Last weekend, it so happened that one of my batch-mates extended an invitation to view the sky at an observatory in Yoga Nikaya , a campus about 40 Kms outside Bangalore on the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The place is a treat to the eyes and lungs – especially for someone like me, who is stuck in the concrete and dust of Bangalore.
If you look closely at the photographs, you would realise that there were multiple layers of clouds in the sky. This eventually spelled doom over our desire to see the night sky.
We were guided by the resident astronomer, Amar Sharma . Amar is a young fellow with a lot of passion for amateur astronomy. He does this as full time. Will little to no money involved in this, it is beyond my understanding how he manages to travel and survive the practical hardships of a taxing hobby. Nonetheless, his enthusiasm showed through his anecdotes. And the rewards of his hardships  take forms beyond monetary gains.
We all gathered up at the observatory and waited for a few hours, hoping for the sky to clear up. Amar told us from his experience that such kind of clouds seldom give away any window of opportunity. Instead, we sat there listening to his attempts at writing a book on amateur astronomy and the experiences he and his ilk come across. I sincerely hope he gets hold of a good editor. It might make a nice read.
Even though the sky wasn’t kind to us, we at least managed a small picnic of sorts on Maggi – something that I had abandoned after a decision to lead a healthy lifestyle.
The next morning we went around the campus. It was maintained very well and had a lot of gardened areas. There was also a guava plantation that supplied us with our morning breakfast.
The observatory has a 14″ mid-range telescope  mounted on a goto mount , housed on a custom base. Amar was pretty enthusiastic in explaining how it worked. The telescope was housed in a motorised dome. In the earlier days, the observatory drew its power from the grid. The power supply wasn’t that reliable and there were frequent power cuts. As a result, there were times when the dome would remain open in the absence of power and the telescope (and the electronics) would be left at the mercy of Bangalore’s unpredictable weather. The observatory was taken off the grid and nowadays it runs fully on solar power. The telescope and the mount runs on a battery (using a car lighter adapter) that can power it for eight hours straight.
Amar mentioned that January and February are the best months to catch a clear sky. We should plan a trip within a week on either side of a new moon.