Eye on the sky

CE speaks to local astronomy enthusiasts to uncover the best spots near B’luru for witnessing a rare celestial event known as the Planet Parade.
Representative Image
Representative Image

BENGALURU: As a celestial symphony unfolds above the eastern horizon, the predawn sky on the morning of June 3 will offer a chance for many astronomy enthusiasts and casual stargazers to admire the vastness of our universe. Six planets – Jupiter, Mercury, Uranus, Mars, Neptune and Saturn – will be aligning in a display known as the Planet Parade.

“The window of viewing is very short between 4-5am. Some can be viewed through the naked eye and some can be viewed through a telescope,” says Swaminathan S, co-founder of Exoticamp, a camping experience booking platform.

Emphasising the importance of finding a location with minimal light pollution and a clear view of the eastern horizon, he suggests several optimal viewing spots near Bengaluru for astronomy enthusiasts. “The Jawadhu Hills would be a good place, which is approximately five hours from the city. Along with minimal light pollution, it also has an observatory.

We also have Yelagiri Hills, equipped with telescopes and guided stargazing experiences. There’s also a river-camping experience which is closer to Mysuru and the nearest at two hours will be the Skandagiri campsite. If you want to go a little far, Kodagu could be an option,” says Swaminathan, whose platform has already registered over 100 enquiries in two days of opening the bookings, adding, “There are many last-minute bookings (priced Rs 2,500) because most of the sites are just a couple of hours away and don’t require any elaborate preparations from the camper’s side.”

Many sites near the city are suitable to experience the celestial event
Many sites near the city are suitable to experience the celestial event

Obuli Chandran, a science educator and volunteer at the Bangalore Astronomical Society says that while the alignment has been ‘slightly exaggerated’, there are ways to make a good experience out of the celestial event. “Planets are more or less lined all the time, but seeing them together in the sky is rare. Now, not just June 3, but for several upcoming weeks, all the six planets are going to be lined up. These planets will be visible from the lower part of the sky; if you keep going up you will find these planets all before sunrise,” shares Chandran.

However, he adds that some of the planets won’t be easy to spot for various reasons. “By 4.30 in the morning, Uranus, Mars, Neptune and Saturn are in the sky but Jupiter and Mercury have not risen yet. And when Jupiter rises by 5.15am, the Sun’s glare is going to be too bright which will make observing the planet difficult. But if you have a very good view of the eastern sky without any buildings, you might be able to capture Jupiter.

Mercury is still out of question because mercury is too faint. It’s a small planet you will most likely miss.” Keerthi Kiran, trustee of Bangalore Astronomical Society agrees, adding, “The crescent moon which will also be visible in the sky will be very close to Mars. So, if people can identify the moon, beside it there will be a small red star which will be Mars. Almost on top of the head, we can see Saturn with the naked eye. But, overall, it might not be a great day to see planetary alignment also because of the cloudy weather in Bengaluru.”

Chandran advises Bengalureans to not lose hope and adds that a month later on July 6, five of the six planets will be visible in the sky. “It will be a new moon so the sky will be clearer. Mercury would have gone further down, so you won’t be able to see it before sunrise but the other five planets, you will be able to spot at 4.30am,” he explains.

Planet watch

Best observation time: 5.30am to 5.45am (Bengaluru)

Jupiter: Low in the sky, but bright, Yet it will be lost in the sun’s glare

Mercury: Faint and will be lost in the sun’s glare

Uranus: Needs a telescope for observation

Mars: Possible to observe with the naked eye and telescope

Neptune: Possible to observe only with a big telescope

Saturn: Even a small telescope can reveal the ring structure

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The New Indian Express