A star-studded affair: Starscapes celebrates International Dark Sky Week!

As a part of the celebration, Starscapes is hosting astrophotography sessions, a planetary parade, and the ‘Messier Marathon’ across various observatories in India.
Starscapes is celebrating international dark sky week with a series of experiences.
Starscapes is celebrating International Dark Sky Week with a series of experiences. Image: Shutterstock/vchal.

Marking International Dark Sky Week — a worldwide initiative that encourages people to turn off the lights to observe the night sky — astrotourism company Starscapes is hosting a series of astronomy-related activities across India.

Think experiences such as astrophotography sessions and planetary parade being held from April 22-30, 2022 at Starscapes’ observatories in Kausani and Bhimtal, and at their mobile observatories in Virajpet, Madikeri, Goa, Munnar, and Puducherry.  

Endorsed by International Dark Sky Association, a non-profit that works to preserve and protect the night sky, the eponymous week is celebrated across the world during the New Moon week in April, ever since it began in 2003. The aim is to raise awareness about the night sky, the ecosystem that flourishes in the dark on Earth, and the universe that exists beyond our planet. Astronomy enthusiasts globally commemorate this week with activities such as switching off the light to minimise light pollution, stargazing sessions, and astrophotography workshops. 

Light painting at the astrophotography workshop.
Light painting at the astrophotography workshop. Image: Courtesy Starscapes.

Ask CEO and Co-Founder Paul Savio, CEO and Co-Founder, about what led to the conceptualisation of Starscapes, and he says, “Stargazing has been a childhood fascination for me. In 2015, Ramashish Ray (former telecom sector professional and astronomy enthusiast) and I set up a small observatory with ticketed shows in his cottage in cottage in Kausani, Uttarakhand. People who visited us were not searching for astro experiences, they were just looking for something new. This insight led us to create a platform with such astronomy experiences in 2017.

We, at Starscapes, are increasing adoption of astronomy experiences by increasing the number of access locations, since there is a latent interest in the subject already. Since our objective is to reach out to casual astronomy enthusiasts, we believe it is critical for our business model to be present at locations that are a drive away from big towns.”

Celebrate the magic of the nocturnal sky!
Celebrate the magic of the nocturnal sky! Image: Courtesy Starscapes.

The locations with fairly dark skies measuring four or less on the Bortle Scale (a measure of night-sky darkness) are picked. The primary equipment at each of the observatory are Celestron 8″ GoTo motorised automatic telescopes. The auxiliary ones are 8″ Dobsonian telescopes, used for shows held around the observatories. Theorganisation also has a 11″ GoTo motorised telescope from Celestron, used for astrophotography during the workshops. These are used to observe planets, their moons, various star clusters, and deep sky objects such as nebulas and galaxies.

Speaking of how Starscapes is planning to promote astrotourism in furture, Savio says, “Recently, we partnered with the Uttarakhand Tourism Board to develop Benital as India’s first astro village. As a part of the International Dark Sky Week celebration, we are hosting astrophotography sessions, planetary parade, and the ‘Messier Marathon’ across our observatories in India. We intend to open observatories in 28 towns across India in the next three years, and roll out products such as tours and parties in partnership with travel operators and resorts and hotels to reach out to as many customers as possible. While the current base of astro tourists is small, the potential market is huge.”

Different kinds of telescopes have been installed at starcapes' obervatories.
Different kinds of telescopes have been installed at Starcapes’ obervatories. Image: Courtesy Starscapes.

Experiences at Starscapes’ International Dark Sky Week 2022:

The Messier Marathon

Learn who Charles Messier was and what his contributions were towards cataloguing the night sky. With Starscapes’ state-of-the-art telescopes, observe some of the galaxies, nebulas ,and star clusters that he catalogued. Go back home with a profound understanding of DSOs – Deep-Sky Objects that few people have seen!

Where: Starscapes observatory in Kausani and Bhimtal

Planetary Parade

Watch the planets as they line up in the eastern sky heralding the rising of the Sun, early in the morning. Marvel at once at the phases of Venus, the clouds, the satellites of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn.

Where: Starscapes observatory in Kausani and Bhimtal, and mobile observatories in Madikeri, Virajpet, Goa, Munnar, and Puducherry.

Learn the art of astrophotography! Starcapes
Learn the art of astrophotography! Image: Courtesy Instagram/Shikhar Gupta.

Astrophotography with Shikhar Gupta

Let astrophotographer Shikhar Gupta teach you all about night landscape photographs, using telescopes and mounts to capture images of deep sky objects; and learning how to process them to get the desired output. You’ll see galaxies and nebulas in colours you never thought existed! 

Where: Starscapes observatory in Kausani

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