25th March, 2017
The Astronomy Club conducted it’s fourth Skywatch of the semester, this time to the Kundadri Hills on the Agumbe Rooftop. What ensued was a rather beguiling rendezvous with the stars, especially one star in particular: Sirius.
I’m Sirius, mythical Canis Major (Greater Dog) of the gods, brightest star in the Earth’s night sky. This is my heavenly abode:
A stellar view, ain’t it? The folks down at the Astronomy Club of MIT sure know an awful lot about the cosmos. They did a fantastic job deconstructing the known mechanisms of the universe to the alacritic bunch of stargazers assembled atop Kundadri Hills at Agumbe.
I looked on as the stargazers trekked all the way upto Kundadri Hills rooftop.
A cloudy haze had set up camp, restricting their vision. It soon cleared out however, and their view was certainly a sight for the gods:
Allow me to explain a bit more about my cosmic querencia.
I’m easily noticable owing to my luminosity. However, you could always find me by drawing a line through Orion’s Belt towards the left.
Orion is one of the most conspicuous constellations in the night sky. Contrary to what one may think, Orion’s Belt is such a waist of space. It comprises three prominent blueish-white stars. In a distinctive hour-glass shaped asterism, the three stars of the Orion’s Belt- Alnitak, Alnilam and Minitaka can be used to decipher a myriad constellations, including a few exoplanets.
Were you under the impression that all the universe comprises is merely stars? Here we have gargantuan terrestrial bodies, gas giants like Jupiter, globular clusters and galaxies galore. The stargazers at Agumbe were lucky enough to be graced by a panoramic view of the enigmatic Andromeda Galaxy, and the magnificent Omega Centauri.
Nebula is a prominent section of the universe, essentially being interstellar clouds of gas and stardust. In Latin, it translates to cloudy or unclear. They were named so by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1764, mainly because the entire concept was so ambiguous to him.
Another concept that existed only a few moments ago, back in the 1700s was that if you saw a comet, you could name it after you. At present, that wouldn’t exactly be feasible because so many of them have already been discovered.
Charles Messier was one such comet-hunter, but his quest took a roundabout route when he discovered innumerable nebulous objects instead, and crafted a catalogue out of them. Some of them turned out to be galaxies,nebulae and star clusters. In fact, he discovered the very first planetary nebulae, called the Dumbbell Nebula in the constellation Vulpecula, catalogued as M27 in Messier’s Catalogue. It primarily acts as a copyright, so that when other astronomers stumble across the same object in the night sky, they don’t confuse it to interpret something else and are spared the ordeal of attempting to name it after themselves.
A few moments later, or what the Gregorian calendar charters as in 1915, an enterprising earthling called Einstein came up with a theory. It was about time. It was called the General Relativity Theory, where he considered the entire universe to be static, meaning that there’s a finite totalum to which the universe is bound. He did not take into account the expanding nature of the universe. One may even need to extrapolate this theory in order to explain ‘black holes’ and space-time sngularities and quantization failure and- wait. It really isn’t good for me to get into a heated argument about this, considering I’m at 9,940 K already.
Thankfully, Hubble spotted a glitch in this partially skewed theory, and rectified it saying that almost all galaxies appear to be moving away from us. This phenomenon was pronounced as red shifting, essentially proclaiming that the further a galaxy, the faster it is receding from earth. For about 448 moons(16 months), Hubble considered just one portion of the night sky and observed the red shifting phenomena, leading to an amendment of the General Relativity Theory.
All the stargazers seemed to be in a daze at the haunting, yet mesmerizing clusters right above them, as if we were gods that strolled across a wide nighttime tapestry.
Here we are again. People gazing at the stars gazing back at people in a sort of strange fatal attraction, each longing to be closer to the other, lending a fond consolation from 8.611 light years away.
To simplify your understanding of the universe, I’m going to present an analogy better suited to your world. Consider a packet of chips to be the mass of a star. The embedded masala is basically what planets are made of.
Therefore, nebulaes are essentially the wafers, or the genesis of stars. Should you ever feel the need to magnify your first-worldly issues, remember that the brightest stars emit light as bright as nearly a million Suns, while comprising merely hydrogen and helium gas. As if we couldn’t get more badass, we stars will eventually encounter an explosive death and recede as supernovas, or transition into rapidly spinning pulsars, or perhaps even Black Holes.
As a tribute to the discoveries and achievements of astrophysicists on Planet Earth, I’d like to iterate a few lines from The Astronomer :
“Though my soul may set in darkness,
It will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly,
To be fearful of the night. “
Astrophotography Credits: Manan Dhuri