Posting in the 100 Hours of Astronomy Blog

I was asked by Mr. Manoj Pai (Secretary, CIAA) to make a blog contribution to the 100 Hours of Astronomy blog from India. I put up my first posting today. Do read it and let me know what you think. 

I was thinking of a better title but didn’t get there. Enjoy it!

Spending the 100 Hours in India

This blog post was first posted in the 100 Hours of Astronomy Blog. The content was recovered using Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I have posted the content here for purposes of keeping record.

This is my first blog post here. I am Pradeep Mohandas, an amateur astronomer from India and also a member of SEDS. The International Year of Astronomy got me back to focus on my amateur astronomy work which was languishing because of several other space related activities that I was participating in and I’m always thankful for that. For my first post, I thought I should talk about the activities happening as part of 100 Hours of Astronomy in India.

Most amateur astronomers in India were excited by the idea of an International Year for Astronomy when the International Astronomical Union presented this idea in 2003. When it was passed by the United Nations and became an event with support from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the excitement grew. Word spread immediately online – through the several mailing lists, newsletters, astronomy clubs initially. In the run up to IYA, prominent Indian newspapers (both English and regional language newspapers) carried extensive articles and spread the word among the non-astronomy community and I’m sure it reminded many people of their own brief stint with astronomy and perhaps even got some to try it out again.Towards the end of 2008 and early 2009, word spread faster through the net, via mailing lists, more press notes (especially from the Indian National Point of Contact – IUCAA) and groups like Astronomers without Borders and Sidewalk Astronomy.

Even before the recent Chandrayaan launch, India has several crazy amateur astronomers who are very dedicated to astronomy. When I looked at online groups around my home in Mumbai in 2004, I found not one but several, who travelled to the outskirts of this city (40-60 Kms) to watch the night skies and follow their passions as amateurs. There were still smaller groups who went on their own, some looked from their building tops and from the online discussions in the groups I have been on, I think this is just scratching the surface when it comes to India. The timing of the 100 Hours is slightly unfortunate here in India, as it comes bang in the middle of exam season (yes, it is a season here), when students hardly venture out or are allowed to venture out of home in the constant desire for grades. But, still at the time of writing there were 29 events registered in India. This is likely to increase keeping in mind that Indians love to do things like registeration etc. at the last minute.

Still, even with 29 events, another thing to look at is turn out. This is expected to be very high and our events are often described by various people as HUGE. I think we can wait for the reports at the end of the 100 Hours for more.

Also, innovation is in the soul of the typical Indian amateur astronomer. This is more or less reflected in the events planned out for 100 Hours here in India. A group of amateurs from the state of Gujarat plan to celebrate “Sun Day” at the Modhera Sun Temple, a 11th century heritage site, popular with tourists. The amateurs here are also being supported by the Tourism Department of Gujarat. This is one of the few Sun Temples found here in India, the famous one being at Konark in Orissa.

Another event is planned at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, a 17th century Indian observatory. They will also project the webcast from the 80 observatories here. Another group will be doing a 100 Hours of Astronomy Van halting at various venues. At each halt they will put banners and posters on astronomy, put up a scope and show celestial objects, while playing famous movie songs on astronomy, moon and the stars. They also offer the songs as ringtones! The group also putting up exhibits of space crafts and astronomical philately.

Many groups are also visiting the village panchayats and government schools to show villagers celestial objects through a scope, that they have never seen before. We could have done with more activities in public institutions like Planetariums and Observatories but the reported 7000 astronomy clubs are taking up the slack.  I hope you enjoyed this sampling of events from India. Best of luck with your own 10 Hours of Astronomy event!

(Thanks to Mr. Manoj Pai, Secretary, CIAA for the details)

Next-up in Astronomy: Messier Marathon 2009

Among other things, the astronomy spiral is up and running again. I hope to participate in the Messier Marathon from March 26 – 28, 2009. I have the basics requirements for the Marathon ready and have prepared myself with knowledge updates. It was fun.

Now, I am looking for an amateur astronomer who can lend a telescope and help me get to watch as many of the Messier and Solar System Objects that I can in one night. Will definitely keep everyone updated on the happenings.

Spring Cleaning

Crazy February had a major victim – me. So, I set myself the target of balancing and re-hashing all my priorities in time for the Summer Solstice this month. I am happy to report that I have achieved that goal. You can now also see the content uploaded on the main webpages of my website, which have gone live – well ahead of the scheduled September 26, 2009 release. 

With the new system updated successfully and everything working perfectly, I can now come back into the blogosphere. Thanks for hanging around.

Games children play

This content originally appeared on https://pradx.org/blog. Recovered using the WayBack Machine from here.

[These are random posts that I write, occassionally to please myself and occassionally to please others]

This was inspired by the way kids collect on the play ground and what they play today compared to the games that I played in my child hood.

Collecting the kids to play the game is as important as playing itself. It is a place where a group of kids build their social networks with a friend’s family. It is also a place where kids first face prejudice, understand to accept differences in stature or wealth and also gain a wealth of experience in team building and management.

As a kid, I remember walking around the colony straining our vocal chords and calling mates, interacting with parents who make excuses, learn to negotiate your play times, learn a few things about saving money.

Your resourcefulness is tested in the way you organise the games – according to number of kids, weather conditions, apparatus available, availability of grounds etc.

The games itself were physically stimulating and mentally challenging.

Today kids call each other over the phone, play with much more severe limitations like coaching classes, extra curricular activities etc. They are physically exhausted at the end of play time and it almost turns into a chore rather than being a time of conscious relaxation and sub-conscious learning.

Let the elections begins!

This was originally posted on https://pradx.org/blog. I retrieved the post using the Wayback Machine here.

The Election Commission yesterday announced the dates for the national elections – April 16 through May 13. Results will be announced on May 16. 714 million people will vote with 522 constitutences will be using photo electoral rolls. The elections will take place across 8,28,804 polling stations and will be governed by 4 millions civic officials and 2.1 security officials. The largest democracy in the world swings into action.

The political work outs have already begun with boards, flags, wall paintings, posters on the streets of villages and towns. In party headquarters, the alliances are being forged, the party tickets (the permission to run for a seat on behalf of the party) are being sold and candidates are being finalised. In the Election Commission voter list have been finalised and are running through a list of measures to keep the voting as transparent as possible. Various media houses are running with their own campaigns and coverage to get India to vote and to perhaps create a US like sentiment amng the masses in India. 

A major element for this election would be the newly demarcated constitutencies by the delimitation process. Here’s how Mumbai looks now:

  1. Mumbai South: Colaba, Mumbadevi, Malabar Hill, Byculla, Sewri, Worli (MP: Milind Deora)
  2. Mumbai South Central: Anushakti Nagar, Chembur, Dharavi, Sion Koliwada (GTB Nagar), Wadala, Mahim (MP: Mohan Rawale)
  3. Mumbai North Central: Bandra, Vile Parle, Kalina, Chandivili, Kurla (MP: Eknath Gaikwad)
  4. Mumbai North East: Bhandup, Mulund, Vikhroli, Ghatkopar, Mankhurd and Shivaji Nagar (MP: Gurudas Kamat)
  5. Mumbai North West: Goregaon, Dindoshi, Jogeshwari, Andheri, Versova (MP: Priya Dutt)
  6. Mumbai North: Dahisar, Borivali, Kandivali, Magathane, Charkop, Malad (MP: Govinda Ahuja)

This time for my first elections, I will be casting my vote along with 43 million other voters electing a representative to the Lok Sabha in the Mumbai South Central constitutency.