We are lying flat on the ground and have been staring at the night sky for some time now. We have already spotted the nearby planets through the telescope. We could make out some of the simpler constellations, but now have resorted to technology (read ‘sky maps’) for the more complex ones. With thousands of visible stars (duh! so obvious) that it is becoming hard to make out more constellations. And suddenly we see a white streak from the corner of our eyes. If we had blinked we would have missed it. Even though it was like for a fraction of a second, sighting the shooting star was such an exciting experience. Now we are pumped to keep our vigil to catch more of these.
No, it is not like in movies where you get several seconds of viewing time and a freakishly long tail of the star.
But, watching a shooting star is definitely a thrilling experience.
And, it does make you feel lucky.
The chances are slim. You have to watch the sky for long and keep your eyes alert else you just might miss the falling star in the blink of your eye.
We wanted to see the shooting stars and we knew the odds are stacked against us. So, we planned do whatever to tilt the stakes ever so slightly. Now, we could think of 4 things that could increase our chances to see falling stars
- Meteor shower
- Moonless night
- Clear and cloudless sky
- Minimal light pollution
We identified Lyrid meteor shower for our sightings. It occurs annually in April when the weather is still not too hot and the best time to view it is between midnight to dawn.
Of the remaining three, we cannot control the cycles of moon or the weather. We could plan our night expedition closer to the new moon and just hope for the best weather. The most control we had was minimizing the light pollution. We decided we could go away from the civilization and reduce the impact of the city lights on the night sky.
The best option to tick all the check boxes was to go for a group night expedition. We choose the meteor shower sighting at Pocharam with one of the Hyderabad activity groups. Pocharam reservoir is a rather secluded lake near Medak, around 100 km (2 – 2.5 hrs.) from Hyderabad. Being away from the town would reduce the light pollution and it would be a relief to have company of a group in the night (it is really spooky being alone at night).
The plan was to drive (car pool) to Pocharam on Saturday afternoon, stay overnight for the meteor shower and come back to Hyderabad the next morning. It turned out to be a pretty good plan. Even after starting a bit late from Hyderabad, we had enough time at Pocharam Lake in the evening to explore the surroundings and to setup our tents.
After sparse monsoon last couple of years, the lake had dried to some extent. But far from the city, the Pocharam Lake was like an oasis of peace. We sat on the ridge relaxing as the evening came upon and birds started to make their way for the night. The sunset over the lake was beautiful.
We waited as the sky became darker and the blinking stars started to become visible. We could start on our astronomical expedition only after the dinner. But once we settled in, the mystic night sky opened its treasures to us. The stars and planets spilled from horizon to horizon. The constellations pulled us with Indian and Western mythological tales behind them. It was all so intriguing. It was like going back to the childhood when the stars and the space used to thrill us so much. We loved getting sucked into that beautiful world again.
The main event was the meteor shower.
(No, a meteor shower does not have a barrage of shooting stars lighting up the sky at the same time. It is not like fireworks)
The frequency of shooting stars is higher in a meteor shower but they are still visible intermittently as a white streak in the sky. Whatever be the case, the excitement of catching one of these is unlike anything else. It feels so special. The night seemed to move slowly while we waited and the time just flew when we caught the sight of a shooting star.
And as the dawn came near, it became difficult to catch any shooting star and we decided to call it a night. We would have slept outside if not for the insects. After we woke up early next day, we visited the Medak church, had breakfast at Medak and were on our way back with lots of memories.
Do you have a story to tell about your Meteor shower experience? Drop in a comment or send us a mail. We will definitely reply. All the interesting tales will be published in a special feature.