After a long wait, we finally had our first school session yesterday at Vivekananda High School in Jayanager. Mr. Venkatesh had spoken to the faculty and arranged the session. 30 students from the school were supposed to turn up for the session but not all of them could make it. But luckily, one of the classrooms was being used by class XI students from some other institute and they were delighted to be a part of the session. Total turnout was around 35-40 students. The event was handled by Mr. Venkatesh, Amar Sharma and myself (Hemant Hariyani).

The session started at 19:00 with an introduction to astronomy and telescopes by Mr. Venkatesh. We had kept Mr. Venkatesh’s 9.25 inch SCT and my 12.5 inch Newtonian to show different types of telescopes to students. My finder scope was more than happy to represent refractors. The session was followed by a Q&A session and some of the students were really bright and knew a lot. 

At around 19:45, we moved the telescopes to the terrace for observation. While Mr. Venkatesh was setting his telescope up, my telescope was pointed to the double cluster in Perseus. It was much better than we expected from light polluted Jayanagar. It was a beauty and students were awestruck. After that, it was time for the usual first object – the moon. Needless to say, it did what it does to every first timer. Children were not ready to move away from the telescope. We started seeing the moon at 50x and went up till 270x. By this time, Mr. Venkatesh’s scope was ready and pointed to the moon. Moon was observed in both telescopes for at least an hour. Some children actually picked out peculiar features like lighted highlands in the shadow and bright ejecta. This was followed by a Q&A session. We told them about what various features on moon signify. 

Next objects were M31, M42, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel and Gamma Arietis, and each of them got its share of attention, exclamations and questions.  Excitement was in the air, and questions kept coming. These events never end as planned. By the time we were done with these objects, it was close to 11 PM and Saturn was up. Anyone who has seen Saturn through a telescope will agree to the fact that it is arguably the best night sky object through a telescope. Seeing it for the first time is something that you will never forget in your life. Everybody could see Cassini division, cloud patterns, shadow of Satrun on its rings and its satellites. I could see five satellites of Saturn and everybody could see at least three. Some could see four or five. It was undoubtedly the “object of the night”. 

We finally called it a day around 12:30 – and what a day it was. This day marked the beginning of BAS’ Astronomy@School program and it is a long road ahead.

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