“And now it’s clear,” he said passing the telescope eyepiece toward me. “Can you see a big dot and three other small dots on the same line?”
“That’s Jupiter and it’s 3 moons.”
Standing on a big lawn in a 6 degree Celcius cold winter, in the wee hours of morning in a place 100 km from Jaipur, we saw Jupiter and its two moons.
A year back I read about this offbeat resort and made a mental note to visit this place when we go to Jaipur next.
I’ve always loved the idea of staring at the stars in the night or looking at the moon wondering if there’s life out there somewhere.
I took this passion to another extent when I learned photography and tried my hand at astrophotography. I learned about Milky Way, I learned about stars and its trails, the constellations, and planets. But there’s only a little I could get from all the apps and online sites. Never really knew how I could do and learn more. But then came Astroport.
Astroport is for people like me. For people who love the stars and want to know more about it but don’t have a cool friend who owns a high-end telescope or has the knowledge to talk about the stars and constellations.
It’s an astronomy resort in Sariska. It’s a tiger reserve 100 km from Jaipur. This area is considered as the second darkest place in the whole of India giving a brilliant chance to see the stars better.
We arrived at Astroport at 7 Pm after a whole days drive. It was a tough place to reach and we got lost in the dark a little. Thanks to the help of a couple of locals, we reached this beautiful place.
We were welcomed to our tent which was named after a constellation. Each tent can accommodate 4 people. They also have tents which can accommodate up to 7 people. We freshened up and went to their ‘hub’ to grab dinner.
We were served delicious roti and 2 subzis with dal for dinner and gulab jamuns for dessert. As soon as we were done with dinner about 8.30 pm, we were introduced to Astroport’s in-house star astronomers, Sankalp and Ashish. They are astronomy research students who were there to help us with star gazing. They sat us down in a lawn which had 5 chairs, a couple of huge telescopes and 2 adorable dogs.
We started discussing our love for the planetary objects and what we know. They first taught us a way to find out where the north star, Polaris is. The only star in the sky which remains constant when every other star seems like it’s moving. The north star is just above to the earth’s axis, so logically it cannot seem like it’s moving.
We were trying our hands at astronomy photography with the help of the astronomers in Astroport. We clicked a star trail. When you keep the camera shutter open for more than 10 minutes, you can start to see a circular trail near each star. The camera captures any movement in light including the stars. The north star, Polaris is always the center of this circular movement of the stars.
As the sky got darker and it got later in the night, the temperature in Sariska started to drop and how. It was freezing cold and the lovely people in Astroport got us hot tea. We warmed ourselves with a cup of tea and continued to explore the sky and the stars!
The in-house astronomers in Sariska showed us all the constellations. The big dipper, the small dipper, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Pegasus and so much more. After almost 5 hours of star gazing, we saw a curtain of cloud coming our way. We decided to call it a night with that. The astronomers told us they had to show us something more and they would wake us up early in the morning.
After 3 hours of gorgeous sleep, we heard a bell/knock outside our tent, we stepped out to an even colder dark night. The astronomers led the way to the lawn and the two telescopes were already set up. I will never forget what we saw that morning. They showed us, Jupiter! The biggest planet in our solar system. It was there, bright and shinning just after it rose above the horizon. Along with it, we saw 4 of its moons. It was such a beautiful and exciting experience for a person like me who loves the stars and know almost nothing about it. They then showed us mars. We were over the moon at having got a chance to spot it so clearly. We saw a spectacular sunrise when we dragged back to our tent for a couple of more hours of sleep before we had to check out.
The night we had at Sariska was more than magical. We learned about things we always just gazed at. Now when we look at the stars, we know much more than just a constellation a cool friend taught us.
The next morning we got up to little puppies which are being astroport’s pets. They were so adorable and were named after two stars in the sky: Lyra and Sirius How adorable is that?
We had such a magical at this resort. It was a great way to start a new hobby of star gazing and astrophotography!