Saturday, March 19, 2011

On To The Moon

         At first it could not be seen anywhere. ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM),''  stood at the Breach Candy bus stop on Saturday evening and scanned the sky, but there was no sign of the moon. What a disappointment.

         The bus arrived--rather fast this time--BMM boarded it and headed for the Nehru Planetarium. While crossing the road at Lotus, again BMM again searched for the moon and it was a big let down--no sign of it at all. Was it a hoax?

         BMM crossed the road and entered the Nehru Planetarium area. What an awesome sight greeted it. Emerging from the skyscrapers at a distance and the surrounding Worli hutments was the moon. It was as though BMM had literally gone close to the moon. It was huge and the craters were clearly visible. It was called the Supermoon which has happened after 18 years Definately in a way it was a small step for BMM to set foot on the lunar surface!

         Was my good friend Syed Maqbool whose instrument, Chandra Attitudunal Composition Explorer (Chace) of Chandrayaan-1 looking at the moon? BMM tried to contact him in Hyderabad, but he had gone out..BMM spoke to the secretary of the India chapter of Moon Society, Pradeep Mohandas, about what he was perhaps missing! But he said he was seeing the moon near his residence at Chedda Nagar. Pradeep, a good friend, said that it will take him nearly two hours to get to the planetarium-what with all the Saturday night traffic jams all over Mumbai.

         It is called the Supermoon because the moon came closer to earth in its orbit. On Saturday night it was 356,577 kms away from the earth as against 364,000 kms. As a result it appeared 14 per cent larger. In plain language this has happened because of orbital factors, and the effects on the earth are minor.

        On an elevated area outside the Discovery Of India building opposite the Nehru Planetarium BMM's good friend, Suhas Satam Naik was standing interacting with correspondents from TV channels. His boss, Piyush Pandey, somehow did not believe it was an important event and at first told BMM that since it was a non event and had no scientific value, the planetarium would not be installing telescopes for the benefit of the public to observe the moon.

        Suhas too had an argument with BMM about inviting the public to witness the moon from the planetarium. Suhas's stand was that if there had been a public announcement, the crowds perhaps would have turned unmanageable.But, the Nehru Planetarium in New Delhi had made a public announcement a week ago. But at the last moment, there was a change of heart and the planetarium in Mumbai did finally install a telescope.

        Anyway inspite of the fact that there was no announcement, BMM saw a small crowd, consisting of people--some from New Delhi and Bangalore and even distant places like Trombay who formed a line to see the moon through the telescope. There was a lot of excitement and BMM wished that Piyush had been present!

         Students from the Atomic Energy Junior College at Trombay sang a song about the moon which was telecast live on a TV channel. Looking at the moon BMM informally spoke to two people about the lunar race between the US and Russia, Chandrayaan-1, manned missions and other related topics.All in all it was a great lunar evening.

         Thank U Suhas and Thank U Nehru Planetarium.

         BMM has one question---should your personal prejudices affect your professional work?

         No never.

         This is a lesson some people should learn from the Supermoon!



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