Category Archives: Astronomy

PechaKucha Night Volume 9

I got an invitation to talk in PechaKucha Night Hyderabad volume 9, last week. I spoke about basics of Astronomy and how it evolved as my hobby. I also got to meet a lot of talented and creative people. The video recording is going to be released after sometime. Till then let me share some photos taken by my friends.

Some of the pictures of mine are below and other pictures can be found at the Facebook album and earlier videos can be found in their YouTube channel.


Following are the 20 slides are presented

Rough transcript of the talk is as follows

  1. This is the sky you can see right now if you look up (given there is no cloud). Several bright stars, Moon, Saturn, Mars etc.As a kid I always wondered of stars are random or has some meaning. Before I could invent I discovered that thousands years ago people have already charted it and imagined different animals and objects by connecting the stars, called constellations. Some look like as they are name after and some really don’t.
  2. I had idea about solar system but real sky observation started when my uncle gave me this book in late 90s and parents gifted me this binocular. I could recognize any portion of the sky and I could look into the bright nebulae and star clusters.
  3. Later on I gathered some hi-quality and binoculars and medium powered telescopes. I could look into faint objects and features of other planets.
  4. There is always some astronomy around us in the name of astrology. I was surprised the astrologers were fairly correct not in prediction but in calculation.Out of total 88 constellations they ignored all and only considered 12, through which the Sun, Moon and other planets pass and gave some random prediction based on their position.
  5. There were no astronomy column in newspaper and journals but I took advantage of the astrology section of it. I spotted the planets correctly in the sky using horoscope charts. I am a Scorpio and if they say Saturn is in my zodiac now, I will just spot the planet in the constellation in the sky.
  6. But some planets really affect us , not the way astrologers say but giant planet Jupiter’s gravity is so massive it protects the planet earth from many meteor or comets which could hit us and wipe human race like they did to dinosaurs 56 million years ago.This picture is of 1994 when a comet  broke apart and collided with Jupiter.
  7. People may say Saturn is evil in Astrology but its the most beautiful object in sky with its shining rings.This picture was taken by Cassini spacecraft along the edge of the ring which is just a kilometer thin. Largest moon titan and ring’s shadow can be seen. This gaseous giant is so light that it can float in water.This small picture in the bottom was taken by me through my telescope.
  8. Going father away in the solar system these pictures are of Uranus and Neptune taken by Voyager spacecraft.Uranus almost has no feature but can be seen in naked eye in fairly dark sky but Neptune is very far away and faint as seen of earth. It just completed one round of sun since its discovery.
  9. The closest of the planet to sun is Mercury and very hard to spot due to its proximity with Sun.It is even smaller than the largest Moon in the solar System Ganymede.
  10. The morning star is actually a planet Venus. It has so dense cloud that its hotter than mercury due to green house affect and does not let us see the surface with any telescope. It has phases like moon when seen through telescope.This picture of surface is from Soviet craft Venera 13 which managed to land after several failure attempt.
  11. Most of the movies showed the aliens comes from Mars but we did not find any trace, however we found a lot of water in the polar area as ice.The picture is taken by me when it was in constellation Leo few months back and brightest.In the right bottom a typical sun set as it looks like from Mars.
  12. A typical Earth rise looks like this from Moon and creates can be seen through my telescope easily especially.Right side one is an eclipse photo montage create by my friend Nikhil during Lunar Eclipse on 15th Dec 2011. Lunar surface look reddish copper color during totality due to diffracted sun light through earth’s thin atmosphere.
  13. Pluto is now categorized as   dwarf planet because its size and  awkward revolution around sun. Above is the best resolution we could get from Hubble space telescope revolving around earth. The first ever space craft with fly by Pluto is the new horizons in 2015 and may look like this artist’s impression.
  14. This shows the scale of size of each planet and sun, earth being so tiny , the scale of distances are also incredible. The bottom image is a family portrait of solar system taken by Voyager in 1990.
  15. Going beyond solar system all the stars we see in night sky belongs to our own milky way galaxy of which sun is a constituent star. But we have neighboring galaxy called Andromeda which is the farthest and the only objects we can see in naked eye in dark sky.
  16. Voyager is one of the most successful space craft sent in 1977 , now sailing at the edge of solar system so far away that one signal takes around 13 hours to reach earth. Its the farthest object we have ever sent.
  17. This is Solar Eclipse in Jan 15 and me and my colleague made a pin hole camera to project’s sun on to one of the side of the box. It was an annular eclipse where moon was bit close to earth could not cover sun totally.This was longest eclipse of this millennium.
  18. Recently we witnessed the transit of Venus, Nikhil stacked his photos to generate the awesome image in the left side. The right side one is from my camera , you can see some sun spots which are a bit lower temperature are on Sun’s surface
  19. We also occasionally go out for stargazing, especially during winter. Top picture was taken with Amgonna friends , you may see some known faces in this.Bottom one was taken during leonid meteor shower on 17th Nov, this is a long exposure of ten minutes where people were moving around.
  20. I will leave with you a picture of earth which may not be very interesting taken from a vintage point near Saturn when Voyager turned its camera back towards us. Its just a pixel of dust suspended in the sun beam but every one you love , hate or ever known and every one who ever lived were in it. This is just attempt to show our place in this corner of the  universe and solitude. We have to deal with each other more kindly , preserve and cherish, as this pixel is the only place ever harbor life known yet.
Update 2nd July
Pechakucha Hyderabad Night Volume 9 featured in the Hans India article.


Photos : Venus Transit

Finally witnessed the long awaited Venus transit. Few of my Astronomer and Photographer friends gathered together before sunrise and enjoyed the rare view. The view was initially bit blocked by the clouds adjacent to east horizon but it became crystal clear afterwards. Following are some of the pictures taken by my friends.

Venus Transit on 06th June 2012 from Hyd.

Venus Transit
Black drop effect during Venus Transit on 06th June 2012 from Hyd

There are few awesome pictures taken by Harsha as well . Photo 1, Photo 2

Finally here are pictures of the session  taken by me.

Also watch the Ultimate Transit Video by Nasa

Upcoming Venus Transit

As most of you would know tomorrow’s sunrise will be special. No, the sunrise will still happen in the east direction :) but it will rise along with planet Venus, right in front of it. Sun will rise in Hyderabad around 0542 Hours, the transit would have begun by that time. The transit will continue till 1001 Hrs. Me and few of my friends are will be hoping for clear sky so that we can view through out solar glasses and capture photos using solar filters.
Sun filter glasses for safe viewing

Following is the schedule of this transit

Sunrise on the venus transit day

In the above simulated picture it is assumed that the horizon is clear but actually the sun will start appearing just before 6 AM.

first contact | 3:39 am IST | Wednesday, June 6, 2012
second contact | 3:57 am IST | Wednesday, June 6, 2012
maximum | 6:59 am IST | Wednesday, June 6, 2012
third contact | 10:01 am IST | Wednesday, June 6, 2012
fourth contact | 10:19 am IST | Wednesday, June 6, 2012
sunset | 6:50 pm IST | Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Venus transiting out of the sun

Source :

While its highly recommended that you gather a pair of working solar glasses and go out
and watch the transit as it is last of our life time. The last was in 2004 and next one
will be in 2117, there will be some virtual ways to watch it as well in case you are traveling or do not find any gears in this last moment.

I leave you with a picture of sun taken with my camera of course with solar filters gifted by my colleague and fellow astronomer Nikhil Tungare , who himself shot couple of beautiful images of sun with very prominent sunspots just few days before the transit event.
Sun through solar glass

Event information source :

Update: Just found the 1882 Venus transit video animation

Astronomy Quiz # 1

Astronomy Quiz 1One of my colleague and good friend Manohar Burra created these nice set of quiz questions for our local Astronomy club. He is also an Software Engineer, Quiz Master and an Amateur Astronomer. I thought of sharing everybody and check their knowledge. Let us know in comments how many you could answer (of course without any help, especially web search, c’mon be honest with yourself ;) ). There is no prizes for correct answers but I think this is one of the ways you refresh your Astronomy knowledge. I know some of the questions are really easy but I am sure its very tough to answer all 25 questions without any help. I think you can solve at least 10 even if you are not into Astronomy.

If the font is small you can download the PDF by clicking the download button at the bottom or go directly to the full screen mode

If you like the questions or any other feedback, don’t hesitate to comment right below this post or tweet @ManoharBurra. He will more than happy to hear any kind of criticism.  If you like please send the your answers to him in the given email at the end of the questions and I promise he will acknowledge it and thank you. Reach out to him if you have any question regarding Astronomy , especially theoretical ones.

PS: The hoax about me being giving away one of my telescope if somebody answers more than 20 is really a hoax ! ( promoted by the author )

Stargazing session with Amgonna and friends

Me and my friends at work have been stargazing session since the beginning of the winter. However it never materialized. Sometimes full moon dominance, sometimes volunteer activities at work, every now and then there was some reason for unavailability of common free time. To be honest, push from my side was also less because of personal/family functions and shifting house etc. Suddenly we realized it’s April and with clouds prevailing every now and then probably the last chance of these season for stargazing.



Conditions : We knew we missed the best conditions to view sky in the winter in December/January and opposition of mars on 5th April but it was still not too late. However opposition of Saturn was just few days back on 17th April and was one of the best time to see it. Weather was unpredictable but we had our eyes at sky and forecast report every hour and finally there was some encouraging sign on the session day. It was almost 80% clear sky when we started.

People : We already had some enthusiastic people my work who were keen to go for a stargazing session. To attract more number of people I also floated the idea in the AHAA mailing list, however we were still missing a platform like where we could collaborate and plan the event out. Problem ! asks money for creating groups and its too formal for few armature astronomers trying to discuss mutually to plan event according to availability and suggestions of other participants. For event somebody have to really take a lead and decide the time and place well advance before the event without the consent of other participants. This did not look right. Somebody suggested to use one of my friend’s start-up venture . It not only have a simple registration process/Facebook-login feature but also much more collaborative. Everyone can suggest location, time and ideas during the planning phase of the event.. So we did it. We planned everything transparently in the following forum


 Equipments : We had a 5 Inch Celestron Newtonian reflector and a 90mm Maksutov Cassegrain with us. We also had a 80X20 Binoculars and several SLR cameras and Tripods. We had printed some of the sky charts and brought a LED red light for reading them. We also used Laptops, iPad, Android phones loaded with Stellarium and Google Sky Maps.

Once we reached outside the city, sky looked bit darker but light from one of the building construction sites reduced the sky visibility. After some basic discussions on celestial coordinates , Zodiac, Ecliptic we move on and reached the Osmaan Sagar lake side at  Gandipet.

Artificial Satellite ? We saw a bright star like thing moving very fast across the sky and within second realized that it is one of the artificial satellite.I narrowed down the possibilities and most likely we saw H-2A R/B as per It shined a lot for a second, the panels may have reflected the sunlight directly.

When we had visited this site last time on 17th April for Leonid Meteor shower it was very dark. This time timing was bit early so we had some lights sources causing pollution. As cloud cover was coming up, we assembled the telescopes quickly and pointed at Saturn right away which was rising in the eastern sky with Spica in Virgo. For most of the people it was first time experience. They had seen the magnificent NASA images but never saw it in their own eyes. It was jaw dropping. Most of the people said the word “Wow” as soon as they saw a glimpse of the ring. It was so sharp many checked if I had pasted a Saturn image at the back of the telescope. Some said it looked like a postage stamp of Saturn stuck at the other end. Due to cloud cover we did not really attempt to see the deep sky objects but we went through most of the constellation. We also saw the crescent shape of Venus through the telescope it looked like a zoomed out Moon. Finally we attempted to see Mars but due to wind we could not stabilize the telescope and failed to view  the polar ice caps at higher magnification.

Discussion about space and astronomy in general went on among the people as Manohar and Nikhil shared their knowledge with others. We also discussed about the basic designs of the telescope and how it works.

When we were about to end the session few cops were roaming around and asked if we have permission for movie video shooting and we explained to them that we were actually looking at stars, nothing else. It would have been a strange thing for them I hope people in India take more interest in Astronomy and do sessions like this. Sometimes I feel its more fun and relaxing than any other entertainment we know of. I wish kids get addicted to telescope instead of gaming consoles. I have been a strong believer of outdoor sports always and I believe in outdoor activities too.

I am really thankful to all those who joined the session, specially those who extended their help  bringing the telescopes to site and assemble. I don’t really appreciate people doing all the talking about interest in astronomy but not care to spend even for two hours for some real observation. People who showed up were not all amateur astronomers but they were passionate people in their respective fields. I met people who left their easy jobs and started their own ventures and follow their own interests like media and ad or travel every weekend to peruse their hobbies and interest . There is no doubt they will succeed in their fields. This kind of passion separates them others who just want to do everything from an A/C room, possibly over the internet.

We  have plans to visit Rangapur Observatory which has a very big telescope and contributed to astrometry and Birla Planetorium Hyderabad which recently deployed a 11 Inch telescope in their premises. If anybody have any information how to get in touch with them and pay visit, please share with me (possibly in the comment of this post)

Links :

All photos | Buying a Telescope

Yahoo Group | Association of Hyderabad Amateur Astronomers  

Facebook | Association of Amateur Astronomers Hyderabad 

Saturn : Jewel of our Solar System

Last summer when Saturn used to be at its best , high in sky I looked at it for the 1st time through a telescope and I was blown away by the beauty of its rings. This is a dream come true for any kid who wants to be an astronomer. It was like a milestone.  Yesterday I was doing a stargazing session and pointed my telescope at the rising Saturn again . It was a bit faint but I could not resist seeing in my own eyes again. It was about magnitude 0.7 yesterday.

I was using my Orion 90mm StarMax Table top due to lack of man power for carrying the large telescope. I used an eyepiece of 10mm to get magnification about 125X. Rings were very sharp and probably I also figured out the Cassini division. I could not locate the 9.7 magnitude Titan because it was near horizon and city light was blocking it.

I don’t  have the adapter for A-Focal photography yet but I took multiple shots with my digital camera succeeded in few of them and the sharpest I could take is as follows . I got this picture with ISO 1600, Exposure 1/40 and Aperture 3.3 and focus set to infinity.
Saturn on 18 FEB 2012
Mars and Rising Saturn

The above picture covers Mars at the top in Leo and Saturn at the bottom in Virgo, I will post the annotated one soon.

Lunar Eclipse 10 December 2011

This was last eclipse of the year. I had already missed the longest total lunar eclipse this year on 15th June because of bad weather. Unfortunately this time also it was cloudy when the eclipse started. However the sky became clear even before half of the moon was covered by earth’s shadow. Also I was at a place which was bit far from the city light, hence managed to capture some nearby stars also.

Totality - Total Lunar Eclipse 10 Dec 2011 Phase 3
My friend and colleague Nikhil Tungare managed to take the full montage of the eclipse with Cyber Towers in the perspective.
Total Lunar Eclispe 10-Dec-2011 Complete Sequence
He has also taken an amazing picture of totality.

I am waiting for pictures taken by few other photographer friends of mine and will post soon. Here is the album of few of other phases during the eclipse.

Stargazing and Leonid meteor Shower 2011

It had been a while I bought a couple of telescopes but I had not used it outdoors yet. I had been using them only from my building terrace which is full of light pollution. I wanted to go out , at least with the small table top telescope. With encouragement from couple of my friends Srini and LSP we went to a nearby place where sky was relatively dark and one could see stars up to magnitude +4.5 (Naked eye limit in the darkest sky is about 6). This was just enough to see the the couple of stars (mu And and nu And) in Taurus which can be used to locate the M31 (Andromeda Galaxy, the only naked eye object outside our milky way ). We reached around 11pm on 17th Jan at the spot. I was expecting the moonrise at 12 midnight but to my surprise, the horizon was so low (we were at a higher place) that moon appeared at 11.30 itself. It was large and orange colored. We started setting up telescopes quickly to avoid moon light glare in sky. We only spotted very few objects as it was 1st session of this kind.

LSP immediately got busy shooting moon with his excellent photography skills and professional camera and lenses. Here is a 10 minutes exposure photo taken by him. All of us appear as faint shadows  as we kept moving around , in front of the camera

A long exposure photograph for 10 minutes. One can see our setup of telescopes and the rising moon in the background. I guess the trails in the top right are produced by the stars of the Orion constellation.

We looked at Moon,  Jupiter , four of its moon , Orion Nebula , M45 through the telescope with various magnification e.g. 50X and 125X, 225X using various eyepiece. Everybody except me were lucky enough to see some meteors of annual leonid shower also. I managed to take some long exposure photos of Orion , Canis Major , Canis Minor , Persius Taurus and Cassiopea.

We also tried some afocal photography with highest magnification. LSP was successful in taking a very sharp picture of moon and its craters after several attempts.

This is by far the closest I've seen of our Moon. Now count the craters there!! -LSP

Finally when constellation Leo rose  , we expected some more meteors but shining moon made lot of them invisible. Then the red planet Mars rose very close to Regulus (brightest star in Leo).

Orion StarMax 90mm Table top

My first telescope was a Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ which was quite big to carry. I recently bought another small one , Orion StarMx 90mm table top. Thanks to my friends for delivering it all the way from USA to my house. This is a portable telescope with 90 mm of aperture which  good enough to see bright nebulae. This has a Maksutov-Cassegrain design because of  which it has a high focal length of 1250mm even tough the size of the main tube is small .  It does not have a tripod but can be mounted on ordinary photo tripods. The mount is alt-azimuth, i.e it move horizontally and vertically. It comes with a battery powered LED red dot view finder without any magnification , which makes visible naked eye  objects easy to center even with low focal length eyepiece with high  magnification. On the other hand my old telescope had a cross hair based finder-scope with some magnification which sometimes makes it difficult to spot objects because low field of view without adding to the brightness. This telescope came with two eyepiece one with 25mm focal length ( 50X magnification )  and another with 10mm (125X magnification)


I tried to do some afocal-photography using the telescope and my digital camera and managed to take the following pictures, which turned out to be better than the ones from 5 inch Newtonian telescope.

Overall , the clarity was marginally better in this telescope as compared to the previous one for the bright objects like moon and Jupiter even tough it’s aperture is  smaller. Also since this one is portable I can take this to nearby darker places for better viewing.