/Up in the Air – Stargazing

Up in the Air – Stargazing

Stargazing is something that became a part of my life without any conscious effort on my part. Our whole family used to sleep in the terrace at night to get some relief from the scorching heat of Biratnagar and watching the stars became a daily routine. Now that we have moved and our summer tradition has discontinued since, I really find myself missing the spectacular view of stars in the black-blue night sky coupled with the twinkling display of fireflies around the trees. I can still see stars from my terrace now, but somehow the view always pales in comparison to the starry skies of my childhood.

For me, stargazing is a form of relaxation, a way to peek into the universe and muse about its infinite possibilities and mysteries. The fact that when you lie down and look at the vast sky with millions of twinkling stars, all your worries become insignificant. I may be unable to name the stars or point out Andromeda, Orion, or Big Dipper in the sky but I still like stargazing all the same. Others may like it because of their love for learning. No matter what the reason, one thing that all enthusiasts will agree on is that there is simply no other experience like stargazing.

Selecting a suitable spot and time for stargazing is very important to have the best experience. The best spot is comfortable, away from the bright lights of the cities and at a higher elevation if possible because higher the spot, better the view. However, if such a place is not feasible, the terrace of a high building or your house would work just fine. Paying attention to the weather forecast is advisable because cloudy sky means less or no stars visible. Although, gazing at the glowing full moon is a treat on its own, a meditative act in itself, the night of new moon is the best time for watching stars.

The Himalayas, famous for being the roof of the world also provide excellent views of the Milky Way. In 2016, National Geographic named Sagarmatha National Park as one best spots in the world for stargazing. Not all hope is lost for those who are not on for visiting Sagarmatha National Park anytime soon. Many places around and outside the valley make for good spots for stargazing. Some of these places also provide tents and other services for outdoor stay. Apart from Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) and Everest Base Camp (EBC), Nagarkot, Sarangkot, Rara Lake, Poon Hill, Begnas Lake, and Dhampus are some other destinations famous as stargazing spots.

Another reason of excitement among sky watchers are the astronomical events. Partial solar and lunar eclipses and meteoroid showers may be relatively common but they never fail to excite you. Sometimes however, when you get a chance to witness something rare like the Halley’s Comet, which is only visible from the earth once about every 75 years, you feel like you should thank your lucky stars.

In 2018, we  had a few of meteor showers like the Perseid Meteor Shower on August 12-13—a Total Lunar Eclipse on July 27 and a couple of partial solar eclipses. We also have the upcoming Geminid Meteor Shower which will occur on Dec. 13-14, 2018.

It is all in the stars. It is an experience in itself.

-Subarna Adhikari