December 24, 2009


The morning of 24th December was good and the naked-eye limit of stars was 4.5 near zenith. The last week was hazy and no comet hunting or observing was possible. This morning I was on my terrace at 4:30am. I wanted to observe the comet C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring which was within my telescope’s range and also a test to check whether my scope is able to show me the comet under my city skies!

I had a printed chart downloaded from I set the telescope on Alpha Coma Berenices star and tried to star hop to the comet’s location. But the comet was some 7.5 degrees away. I chose another way. I set the 5.6th magnitude star 2 Bootis and from there I set a pair two 8th magnitude stars located some 3 degrees NW of 2 Bootis. Now the comet was just 1 degree far from this pair. While scanning around this field I noted 10th magnitude fuzz only about 4’ from the 9th magnitude star. I was using 40mm Plossl eyepiece with my 8-inch reflector giving 32.5x magnification. The comet was hard to distinguish from the star at this magnification. I replaced it with 25mm Kellener eyepiece which gave 52x magnification. Now I easily identified the comet. I estimated its magnitude to be 10. It was easily visible at 52x and then at 32.5x. I didn’t spent much time to observe it because I had only an hour left for the comet hunting session. I just wanted to identify it and so I was happy because I had it.

December 14, 2009


On the night of 13th December I went to a village named Dhosa the regular place for stargazing. We went there to observe the Geminids meteor shower. I went with Ashwin Vaghela and another member Yogesh. Like the Leonids, this year's Geminids was also predicted to be best and stronger than usual. We left for the observing site at 10:00pm and got there at 10:40pm. The village is only 15 kms from Bhuj but due to bad roads it takes more time to reach! We were on bikes and on the way we saw 4 meteors. Here is the brief detail of our observation....
ON THE WAY: 4 meteors. The first was as bright as Capella. Thus it was at magnitude 0.
11pm-12am: Throughout the first session we counted 14 meteors. A couple of them was 0 magnitude.
12am-1am: We counted 50 meteors. The brightest was a fireball of magnitude -2. Once I was looking at the Double Cluster in Perseus through my 25x100 Binocular and then one bright meteor passed through the starry studded field! It was amazing!
1am-2am: We counted 74 meteors. The brightest was a fireball of mag. -2.5 passed through the zenith at 1:12am. It was slow with short trail.
2am-3am: Again we counted 74 meteors. At 2:40am we saw a bright fireball of mag. -4.
3am-4am: In the last session we counted 83 meteors. After the end of this session I gave up observing and counting meteors and did visual comet hunting through the 25x100 binoculars. I guess the number of meteors increased after 4am until the beginning of morning twilight. During comet hunting I saw 5 meteors passed through the eyepieces. Whenever I shifted my glance at the sky I saw 1 or 2 meteors every time. I added 6 more meteors in my count. So our total number was 310.
Overall the Geminids 2009 was the best meteor shower in my life. I observed this meteor shower in the year 2004 and counted 241 meteors but this time my total number was 310.

-Rahul Zota
(Kutch Amateur Astronomer's Club-Bhuj)

December 7, 2009


This was our 3rd year of participating at Rann Utsav. The word “Rann” means desert. Rann utsav is an annual function organized by Gujarat Tourism where thousands of people from all over the world come to visit the Great White Desert of Kutch district. The function particularly organizes at the time of Full Moon where the white desert looks awesome in the moon shine. Our astronomy club also takes part in this function by showing interesting sites to the tourists around the desert through binoculars and also showing celestial objects like The Moon, planets through telescopes.

This year we carried our club’s 6-inch reflecting telescope and my 25x100 binocular. I along with 9 club members started journey at 6:45am. The function organizes at two different places in the northern part of Kutch. The first place is “
Kala Dungar” or the Black Hill which is situated some 80 Km North of Bhuj. The hill is the tallest in Kutch district and is famous for Lord Dattatrey’s Temple. The other place is Dhordo Village.
We first approached at the top of Kala Dungar. The views of the great white desert of Kutch were really mind blowing! I then set my 25x100 binocular and located “
The India Bridge” for tourists. The India Bridge was 19 Km away from our place but after seeing the view through my binocular the people reacted that it seemed as it was just 1 km away!!

Then at 3:12, the C.M. of Gujarat Mr. Narendra Modi arrived at Kala Dungar. He saw few interesting sites through the binoculars as well as through spotting scopes. At 4:00pm we left the place for Dhordo Village. After 10pm we set our instruments in the vicinity of the tourist tents. About hundreds of tourists looked through my 25x100 binoculars and also through our club’s 6-inch reflecting telescope. They saw the moon through the binoculars and somebody said the moon looks like the white desert of Kutch! They also glimpsed two moons of Jupiter through a telescope. Actually all the 4 moons were visible but Europa was very close to Jupiter. Ganymede and Callisto were just 4.2” apart, hence they saw one satellite instead of two..!

Overall this year’s Rann Utsav was great especially for site seeing. This year we had more interactions with people. They were very much excited to know about celestial objects and interesting sites in the desert of Kutch.

-Rahul Zota