Well, For one.. This for all who missed out.. This is to inform you that you can envy us for all you want. For we had some time there. The clouds din’t relent..but the place itself was something in itself. Mystical, Mythical darkness, amazing environment, amazing equipment and amazing people. And most importantly of all – amazing food too !
And so the twelve of us – Pavan ( That’s me), Hemant, Naveen, Abhay, Amar, Dhruvaraja, Dilip ( almost missed out !), Atul, Gautam and Vaid ( The brothers, the juniormost members of the group), Vinay and Amol set out – to Kavalur, amidst an approaching torrential shower.
Not to be dampened, atleast in our spirits, we reached kavalur at 3:30PM in the evening – a good hour and a half later than we were supposed to reach there. The most immideate accomplishment of the afternoon was the mass devouring of the food we had at kavalur – and it was quite a treat. Filling and satisfying.
To follow – was a short introduction and conversation with Dr Muneer – the resident scientist at kavalur – who introuduced us to a fellow bangalorean – Dr Sarasij who was to guide us to all the telescopes at the observatory.
The immideate stop was at the 40″ – the 1 metre zeiss telescope. The instrument – is no short of fantastic. Dr Sarasij showed us around the various accesories of the same – housed in a dome atleast 60 ft in height. The lot of us – mostly used to manual and visual telescopes did take quite a time to comprehend with what was at our midst – a telescope that weighed in tons. It was proud moment for the group – to be looking around and walking around – the same telescope and the same dome .. that the Prof Bappu had used himself. The same scope also responsible for the discovery of Uranus’s rings by Mr Kuppuswamy a few decades back.
Not to get complacent by being awestruck by something as enormous.. we were only going to be further amazed by the 2.3 Meter – the Vainu Bappu telescope ( the biggest in asia )..and here’s where Dr Sarasij lead us to.Ironically, the jaw-dropping sight of the 2.3 meter dome – easily about 100 ft in height..overshadows the enormity of the 1m dome rather easily. And the sight from atop the same, was anything but again – eye popping !. Somebody in our group – who had been to kavalur before had complained to me about the skies there being “light-polluted”. Well.. He had better reconsider his statement, because what I saw was …pitch dark skies and no lights around for miles and miles. Almost cruelly, the clouds wouldn’t relent ..and hence in ways, did play spoilsport to our agenda.
Here Dr Sarasij showed us around the the giant eye – the 2.3 meter scope .. not to mention – this left us pretty much dumbstruck.. At the same time, the telescope movement and the dome movement was demonstrated to us on request…and one could only feel that the mammoth structure and the telescope itself could be no smoother ! We were also showed around the computer controls of the telescope which make possible – precise pointing of the same upto an accuracy of 1 arcsecond !
Just looking at the goliathic light bucket.. The instance cited about it’s resolution – that it can resolve a 25 paise coin ( Too bad ..you hardly find them !) kept about 40KM away .. was, but obvious.
This apart, The ones among us who’re not prone to acrophobia climbed up as high as the focus of the scope ..and had a view of how things would be at the focus of the giant mirror ( We could probably burn paper with star light !!).. A passing hypothetical thought struck a few of us – to imagine how it would be , to put an eyepiece into this magnificently engineered instrument.
Back downstairs, after an eventful outing from the dome.. we were greeted by a pitch dark sky ..(and unfortunately..totally overcast ) and navigating through the observatory estate would’ve been near impossible if not for Dr Sarasij’s torch. We also had a look at the clone of the 2.3 meter mirror – made of concrete. and just as thick as the former. Ofcourse, Kavalur has a separate elevator system to transport equipment up into the dome.. For, otherwise.. transporting the giant mirror would be an impossible task.
And back now, to the canteen for another filling meal – this time, the dinner. The banquet was quite a conference… the lot of us interacting with Mr Gabriel and Dr Muneer and lots of minutes to be put into the remainder list.
Whilst, the time was killed mercilessely, and the same hit 10:30PM, the others went to bed…but the insomniacs amongst us accompanied Dr Sarasij to the computer room where we had quite a few discussions about the group. Dr Sarasij pitched in with useful suggestions and has accepted our invite to pay us a visit sometime when he is in Bangalore.
And we moved to our dorms as well, And the skies remained blatantly overcast and all hopes of a clearing were in good probability of getting washed out. Hence, the rest of the joint went to sleep whilst amar and I killed some time on random discussions.
The biggest highlight of the day was however at about 2AM in the morning. The enoromously thick clouds had actually given away – but with an enoromously thick envelope of haze. But the sky at the place was absoultely wondrous, that stars actually shone through the thick haze.
Whether it was our dark sky adaptation getting better, or just something that could be attributed to the skies.. The sky gradually shone to a very good ( This transition from a very very mediocre sky) 5th magnitude sky. The sleepy heads and lazy bones were woken up too.. and the observation was limited to East / South east regions of Orion, Lepus, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Puppis, and the full length of Eridanus until achernar. The absence of instrument haunted us, but for mine and naveen’s 10X50’s. Not to waste my time, or my newly loaded ISO 400 Film, I took a couple of wide field shots of Orion, Canis Major regions. The results are yet to be got .. but I’m pretty sure of decent shots.
Our celebration, was however..very short lived as the hazy clouds launched a heavy counter attack and seemed to be armed with an ample supply of reinforcements as well. And we were back again at our barracks and hitting the sack.
The rest of the night remained uneventful and the day started with all the lazy bones in us starting early for a change. The ride back home was uneventful, except for a blitzkreig by hemant on this straight stretch of road – Touching 150KM/ Hr ( and much to my fear of extreme speeds )
Back home seemed to mark a transition from paradise to a barren desert. The trip was a fantastic one – in all.. and we can’t wait to make it back to Kavalur again – ( January hopefully ) and under some better skies.
PS :- Photos of our trip will be uploaded shortly. If you took some too, Please upload them somewhere and post the link. Alternatively, you can also email me