Wish upon a meteor shower

Updated: Oct 16, 2018, 09:59 IST | Anindita Paul

Go camping under the stars at an amateur astronomy field trip this weekend

If you've wanted to wish on a star and carry moonbeams home in a jar, but were put off by pollution — light and atmospheric — here's your chance to make good on that desire right in the outskirts of Mumbai. On October 20, as the Earth enters the trajectory of the Orionids meteor shower — debris left over from the Hailey's Comet, which was last visible in our night sky in 1986 — you can celebrate with an all-night meteor-viewing party on the serene banks of Pawna Lake, near Lonavala.

Stars in your eyes
Organised by Try Thrill Adventure Group, which specialises in organising camping trips with an amateur astronomical edge, this overnight camping trip offers viewers the irresistible rush of being privy to as many as 70 shooting stars per hour. In addition to watching a steady stream of wayward star-like objects lighting up the night-time sky, campers can also brush up on their astronomical skills with engaging astronomy-themed lectures and interactive games.

Pictures taken using a cell phone and telescopes available at the campsite
Pictures taken using a cell phone and telescopes available at the campsite

Mihir Gilbilie, camp organiser and founder of Try Thrill Adventure Group, explains that enthusiasts will also be taught to read the night sky, identify the pole star, point out various zodiac constellations, and view virtually every planet of the solar system. "The site's location also makes it easy for viewers to observe sky objects in the daytime. While many of these entities, including the meteor shower, are visible with the naked eye, we also have on hand a 127/900 Newtonian telescope, which makes the viewing experience more spectacular," he explains.

Pictures taken using a cell phone and telescopes available at the campsite

The next generation of stars
These amateur astronomy camps were first conceived by Milind Shirgaonkar, an experienced stargazer, to coincide with the last Hailey's Comet sighting in 1986. Gilbilie, who has begun organising such excursions over the last five years, says that these offer campers an additional incentive to step out. "The camping trips are accessible to visitors of all ages.

The campsite
The campsite

They are especially appealing to youngsters as you don't need prior training or academic qualifications to become an amateur astronomer," he explains. A third-year student of tourism management, Gilbilie hopes that these camps gain in popularity, as newer generations of amateur astronomers begin to hone their fascination for the night sky. The group organised similar camping getaways for the Geminid meteor shower, earlier this year, when observers were
treated to as many as 200 meteors in an hour.

Camp Checklist Who can go?
Anyone with an interest in amateur astronomy.

What's included?
Camping tents, blankets, meals and professional telescope.

What's not included?
Travelling cost to the site, packaged mineral water or any other beverages, and travel and other insurance.

ON: October 20, 5 pm to October 21, 9 am AT Pawna Lake, Lonavala.
LOG ON TO: townscript.com
COST: Rs 1,800

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