TheCalmDev (Dev J Haldar)

ravings, rantings and ramblings

Moon Struck

Watching a meteorite shower is interesting. Very, in fact! A celestial sighting. Just that it was on a Thursday night and usually, my Thursdays are booked. The meteorite shower had some competitionfrom other events like dinner with wife, an extremely knackered wife who’s home from work in Abu Dhabi and a super-gravitating ennui. Reasons heavy enough to stub the shooting stars out.

But, there we were, driving with our close friend, heading out to watch some heavenly showers. We went straight out to the innards of Sharjah where the only light on streets was from a minaret of a mosque. It was half eleven. We reached our destination – a half opened gate and a massive plot of land filled with dust in a district called Zubair. After we got used to the darkness, we could see swarms of people of all silhouettes!

The Dubai Astronomy Club meets here, at their camp regularly, to see celestial happenings and discuss unearthly matters. The Emaraati gentleman heading it, reminded me of the mannequins in Ibn Batuta Mall demonstrating the ancient skills and penchant for Arab star-gazing! He smiled. Spoke to all who had a question for him – kids, young and old alike.

He had set up two massive telescopes. People peered in them. The moonlight was soothing and lit up all that was happening on ground. My wife took the slim white telescope to see Saturn. She stuck her head on the eye-piece. And suddenly bellowed “oh my God, that’s Saturn!” I took my turn. I saw the intermittantly shining dot with my naked eye and then peeped into the telescope. Oh my God! That was indeed Saturn! White. The rings were defined clearly. It looked like the digital zero, with a strike running through it.

Hasan Ahmed Al Hariri, our night-sky shepherd introduced us to the various constellations in the sky. He also had a light sabre, that made me as excited as any Star Wars fan would still be to see a light sabre (or a laser sword). That laser was so sharp that it almost sliced up the night sky as Al Hariri showed kids and oldies alike where what was. It felt as if he was showing us around his home. He knew the skies like the back of his home.

My friend disappeared into the darkness with his camera to do some photography and I just soaked in the buzz. Many others took out mats and durries and settled on the sand. Mothers made a lazy walk to their SUVs and got out some food and drink hampers. There was a happy electricity in the air. The meteorite shower might not be visible because the moon was shining bright. We did see a few shooting stars, though. Now, the telescopes were being slowly trained on the moon.

Enthusiasts started taking turns to gaze at it. Excited kids shared their experiences to their parents with an emphatic “I saw the moon” that met with affectionate cooing from adults. I stood in queue and got to see the moon, up close and personal. It was a huge ball of white light. A few sketchy circles that I presumed were the craters and as I moved my eye sight to the right, I could see the dramatic play of light and darkness. Excited, I hopped across to the bigger telescope. I waited my turn. The telescope was being reset. It was now my turn. I carefully came close to the eye piece and slowly peeped through it. The white light almost blinded me. I moved my head around and could see the craters so clearly. Like a dried pimple. Not the best of similies but I dont give a peanut. The experience of seeing the moon THIS close was very exciting, to say the least. As I moved right, I could clearly see the curvature of the moon till the point where it got swallowed by the darkness. The dramatic ‘bowls in black’ were the bigger craters that were more in shadows than light. As I was alone in that world from the eye-piece to the moon, I was reminded of Tintin’s adventure on the Moon and how he and his team were equally stupefied when they saw the satellite. I was also thinking, why weren’t there any more expeditions to the moon after the only one in history. Or was that reallly a farce?

Not the time and place for it. I had my lovely audience with the moon. I flicked out my mobile and snapped a careless photo of it. Tried to get what my eye saw. What I have is miles away from it, but each time I see this half-blurry photograph, I remember the time when I was moonstruck.

For more information, you can look them up (Dubai Astronomy Group) on their website: http://www.dubaiastronomy.com/
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