On April 20, this year with a doubtful mind I pressed the send button for fund transfer to JVP (Jyotirvidya Parisanstha) an association of amateur astronomers and a non-profit organization. The reason was a stargazing experience at Abhyankar Farms, Pune.
A cousin of mine is a member of this organization and she suggested the place as a night outing for my older kid. I was super excited about this new experience and immediately went about coaxing my husband for the same. Surprisingly, even he agreed without much ado and so I made up my mind. However, by the time I got around to making payments I had a million doubts – late realization, you might say 😛
It was a star party, or a stargazing experience organized to view Lyrids meteor shower and sounded like a great experience, but as I had never attended a star party I wasn’t sure about what to expect! Also, as this was an overnight stargazing experience I wasn’t sure how well would my younger kid co-operate. It was an open farm, so I was also worried about the mosquitoes. Questions like place to sleep, food available, what if they got bored, were swimming in my mind and at a point I even mulled over cancelling the seats, however there was also this thrill of the unknown which I couldn’t conquer and so with a duel mind and a confused heart we set out for the star party on 22nd April.
We reached there around 8pm and realized that there was an educational session starting from 7pm, which we kind of missed. When we reached there, there was an interesting ongoing session about constellations in the sky and popular stories about the same in various cultures. It was a wonderful session as the sky was the canvas and all we needed to do was look to identify these interesting Nakshatra’s and constellations. There was a group of high school students too for this stargazing party and they were one of the most interested and clued in audience. While I was fascinated by the stories and tried to listen in with rapt attention the same wasn’t true about kids. They got bored in the next 10 minutes and kept roaming about the farm and pestering my cousin, (who thankfully was happy to entertain them!) This was followed up with stargazing using telescopes. This was an interesting aspect for my older kid as she was seeing a telescope for the first time. We saw Jupiter and Saturn with their moon’s and my older kid who had recently studied about solar system was thrilled to see them. As this was being done on a farm to avoid light pollution, we were strictly asked to use no or minimal lights.
After a short break for dinner we got back to stargazing with telescopes. Thankfully by this time, my younger kiddo slept without much problems and that was a boon for me. Next up were some presentations about man-made satellites sent up. A detailed infotainment cum presentation about spacecraft Cassini’s journey was shown. It was because of this that I realized the importance of Cassini Mission and the importance of 26th April for astronomers. Do watch this beautiful video for more.
By now it was already past 3am and with two breaks for tea, almost all the enthusiasts were wide awake and rearing to go. This was followed with astro-quiz and astro-antakshari. The boisterous high school kids were rearing to go and it was a fun session to watch.
Things to Know
JVP – this is an astro enthusiast group and they have programs all year round. You could enroll as members and enjoy various activities organized by them.
Star Party – While this was a star party with Lyrid meteor showers, there was hardly any shower to be seen, so that was a damper. JVP organize stargazing experiences all year round and is open for almost all age-groups.
Where- Abhyankar Farm, Nasrapur (Approx. 41 km from Pune, depending on where in Pune you are located.)
Budget – 500 + transport for non-members
Things to have – Google Sky Maps, laser pointer, warm clothes (it gets damn chilly post mid-night and this is in summer!)
Fun things for kids – My kids were too young to enjoy this thoroughly but the other students who had come for the party, seemed to have enjoyed the experience to bits. Recommended age – 10+