Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Tour plan rehashed

It has been a very long time since I last updated this blog and I should have been more regular I guess. Well, part of the good news is that the Tour is still on.

The original tour was planned so that I go to all these places in one go. This turned out to be somewhat cumbersome. Partly because different places have different times when they're available for visitors. The weather also is different in different places and the Tour would either have been really difficult or a breeze accordingly. So, rather than choose and select the timing in a slot of 1 to 2 months, I thought it would be much better to do it over a longer time frame. This also lets me break up my tour in such a way that I extend it all the way upto the Astrosat launch early next year. It would be a great opportunity for me to watch that launch if not from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre then from a place nearby where I can get a good view.

I have also finalised a good outline for the way things will pan out before, during and after a visit. The updates will, ofcourse depend on Internet connectivity etc but this is the rough outline.

Before the Trip:
1. A pointer to the website, instructions on how to go there and whom to contact.
2. Plans, who I am going to meet and accept reader questions
3. Point to the Wikipedia page and a look at the content there.

During the Trip:
1. Photos will be posted to Picasa Web, slideshow will be inserted in the blog where you can view them.
2. Videos will be posted to YouTube. I will try to transcribe the videos into text after I get back from the trip, for those who don't have speeds that support videos.
3. Blog updates, if possible.
4. Updates during the trip to my personal twitter account (when I get connectivity and if possible).

After the Trip:
1. Photos and videos that could not be uploaded will be uploaded.
2. Will try and make a Google Map on the Observatory along with instructions on getting there and navigation, if any.
3. Will update the Wikipedia entry.

In addition to all of the above, I would love to talk to anyone who would like to share my experiences in person and also want to learn more about observatories in India. Please spread the word and inform everyone interested in astronomy or space on this unique tour to the Astronomical Observatories of India. Stay tuned the first leg of the Telescopes of India tour is coming very soon.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Observatories on the Tour

Wishing one and all a Happy New Year. In the coming year, 2009, we will be going on a tour of some of the observatories in India. The trip can, perhaps be best described as a pilgrimage to the Holy places of astronomy in the country, with a connection to the heavens! I like how that snugly fits the description. So, without much ado, here is the list of observatories I plan on visiting, subject to their approval:

1. Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle
2. ARIES, Nainital
3. DU Observatory
4. Mt. Abu Observatory
5. Girawali Observatory
6. GMRT, Narayangaon
7. Osmania Univ Observatory, Hyderabad
8. CREST, Bangalore
9. Ooty Observatory
10.Vainu Bappu Observatory, Kavalur
11. Kodaikanal Observatory

In addition to going there physically and adding pictures and videos, I would also like to take the oppertunity to adding information related to all these observatories on various online sources - Wikimapia and Wikipedia. The entries on Wikipedia especially are deplorable. Updates on this blog will also include these efforts.

In addition, throughout the year, it would be lovely to interact with the many amateur astronomy clubs that dot India. From January 4 - 15 I will be travelling through Hyderabad, Vellore, Trichy and Thiruvanathapuram. If you happen to have an astronomy club on this route please inform me and I'll try to make it to your place during my journeys. These might be a good way to spend the nights!

Hopefully, by the end of 2009, I would have covered a fair cross section of the astronomy community in India.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Maps of Indian observatories

Perhaps, the second step. I have started putting all the observatories onto one single Google map. Right now, you might be able to view Hanle and Kodaikanal on the Map given below:

View Larger Map

You can catch the updates as they happen on the map by subscribing to the RSS feed for this map or view it in Google Earth. I think this is more fun to watch the updates than a plain old spread sheet (RSS feed for spreadsheet). But, it's your pick.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Details on Visit to Hanle

I just saw this in my inbox. Vikrant (from SPACE) had in his email to me referred to Tushar Prabhu from IIAp. So, it was great to see his email in my inbox. I think this gives you some idea of what it takes to go to the world's highest observatory at Hanle -

Sep-Oct is a nice time to visit when the minimum temperature would be between 0 and 5 C. Weather would be fine, though there is a small chance of light rain
or snow.

You will need to reach Leh and acclimatize yourself: full bed rest on
the first day and minimal activity on the second. You can proceed to
Hanle on the third, or better fourth day. It takes 7-8 hours
(effectively full day) to travel to Hanle from Leh. We have vehicles
plying once in a few days. You will thus need to make travel plans with
8-10 days available between Leh-Hanle-Leh.

He's also been kind enough to offer me to make arrangements for my stay and travel between Leh and Hanle. I think this might be a great way to start - from the highest observatory in the world!

ToIt Spreadsheet additions

ToIt expands as Telescopes of India tour.

Anyway, I got a couple of observatories from Ajay Talwar. You can see the updated spreadsheet here.
  • Sampuranand Telescope, ARIES, Nainital.
  • Mt. Abu Observatory, Gurushikhar.
He also told me about a telescope at DU and his own 20" Dobsonian Mobile telescope. Reference to an old British-era observatory at Thiruvananthapuram was also made.

Thanks for the links Ajay! I don't know whether the telescope @ DU qualifies because I'm looking at telescopes of the observatory kind. I know there are many amateurs all over the country with beautiful telescopes but I'm not sure how I'd go to every place with a telescope. Perhaps, that's for another tour - The Amateur Telescopes of India tour?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Observatories of India - Google Docs Spreadsheet

I have been putting together a list of the Observatories in India. I have managed to find about 8 of them including one ancient. These are the ones with their own website, which make them searchable on the Internet. I believe there are many more.

Want to help? This is the current list of observatories that I know of. If you know of any other observatory, please do let me know via email, or leave a comment here.

Telescopes of India Tour - Responses

First of all, I'd like to clarify that this tour is now being backed by SEDS India. It's an organisation that I have been leading for the past 4 years now and we're under the process of registeration.

Now that, that's out of the way, I have been getting quite a response to my yesterday's blog post and emails to several mailing lists that I have been on -

  • Manoj Pai from Confederation of Indian Amateur Astronomers (CIAA) wrote in with some words of advice. I really appreciate that.

  • I got a reply from Halit and Bijal from Space Generation Advisory Council asking for any help in communicating with IYA teams.

  • Svetlana Shkolyarfrom the 4Frontiers Corporation wrote to me. They've developed packaged tours for visiting space centres in the US. On the page, they've also mentioned about doing something similar in India, with ISRO. They've offered to do something similar in the US. It's an exciting prospect and I will definitely give it a thought.

  • Vikrant Narang from SPACE wrote in to me and has offered to give me a helping hand in organising trips in North India. Thanks, I'll get in touch with you if I need any help!

  • I've also got emails from Kalam Nagappan, whom I met during IAC and Rajdilwar about joining me on this trip.

  • Rashmi Bansal editior of the student mag JAM also wrote in. Turns out her dad works for ISRO! Cool!

  • Update: I've also got an offer from Planetary Society, India for free accomodation and visit to observatoryin Andhra Pradesh and facilitation of accomodation if more number of people with the help of Government of Andhra Pradesh.

Thanks for your emails guys.I will reply to you individually as soon as I can. Also, if you're planning to do something similar in your country, please do write in to me using the contact form.