Sky watch 9

When I came to Finland, the land of the midnight sun, 4 months back (yeah time sure flows by), all I could see was days and days on end, hardly ever night. The sun would be gleaming bright in our eyes beyond 10:30pm in the “night” and we would be sporting goggles. The “night” or rather a period of almost complete dimming of light (which never really resulted in a black night); in other words twilight, was barely 2 hours long from 1-3 am or so. Sleeping was a pain. Thick curtains was the only way out. Midnight in LaplandStill being the light sleeper that I am, I would wake up at 4am, 5am etc. only to discover that it was still “night”. The scientific term for this would be “white night“. It took me about a month and a half to see the nightsky at all. Civil twilight is supposed to last throughout summer in regions outside Arctic circle but above 60 degrees North. As a result, the nights are never dark and black. Whereas in India, immediately after sunset, the night takes over instantly, since the length of the twilight is heavily influenced by the lattitude. I had almost started to forget what stars in the night twinkled like. The first time I spotted a star here, which then appeared to be something bright perched on the top of a tree, it was *so* bright and twinkling, that I actually thought there was a sparking going on up there. I would regularly go out for late night walks all the time. At 12am I would set out and get a glimpse of the gradually darkening sky with its various hues. Something like that is unimaginable back home in India. Both geographically and socially. But then I had to be out. After all it was twilight.
It took me another couple of weeks, before I saw the moon out here. Again, the first time I saw it, I didn’t realise what I was looking at. It seemed to merge with the bright street lights at first. Suddenly I realised that this light had a slightly different shape and colour than the regular streetlight.By the moon and the stars and the sky Now I know why they call it a pie in the sky. The moon is BIG and with just that crescent which makes it appear as if someone has hung it out there. I could see why fairy tales depict the sun and the moon in the same frame, as if they coexist! I saw that it is exactly that way here…the sunset doesn’t exactly vanish into the black, inky darkness when the moon is already out with bright little stars. The whole sky seems to be divided into two – one having the aftereffects of a sunset, the other having a black night with a moonrise and twinkling stars.
The sun and the moon both, appear to follow slightly different paths than what we are used to (in India). The sun is never overhead. It cuts a low arc and is mostly near the horizon. Near the North pole, in fact, it is supposed to go around in a circle and never set actually (in the summers). Because of it being so close to the horizon, it’s *really* dazzling, though we are quite used to (in India), the sun being a pinkish-orange ball when it’s that close to the horizon. Again, the moon seems to oscillate up and down in the sky at least back home but not so here. It lies pretty low in the sky and never have I observed so far, the pronounced up and down oscillation (akin to a person nodding his head) in these parts of the world.
AnotherAurora Borealis phenomenon quite common around the Arctic circle is the Aurora Borealis or the Northern lights. So far, I have not been lucky enough to get a glimpse, though I have been monitoring solar activity on and off. Hopefully I shall see something when I go to the Arctic circle soon.
With time, of course the days started getting shorter (technically after the midsummer eve). About a month or so back, they reached normalcy (according to what I have been used to in India). Though, I noticed that the days were receding *quite* fast. Each day, the sunrise is about 3 minutes later and sunset, 3 minutes earlier. That would mean that on an average we are losing 6 minutes per day. That means that in a month, we would be short by 3 hours! It’s already quite weird to have a sunrise at 8:15am or so. Soon it would be as dark as night at 9am. *shudder*. I am used to seeing a bright moon in the sky at 5pm in the evening courtesy my stint in Japan, but am not used to it being dark in the mornings also. If one outstretches ones thumb and index finger to the maximum and takes them to be the length of the day and then joins them together gradually, it would depict the way the days are getting shorter and the nights are gaining in. Eventually, there would be no “day” left at the point where the thumb meets the index finger. Technically this would happen completely at the Arctic circle, not Helsinki. It seems there’re a lot of seasonal depression related ailments that happen in Scandinavian countries due to the “no light” factor. I hope to be out before the thumb meets the index finger!

Close encounters of the 3rd kind

Flights of fantasies apart (not to forget the various scientific concepts I might have overlooked in the previous fictional account) let me write something about the actual thing. On 27th, I went to office by my car so that I could leave for Nehru planetarium on my own time and also get back conveniently. Despite my efforts, I could set out from office only at 6 (which is the official closing time anyway, but quite early for me). The moment I reached National Highway – 8, I was accosted by a huge traffic jam, spanning 2-3 traffic lights. It seemed to be unusual. Anyway, somehow managed to crawl through and decided to take Rao Tula Ram Marg and then the Moti Bagh crossing. It turned to be another big traffic packed segment. Unusual again, that road is pretty empty usually. To top it all, there was a lot of police around and some turnings had been barricaded for some reason. The Mumbai blasts had happened just a day before. The idea that the whole junta might be going for a view of Mars, also struck me and I abhorred the crowds already. Before Amit points out that I could have taken the ariel route, well, I didn’t want to rob Mars of its attention. Had I done that, all junta would have accumulated to watch *me* flying!

I managed to reach Nehru Planetarium after a 1.5 hr ordeal. The parking rush outside gave me an idea of what to expect inside. A show on Mars was supposed to be shown after which ppl were to proceed to Teen Murti Lawns to view Mars through a telescope. I got inside since I was under the impression that some special arrangements would be there to project something on the dome, on which normally all stars and planets etc are shown during regular shows. That was a mistake. I had gone alone and after waiting for ½ an hour, somehow managed to jostle my way (or rather got jostled) into the dome. Once there, we were shown a powerpoint presentation! The poor folks didn’t even have much of an idea of how to set up the projector! Somehow they managed to get the show started and some senior lady urged everyone to maintain decorum (expected lecture), after which she proceeded to explain something about the celestial event taking place.

She talked about Mars and oppositions and Mars’ retrograde motion. The retrograde motion has also been mentioned by Kalidas in one of his works and by Shakespeare in ‘As you like it’. Interesting facts, but nevertheless time consuming for someone eager to view Mars through the telescope. After the show we were asked to proceed to the lawns for the viewing of Mars. I literally jogged to the lawns to get a good position in queues (if any, though a thing *not* to be expected). When I reached there, the spectacle resembled that of an open air exhibition. Small crowds seemed to be sprouting everywhere, wherever feasible (something like the flash mob concept in US). I trudged to the circumference of a mob and with some difficulty could spot a woman as the centre of it all. Realising that it was a news channels crew and nothing to do with Mars, I tried my hand at several such mobs, before I finally spotted a telescope at the centre of one such mob.

Mars was clearly visible till then by the naked eye. The moment I reached somewhere near the telescope, the clouds descended on the skies and that was the end of everybody’s hopes. A collective sigh could be heard from the crowd (the ones interested in Mars. The ones interested in getting their face on TV were probably already swooning over the female presenters). Within minutes, the same senior lady turned up there, trying to calm the crowds and urging them to fall in queue. Before I knew it, she had actually pushed me in some kind of queue there. Far from the maddening crowd was what I wanted to be, but since I had gone all the way there, and spent all that time I decided to stick around *till* I saw Mars through the telescope.

One could prominently hear a lady in the queue shouting at everyone around her and questioning their right to be where they were. She made an interesting sight, especially since she was the only one shouting irritatingly, much to the amusement of everyone else. No one was reacting to her so far, but finally when she asked a young man to get away from the queue since she could not breathe, she got an interesting retaliation and an argument ensued.

Bitchy Lady: Get away from here, can’t you see that I have kids along with me and that they can’t even breathe because of you ppl standing here?
Young man: Why? Do you think that the air that you are breathing comes from this direction only?
BL: Just get lost. Get away from here.
YM: What’s your problem? We aren’t getting in the queue and we can stand anywhere we want.
BL: Such ill-mannered ppl! You won’t understand. When you get married and have kids, you’ll understand.
YM: Have you? (wonder whatever this meant, it could have several meanings, and one of them or maybe all of them surely pissed off the lady, beyond control)
BL: Get away or I’ll give you a tight slap.
YM: Oh really, just try to.
Somebody Intervening: Please stop it, please move away or a fight will start..

Now the lady cast her attention to all others around her and she spotted me. Suddenly she started questioning me, about since when had I been in the (so called) line. Before I knew it, all eyes were on me and not to forget all lights too, and all cameras too, just watching the action!! It was an amazing feeling, knowing that you might be on camera and having to fight it out for your position in the queue. I gave BL a straight look in the eye that meant ‘Don’t you dare mess with me’ and her husband started in a typical bhaisaaab drawl – ‘Sister, mein aapke haath jodtaa hoon, please line banaeeye’. I told him there’s no need to ‘Haath Jodo’. Had half a mind to tell him to just ‘tame the shrew’ and everything would be ‘as you like it’. Somehow the cameras had had their fill and went away. In the meantime, some ‘eminent’ people came with a group of photographers, just to pose and get their snaps clicked as they put their eye next to the telescope, with the crowd sniggering behind their back at the fact that they were doing this ‘exercise’ when Mars wasn’t visible.

The clouds still blocked everyone’s view. The crowds were urged by the ppl incharge to go home and come the next day. The crowds dispersed somewhat and BL and her family also left thankfully. Suddenly there was lightening and ppl started cheering as if there were some Martians about to land. Someone in the crowd, took a cue and started singing ‘Koi Mil Gaya’. That made the atmosphere a li’l lighter. In a couple of minutes, the clouds moved and now came the last leg of the long journey. The telescopes were focussed and I finally got a dekko at Mars through the telescope. The viewing was pretty disappointing as the magnification of Mars was very little. However I would like to imagine that I saw an intensely red planet with some dark spots on it. After all I did have a close encounter with it. 🙂

A Date with Mars

Whoosh.. bump.. screech.. ow.. ow… ow.. glide.. phew.. there..managed a safe landing.. Hi Folks, I am back from my date with Mars and boy… was it heavenly!! As I had said I would be reporting about my adventures soon.. so here I am. So let me get straight to the point..On 27th night, I was watching Mars intently, waiting for an indication.. to be beamed over. I sat concentrating on the red dot in the sky.. till the time I could see nothing else but the red dot..(Something like Arjuna) With time I started hearing some inviting beeps and blips and suddenly felt as light as a feather.. I realised I was being *beamed* over to Mars!! From a distance, everything there, seemed to be bathed in red. On actually landing on Mars, I realised that it was very much like our planet, in terms of geographical surroundings. I mean there was *land* that I could feel and not a mass of gases or molten lava or anything like that. I could breathe easy.. and I suddenly felt an unexplainable calm descend over me. I wasn’t apprehensive about the idea of being on Mars anymore. I decided to get a li’l more adventurous and explore the vast expanse of land in front of me. All around me, I could just see just land and no inhabitation. Seemed weird, .. since I had been beamed there, someone must have been doing it! But there was no sign of anyone.
Suddenly realisation of various other differences in our planet and this planet on which I was a guest, dawned on me. The land didn’t have any greenery! There were no trees and no grass..It seemed to be night there but it wasn’t absolutely dark. There was a reddish hue to everything. I couldn’t see water anywhere and set out to find something to quench my thirst with. Almost as if someone could read my mind, I spotted something that looked like icicles hanging from a rock. Albeit my apprehensions, something made me decide that I should try it as a substitute for water..In fact I could almost hear a voice in my head urging me to try it. Weird again, I *dont* hear voices in my head but this time I was sure I did!!
So try I did, and it turned out to be cool ice after all. By now, I started wondering about why or how Mars was the way it is and what made it so barren, yet not unwelcoming. Maybe, there was life on the planet at some point of time..but signs of existing life were definitely not there. Maybe long before the Earth got inhabited, there did exist a whole spatial colony out there, and maybe because of the heat of the Sun dwindling down, the conditions were not favourable enough for life on it any longer. But then, since someone had beamed me up there, there must be someone controlling the whole episode. As I thought about this, again a voice popped into my head and gave me an affirmative indication! I swirled around but there was no one I could attribute the voice to. I looked up and saw the same familiar stars that I could see from my balcony every night.
It was time to be getting back to bed. And just as I thought about it, I heard another voice bidding me adieu. Again, no one! I went back to where I had landed and I could see a tunnel of reddish light extending up in the sky. As I stepped closer to it, somehow I seemed to have the answers to all that I was wondering about. Men are from Mars… that just explained the absence of intelligent life on the planet 🙂

Close Encounters of the Cosmic Kind 1

As 27 August draws nearer, my spirits soar higher. Every night, as I look out at the South Eastern skies, I see the reddish looking prominent planet. At times it’s covered by clouds, which look like the fluff of a cosmic lamb, running across the skies and exposing a bright red dot once its whizzed past. At times, it looks like a bright precious stone embedded in the sand, being exposed after the sea-wave-shaped clouds have rippled past. Still at times, my previous date, the BIG moon, looks down on it and me alike. I can almost see the amused moon faced smile there. I bet, it conveys – “I couldn’t handle her.. you try it this time”

Even as I write this, I am hurtling 20kms closer to Mars every moment. Like me, this friend of mine, shows its true colours only after twilight.

Intrigued enough by its regular appearances in my balcony every night (As Juliet would have been with Romeo’s), I wonder whether it’s time to take off on a journey, yet unexplored. Would the proximity of 55.76 million km have some unexplained effects on our own planet? After all the last time it happened, only primeval primates inhabited our Earth. I better check it out for myself and for the cause of humanity.. err..ahem…

Are there really any green little men out there? Is there any intelligent life out there? Are we going to establish alien contact? (No, Koi Mil Gaya has nothing to do with my musings, and neither do I plan to see it). Are there already some Martians masquerading as earthlings, observing us, studying us…?

I can’t contain myself any longer. I better check it out on my own while I can. So here I go in search of some intelligent life. Men are from Mars or so I heard. On our planet, I have come across twerps mainly. Beep Beep Blip Blip Beep Beep .. I can make out some inviting signals. Being the true Venusian that I am (After all Women are from Venus), here I come Martians…

I wonder what life would be like on Mars. Would they understand freedom, peace and love or would they be akin to hatred, enmity and the like.. would be reporting about my adventures soon… whoosh..

10.000 Lightyears somewhere out in space
They practice love and they know what it takes
No competition and no jealousy
Living in freedom and humanity

10.000 Lightyears away, lightyears away far from pain
Came to a place full of grace and of peace
10.000 Lightyears away from our fear

Suddenly it’s ringing in my ears
Why is it now I don’t wanna be here
I feel like flow in that clock at the wall
God, how I wish that this dream would go on

– 10,000 Lightyears – Boney M

Celestial Odyssey 1

Last night’s journey back from office was unexpectedly calm and peaceful. Set out at 9pm by the office cab bracing myself for the 1.5 hour ordeal. Surprisingly the traffic laden (no this isn’t osama’s relative), bumpy and potholed stretch of road was pretty empty. Of course it was still as bumpy and potholed as ever but at least there was a scope to bypass those unintentional ‘speed breakers’.
The pleasant breeze (sans the dirt and pollution) lightly caressed my face, delighting me. Strains of good music playing in the background made the effect even more ethereal. The breeze started toying naughtily, with my hair…throwing wisps of silken hair on my face. My hair was still not completely dry from the hair wash I had given it in the morn. (one of the disadvantages of butt length hair) As a result the cool wind managed to cool my poor brain which was overwrought with mental tension. I felt like throwing open my hair and feeling the wind streaming down the strands right from the follicle to the tip. (One of the thrills of butt length hair). It reminded me of the bike rides that we used to have back in Pune, when we (literally) threw caution to the winds at 90kmph on hilly Pune roads.
Seeped in nostalgia and complacently holding on to the moment, I snapped back into focus, realizing what I had been staring at for so long wasn’t just anything .. it was our very own moon, looking as full and brimming with moonlight as ever. It was SO big and close, it seemed like a scene straight out of ‘Bruce Almighty’ , except Bruce wasn’t there..but the Almighty was definitely showing off his breathtaking stunts to me :-). We crossed the back side of the Indira Gandhi International Airport..another peaceful stretch with thankfully no high rise buildings blocking my view. I kept playing hide and seek with the moon…saw it next to the beautiful Naval Officers Mess – Varuna, making it look like some Arabian structure with lots of mystery and magic. Suddenly I noticed a low flying plane going over the moon. From that distance, it looked as if it was literally ‘going over the moon’ :-). The beauty of a man made miracle next to a God made one, made that scene eligible for the best portrait award or something.
Soon we reached the Ridge Road, one of the best roads here. Because of the recent flyover constructions at Dhaula Kuan, not many people use it and the street lights have also been switched off temporarily. The ridge road is the last of the little bit left of the ridgewood forest. The wind is absolutely the best here. You can smell the fresh forest air to your hearts *and* your lungs content, hear the jungle around you and pass by unnoticed and unheard. No lighting adds to the jungle effect. The moon still kept its date with me as it followed me everywhere I went. The moment I would cast a glance at it, there it would be imploring me to somehow get photographic memory and lock this moment forever. Soon, I reached home, all fresh and calm and slept like a baby.