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Our Place in Space

Week 2 began with a lively session by Procheta Mallik and Proteep Mallik for the kids from the “Makkala Masti” programme. They started with some gorgeous visuals from the Stellarium app, while discussing the Moon phases, Planets, Constellations, the Milky way, why the stars aren’t seen in the day, and so much more! Nandini Ram Mohan helped by cheerfully translating all of this into Kannada to make sure the children didn’t miss anything.This was followed by a break where the children got to explore the display, which included a wide array of stunning pictures of the sky at night (by Jeeth Iype), informational posters and models of our solar system, lots of books, and some places for them to draw, and see what they understood of space too. The third part of the session consisted of a stargazing party on the roof, with incredible telescopes and lots of fascinating information from our two speakers!

Landscape Astrophotography

The talk by Jeeth Iype, an architect and a photographer, took the audience through a breathtaking presentation of his photographs, while giving us an introduction to astro photography interwoven with incredible anecdotes of his inspiration to follow this interest. While speaking, he told us interesting facts about how airglow, directions, angles, multiple shots, meteor showers, exposure, and so much more affected his pictures. His photos were all from absolutely gorgeous locations like Ladakh, Uttarakhand, and even closer home, from Savandurga, which made us all yearn to take a trip outside the city soon. This presentation ended with an exciting discussion with the participants, in which he gave us simple advice on how to start, and inspired the photographer in all of us.

Landscape Astrophotography Workshop

It is safe to say that after listening to his talk, people who were interested in photography were certain to come back for the workshop with Jeeth. This workshop was split across three days, over which the photographers explored a range of topics in detail. They learnt about lens types, scouting for locations, light pollution and its effects on photography, the weather’s effects, essentials about the camera, astronomical events and how to look out for them, and so much more through an interesting and carefully put together workshop. With this, they also learned about all the perfect apps to use to keep up with events and get the best photographs. Of course, they got to experiment with some hands-on work throughout, with fun photography exercises at each point!

Are Black Holes for Real? – A journey of Discovery across Two Centuries

The session by the incredible astrophysicist Prajval Shastri was one long awaited by all who were present at last week’s events. She took us through a mind blowing presentation on black holes, which opened our eyes to several topics we had never even thought of. This session began with some physics theories, and their relation to the prediction and discovery of black holes. We learnt about how astrophysicists study the cosmos, including information on radio telescopes, satellites and much more. One of the amazing parts of this talk was the explanation on how we are always out of date in terms of light, and how being out of date is actually an advantage in this scenario. We learnt about the effects of true and false colour through fascinating pictures, the cosmological space-shift due to the stretching of space, black holes creating ripples in space time, and of several talented astronomers and their discoveries. Towards the end, we looked at some awe inspiring animations of coalescing black holes, and learnt about how photographs of black holes are taken. This session ended with an enthusiastic open discussion with our speaker, on several topics, including what the next big question about black holes could be.

Science Fiction and Space: Pale Blue Dot to the Final Frontier

We all appreciated the unique way with which Giridhar Rao opened the session on science fiction and space. He began with a short summary on the six themes he often saw in science fiction, while explaining how we could explore the idea of science fiction as a genre. He took us through a cleverly thought through parallel between a city (Hyderabad), and science fiction as a genre, including ideas of how sometimes the most popular things in the city/genre represent the whole place sometimes, and how “gossip” or discussions about new things from people who know about the place/genre can be useful. His perfectly timed humour kept us all smiling through the session. He spoke about the mix of genres, and the importance of also having science fiction as a part of our ideas. We looked at how in some ways science fiction could be a reflection of society and us, can be a source of optimism about technological wonder, can mirror the problems seen in reality including oppression, state repression, socio-politics and so much more. Through the talk, Giri intertwined excerpts and lines from some fascinating books including, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell) which we all loved. It was remarkable how accessible this talk was for such a varied age group; each person was able to relate and understand this topic at their own level. The talk ended with an active discussion with the speaker on topics like science fiction in theatre, why science fiction is called science fiction despite the fact that it isn’t always scientific, and how metaphors generated in science could easily reach a large audience through fiction.

Viewing the Universe: A Primer

On Sunday evening, we attended a captivating talk by P Sreekumar and Chethan Parameswariah. This was a talk on viewing the universe, and they opened this with a lively and engaging presentation. We looked at what astronomers are searching for, and learnt about telescopes and how they can vary images, how images from different telescopes can be combined, neutron stars, and LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational – wave Observatory. We learnt about the limitations of ground observations, about major milestones, about the challenges of going into space including surviving the shock of launch and landing, and about space exploration. This talk had us all mesmerized and in love with the topic! The session ended with another lively discussion on where astronomy could be taking us, how astronomy could possibly change a person’s belief system and so much more.

Star Party

The last session of this week could not have been a more memorable one. Procheta Mallik and Proteep Mallik who had previously done a stargazing party with our Makkala Masti children, came back to do a stargazing party with us. Once again, they showed us incredibly fascinating constellations, planets, and so much more on the stellarium app, after which they brought us up to the rooftop for our stargazing session. Everyone loved looking through the telescope and remarking on how quickly their eyes had adjusted to the dark!

Post- Script 🙂
Nearly everyone who came enjoyed looking at the displays of well written books, posters, and gorgeous pictures to do with this theme throughout. The speakers captivated our audience with their simple yet nuanced ways of talking about what seemed to be fairly complex topics. The presentations and workshops made us all excited to learn more!


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