbinding.

Celebrity Session
There are more than one reasons why I call this day the best. Some noted personalities from Kolkata and Delhi attended my event on my earnest request. Most of them are from cultural fields. One of them was a professor of physics at Delhi IIT.

They were very encouraging and humble. I took help of the physics professor to explain some of the things I was showing. He, of course, knew things better than I did. In his presence, the programme got easier for me.

They arrived at 8 p.m. At first I showed them the NASA DVDs . Then I showed them the webcast on my computer. This session continued for 2 hours. They loved this session.

Then we went to the terrace to observe the sky. But the sky was clouded. But we did get a view of the Moon and Saturn. Everyone was amazed at the observing session. The commended my efforts and congratulated me. And believe me, they are very famous in their respective fields. Their words of appreciation filled up my heart with joy. As a matter of fact, they also invited me to host such an event elsewhere in West Bengal.

None in our centre got the time to breathe during the morning session. I completely forgot to take photos. Thankfully, the evening session was not as demanding. So I did manage to take photos a couple of times during the celebrity session. So here they are:

One of the celebrity guests watching the NASA DVD on Saturn. He is engrossed.
He is looking at the Moon through my Newtonian.

100 Hours of Astronomy - Sky Observation through Telescope (2)

Three of the celebrity guests are captured in one frame.
100 Hours of Astronomy - Sky Observation through Telescope (4)
Looking at Saturn.
And finally here's an image of what the Moon looked like in the clouded sky. The picture is not very good as I had no tripod.
100 Hours of Astronomy - The Moon
And the parting shot...

100 Hours of Astronomy - Overcast Sky
Yeah, that's what the sky looked like. Sigh.

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