The World at Night Programs Start in India

2008 November 12

TWAN has started organizing events and photography missions in different regions of the world, months before the beginning of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) 2009. With almost 20% of the world population and amazing diverse landmarks, India was selected as the first destination for one of TWAN’s major programs. From October 3 to 6, an international workshop on “The Earth and the Sky, Astrophotography and Image Processing” was held in New Delhi by Nehru Planetarium. TWAN and Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) were international organizing partners of the event.

Along with the workshop there was an exhibition of TWAN photographs graced Nehru Planetarium. TWAN photographs were later absorbed into a permanent gallery at the planetarium, with an official opening ceremony held on October 21. TWAN images are presented in large light boxes inside the planetarium’s main exhibition hall. The images not only fascinated Indian media and officials at the opening ceremony, including the director of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and representatives of the science ministry, but also hundreds of daily visitors including many young students visiting the planetarium. The photographs connect the planetarium visitors to the night sky, adding to the enjoyment of the planetarium show.

Implementation planning for the workshop, the-first-of-its-kind in India, started several months in advance, in Delhi. As the date approached many astronomy centers provided support and manpower to the planetarium and TWAN. Funding for the workshop came from the National Council of Science, Technology and Communication.

Interaction with astronomers of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, and Arya Bhata Institute for Observational Sciences (ARIES) in Nainital resulted in new educational ideas for the program. The workshop was held in collaboration with Vigyan Prasar, National Science Centre, and National Bal Bhavan in Delhi. Two voluntary organizations – Science Popularization Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) and Amateur Astronomers Association of Delhi – gave outstanding support in organizing the event.

With over a hundred people from India and some participants from Nepal and Iran, the workshop started on the morning of October 3 at Nehru Memorial Museum lecture hall with an introductory speech by Dr. N. Rathnasree, director, Nehru Planetarium and head of the workshop organizing committee.

Guest speaker Professor Yash Pal, a well-known Indian scientist and educator, discussed the connection of the Earth and sky and art and universe. Reiterating the idea behind TWAN imaging, he said: “Without the Earth there is no sky. And without the sky there is no Earth.”

The workshop lecturers were selected based on a combination of Indian astronomers and astrophotographers associated with TWAN and AWB, that is, Mike Simmons (USA), Stefan Seip (Germany), Gernot Meiser (Germany), and Babak Tafreshi (Iran). A complete list of invited speakers is available at the workshop webpage. While there were several science-related projects and topics presented by Indian astronomers in the workshop, the main astrophotography lectures focused on the following subjects:
– Basics of astrophotography
– Landscape astrophotography
– Different methods of telescopic photography
– Polar alignment
– Digital astrophotography using webcams, DSLRs, and CCDs
– Imaging the sun
– Tips on deep sky photography
– Astronomical image processing
– Science with webcams and CCDs
– Astrophotography and measuring light pollution

Undergraduate students were main participants in the workshop, even as there were high school students present. With great enthusiasm to start serious night sky photography many participants had attended the event from outside the capital, undertaking 48 hours of train travel to reach Delhi.

The practical session of the workshop was held on the evening of October 4, near the town of Nuh, about 70 km south west of Delhi, a casual observing site of SPACE. Astrophotographers and educators from SPACE and TWAN demonstrated various methods of astrophotography under clear sky through the night.

The last day of the workshop on October 6 was partly devoted to the participants to discuss possible long-term projects that they could undertake with some guidance through online group interaction with the speakers and other members from all over the world.

And in the later half of day there were interesting side lectures, including an introduction to astronomy in Nepal by a representative of the Nepal Astronomical Society, Kathmandu, and sketching the night sky vs. astrophotography by Irene Shivae from Iran. Shivae also introduced a new project idea for IYA called Star Peace. The project intends to hold common star parties near the border lines in cooperation with astronomy groups from different countries which shared borders.

A celebration of the science of the skies in the land of heritage, TWAN-India activities were considered to be a wonderful way of showcasing India’s monumental and multilayered cross-cultural heritage with the backdrop of celestial attraction in TWAN images.

India also has plenty of astronomical heritages – medieval as well as modern – which make interesting locations for the TWAN photographs. The workshop marked the beginning of TWAN India imaging missions. Locally supported by astronomical centers, TWAN photographers traveled to important observatories both at the slopes of Himalaya in north India (Nainital) and on green hills of southern India (IIA observatory at Vainu Bappu). A photography trip to World Heritage sites of Hampi temples, Jantar Mantar Observatory in Jaipur, and monuments in Delhi was also organized with permission and cooperation of the ASI.

The first TWAN-India event ended with a visit to the beautiful coastline of Goa in south west India. Famous for its dreaming sand beach, the state also has an active amateur astronomy community in the name of Association of Friends of Astronomy (AFA). On the evening of October 20, on the roof of one of the highest towers of Panaji (the state capital) where the AFA observatory is located, TWAN presented public lectures on night sky photography and different aspects of its project.

Planning for TWAN-India programs’ second workshop on astrophotography and image processing has started. AFA has expressed interest to hold a major TWAN exhibition in Goa in November 2009 during the state’s international film festival. And with the cooperation of ASI new photography missions to India’s heritage sites will be planned.

Read more about the astrophotography workshop in New Delhi:
The workshop webpage

Announcement on TWAN website


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