One Night Under Shooting Stars

So, the man of the house is an avid stargazer and deeply immersed in astrophysics. After many failed attempts at getting me to fall in love with the skyverse, he’s started journeying on his own. 

Not that I do not like the skies or the members inhabiting them, I absolutely love the veil of mysticism they’re wrapped in and their incredible stories of evolution. 

It’s the peephole of the telescope 🔭 that gives me the jitters. After aiming my right eye on the lens while shutting the left one closed for endless minutes, face as if I’m having a spasm, I’ve barely managed to scratch the surface of the magnificent moon; except for the massive craters. They’re super easy to spot.

13th and 14th of December were consequential considering the epic Geminid meteor shower. Meteors are, as we’re accustomed to, Shooting Stars. We’ve had our rendezvous with them mostly through movies and very little in school. I call them ‘Make-A-Wish-Stars’, cuz the lead characters on screen always blurt this clichéd dialogue to one another, perched on some rock or spread on some beach and a twinkling sky above.

This has always made me wonder if one can really witness an astronomical object shoot with such glorious prominence and incredulous speed. Well, turns out, one can . I witnessed this magic on the night of December 14th.

At a driving distance of 2.15 hours from Mumbai, tucked away among the Sahyadri Mountains is a sleepy little hamlet called Khopoli; a haven for us city dwellers to sneak away for some peace and quiet. 

Tents N’ Trails , a concept born in the hearts of three childhood friends was brought to life in the form of this gorgeous landscape that sits peacefully beside the pristine waters of Adoshi lake. 

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We checked-in at 2.15 am. A brief chat with the Manager later, we were showed to the tent. Dinner was served soon enough. A wholesome spread of everything that reminded of home. 2.15 hours drive had worked up a solid appetite and the food was too good to resist anything even post midnight.

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Who sets up a tent on a tiled floor and bang opposite the dining table I wondered. Much to our dismay, there were showers in Khopoli post noon that day. The expanse smelled of freshly bathed earth and the skies were undesirably overcast. Moon, even in her half disk, shone unusually bright like a white lantern behind the clouds, casting her glow on the calm and sleepy lake and on the grounds of TNT.

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To spot an astronomical object, absolute darkness is paramount. With such abrupt drama in the skies, spotting anything seemed highly unlikely. It’s also advised and in a way mandatory to not look at cellphones, so it becomes easier for the eyes to adjust to the dark and spot the star or planet we’re looking for. We lay horizontal and helpless on the benches, hopeful eyes glued to the adamant clouds, totally at the mercy of mother nature. An hour passed and then half. But nothing.

At about 2.40, the clouds began to disperse slowly unfurling the moonlit sky. Then stars began to appear, one here the other there. Sighs and murmurs of hope started wafting the grounds. And then, it happened…

A needle-thin line appeared and vanished. A meteor had struck. 
So what are Meteors? We’ve learned about them in school, then heard about them on Radio and Television, and witnessed them as a “Shooting Star” in movies. But have we actually seen one?

Meteors are pieces of rocks floating in the Space. When these pieces of rocks brush or enter the earth’s atmosphere, they make a bright line in the sky. That’s what we call Shooting Star. This happens even during the day. But the powerful light from the Sun, makes it invisible for human eyes. The event of December 14 was named Geminid meteor shower because it happened in the Gemini constellation. At its peak, the shower was expected to produce a nominal rate of around 120 meteors per hour, that’s 2 would strike per minute. 

15 minutes had passed after the first one hit. Was it real or just our mind playing make-believe? Brushing these desperate thoughts aside, we continued to stare upwards. Then…another struck. Another line. Then the third. It went on until after 4, until the night continued to live, until all the souls were yet asleep. By the time we retired to our tents, we’d seen 23 meteors. It was surreal.

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This incredibly divine drama of celestial beings was nothing like I’d ever seen or heard or known. To think these rocks kept dropping to the earth only to be ignited like balls of fire and shot back in a straight line, was an imagination difficult to conjure. But it was there; it was real; it was divine. 

How I wished I could capture these fireworks in my camera! But maybe cameras are too small and insignificant for marvels of this magnitude. 

I captured the surrounding instead when the sun came up. In the light of the day, this serene landscape came alive in its full glory. Bathed in dew, the morning was nippy and the fog had settled on our tent, on the well-trimmed grass and on the lake beyond the fence. It was quiet, except for a caw here and a chirp there. Trees stood still as if someone had played the game of statue on them. 

Bhallu rose, stretched his torso with a big lazy yawn and dusted the night off his sleepy self. He trotted along while we photographed the reaosrt and the sun-drenched lake, posed for selfies, then escorted us to our car…

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