Draconids Meteor Shower
Written by Mahesh Naik   
Thursday, 06 October 2011 06:52

Draconids meteor shower is due to the dust stream spewed by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. After every 6.6 years, Earth passes through the denser portion of this cometic dust. This intensifies the Draconids meteor shower. This week's Draconic meteor shower is expected to be an intense one with hourly meteor rate (although uncertain) reaching 750 per hour. Maximum activity is expected to be in the small hours of October 09 between 1200 am to 0200 am (IST). Moon may hamper the observations.

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Draconids (DRA):
 
Active: October 06 - October 11
Maximum: October 09
λ⊙: 195°
ZHR: May exceed 750
Radiant: α = 262°, δ = +54°
V∞: 20 km/s
r: 2.6.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 January 2012 13:44
 
Total Lunar Eclipse 15th June 2011 from Hyderabad.
Thursday, 29 September 2011 19:45

In the real world where things happen for a reason and many more, without any, the sayings of one very wise gentleman, all start to make sense; they tend to lay a framework of rules for the inexplicable. Some believe he exists; many know that he does.He's most (in) famous as Mr. Murphy and one of his (loosely attributed) tenets is –"The sky will always be very clear on a full moon night except on a Total Lunar Eclipse".

And so it turned out on the night of June the 15th 2011 that hosted a near perfect Central Lunar eclipse. But we are getting a bit ahead of the story here. As always, an event of such stature is eagerly awaited in the amateur Astronomy circles and there was a lot of excitement about this one since it was one of the longest and darkest eclipses. The only thing that could play a spoil sport were Mr. Murphy's gremlins manifesting themselves in the form of a thick cloud cover that enveloped the skies all around to an extent that there wasn't even a hint of the full moon despites its dazzling glory, as it rose above the horizon that evening.

The first umbral contact was at 2350 hours and with no signs of the skies relenting, the mood was quite gloomy. The chances were very slim, if not none. At this point many people gave up went to bed hoping to get a good nights sleep at the very least. I happened to be one of the "lucky" few to be stuck at work and so going to bed was a luxury that I couldn't afford. Precious hours just ticked by and by 0130 hours the totality was nearly underway and I was on my way home which is when I had an epiphany. The wind had picked up and there were patches of clear jet black sky as the murky brown clouds were being swept away. I had a good 50 more minutes before the moon peeked out of the shadows, and so it was not all over, yet.

I reached home and literally grabbed my photo gear and rushed out and it wasn't long before I found myself on the terrace frantically searching the moon. That doesn't happen too often I thought. The wind had picked up by then which was good as well as bad. Good because it was sweeping the clouds away thereby creating opportunities and bad because it was making everything shake. Minutes ticked by and exhaustion was starting to get the better of me when at 0210 hours, I had the first glimpse of the eerie copper-red Moon. Jeez was it really dark! I had photographed the TLE in 2007 and I had a mental image of the Moon, but this was way low on the brightness scale. It was almost like a scene from Star trek where the explorers land on an alien planet and the moon they see is some alien moon; it was that ghostly.

Photographing something this dark was tricky and stabilizing against the wind was even more so. As Mr. Murphy would have it again, my tripod was languishing in the boot of my friend's car so I was using a monopod and with my unsteady self, it was starting to look over ambitious. I decided to proceed nevertheless hoping to get at least one snap and as it turned out, I could manage only one acceptable photograph of the fully eclipsed moon.

Soon it was time for the Moon to emerge out of the shadows and that's when I saw something remarkable. This being the darkest eclipse, the gradient between the dark side and the one emerging out of the shadows was quite steep. This resulted in a near diamond-ring effect that was many times more spectacular than I could manage to capture. It was quite surreal; almost like being in space and seeing the Sun emerge from behind the Moon.

The egress of the moon out of the shadows continued and so did that of the clouds unfortunately and not before long, they had formed a thick layer again. I knew then that the spectacle was over. The wind had calmed down and the stillness of the night was quite absorbing. It was almost like the crescendo that all the elements had reached to around the last few minutes of totality, had ebbed. All was quiet again. I had a solemn moment then. They say that hope is the path to least resistance. Perhaps that's all there was to it. I was at peace (though my back revolted later). It was a wonderful night after all.

 

Photography Equipment –

1. 300 mm f/2.8 lens at 2.8.

2. Canon EOS 5D MarkII.

3. Manfrotto monopod.

Image details

Every lunar image is a stack of 4 or more photographs blended together. ISO varied between 1600 and 3200. Exposures were as low as 1/8 second. Stacking and blending done in Adobe Photoshop PS3.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 September 2011 08:36
 
Lecture by Sir Arnold Wolfendale (FRS)
Friday, 11 February 2011 06:21

Sir Arnold WolfendaleWell-known English astronomer Sir Arnold Wolfendale will deliver a special lecture on extra-terrestrial life. The lecture is jointly organised by National Centre for Science Communicators, Marathi Vidnyan Parishad, Khagol Mandal and International Union of Science Communicators.  Sir Arnold Wolfendale is a fellow of Royal Society of London. He was designated as Astronomer Royal during 1991-95. Presently he is Emeritus Professor of Physics (University of Durham, UK).  Details about the lecture are given below.

Topic: Search for Intelligent Life in Universe.

Time and Date: 04.30 pm on February 19, 2011 (Saturday)

Venue: Vidnyan Bhavan, Marathi Vidnyan Parishad, V.N.Purav Marg, Sion - Chunabhatti (E), Mumbai – 400022

Last Updated on Saturday, 12 February 2011 05:29
 
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