There comes a time in our lives that paves the way for our future. During this time, a realization dawns upon us, and those of us who sense its arrival are fortunate enough to get a glimpse of what lies ahead. However long this period might be, it always leads to drastic changes in an individual’s perceptions of the different spheres of life. It lasted a year for Einstein, a decade for Galileo, but for me, it was just a night: the night that changed my life.
I can distinctly remember myself lying down on the lush green grounds of ASTRO PORT Sariska. The ASTRO PORT is a haven for amateur stargazers as well as professional astronomers. Being located in the rural regions of India, it ensures that visitors can view the night sky in its full glory. Coming from Delhi, a city brimming with pollution, this was the first time I came face-to-face with a sight such as this.
At that moment, I realized that the night sky is a lot more than just paint drops on black paper- it is Nature’s canvas.
This was my second visit to the ASTRO PORT. I traveled via bus along with the rest of the members of the Astronomy Club. As the bus pulled back into the lot, I craned my neck and cast a long first look towards the sky. It was everything I had imagined, and more. At dusk, the sky resembled an artist’s rendition. It was filled with hues of orange, which gradually darkened and gave way to the stars.
The first mentoring session began at 10:30 pm. All the members of the club were divided into groups of three, and each group was assigned one telescope. Our first task was to locate the moon. This task was a bit challenging for us as no one in the entire club had any experience in using a Newtonian telescope. Our group, particularly, hit quite a rough start. One of my teammates accidentally dropped the twenty pounds telescope on the ground, and unfortunately, its main lens got detached and spiraled off. My teammates were rooted in their spots while the other teams shot glances at us. Everyone was sure that my team would be penalized, but there weren’t any instructors’ insights fortunately for us. Seizing the opportunity, I briskly asked my teammates to take a seat. ‘I am going to make this right,’ I told myself. I believed in myself. In a matter of seconds, I was crouching over a broken instrument, one that I had never seen, let alone repaired, before. I carefully lifted the glass lens (which, fortunately, was still intact) and tried to find a way to bring the broken pieces back together. I knew that there was a possibility of making matters worse, but instead of taking the case to the authorities, I felt obliged to help my team in such a time of crisis. It finally took me no more than three minutes to figure out a way to fix the telescope. In my opinion, it was, and still is, a miracle. With no time to spare, we got back to searching for the moon and completed our first task quite successfully.
After having dinner, we were assigned to the next task: searching for deep space objects (DSOs). All the teams were led by our instructor, Mr. Arnab Chauhan. My team decided to look for the ‘horsehead nebula’. Being quite comfortable in navigating the night sky, I was sure that I was pointing the telescope in the right direction, yet, to my disbelief, I couldn’t spot the nebula. I was getting restless by the minute and this concerned my instructor. ‘Let your eyes adjust to the dark, child,’ said Mr. Chauhan. ‘Everything takes time,’ he said. Everything takes time.
Our final task for the night was to use the telescope to locate the gas giant Jupiter. I had just seen the planet once before, and I could recall the exact orientation of its moons. But when I looked into the telescope, the moons had taken to an entirely different arrangement. This lack of uniformity first bewildered me, but then, with the rising sun, a new realization dawned upon me: a perfect balance between chaos and order is the law of nature.
Our principles must be unshakable like the stars, though we should let our imagination loose just like Jupiter’s moons. Mr. Chauhan made me understand the value of patience and the importance of living in the moment. Even the little slip-up with the telescope taught me to trust my instincts and to stand by those who need help, always.
Who could’ve thought that a night under the stars would be so thought-provoking? The serenity and tranquillity at the ASTRO PORT made me realize that the universe is not nearly as chaotic as it seems to be, and even a ‘rendezvous with stars’ can change your life.
The author, Siddhant Ahuja, is a senior at Modern School Barakhamba Road. Apart from being a published author by Scholastic India, he is also the Founder of Vector Organix – a social service initiative that manufactures and distributes organic mosquito repellents.