Talacauvery in Kodagu district, which is the source of Cauvery river, has emerged as South India’s Hanle, as astronomers have been hosting “star parties” there for some time now. Hanle, located in Ladakh, and known for its pristine skies and minimal light pollution, is also India’s first Dark Sky Reserve.
A Dark Sky Reserve is a designation given to a place that has policies in place to ensure that a tract of land or region has minimal artificial light interference.
In south India, most dark sky locations are in the Western Ghats or some hill ranges nearby, and according to astronomers, Talacauvery is the most ideal location to gaze at the sky and have a star party.
The Bangalore Astronomical Society (BAS), a group of volunteers working for the promotion of astronomy as a hobby as well as a science, is now hosting star parties at Talacauvery. IT professionals Sudhash Natarajan, Vishwanath S.K. and Keerthi Kiran have been volunteering to conduct the star parties for BAS.
“We at BAS usually arrange star parties on New Moon weekends (Friday-Saturday-Sunday) format as it is the ideal time to observe the celestial objects which we are looking for. We inform people who are interested in joining us for the star party eight to days in advance. Members of the sky party after arriving at the dark sky location set up their equipment like telescopes, binacolours etc and the observation goes on until 4.45 am,” said Sudhash Natarajan.
Mr. Natarajan said that the group which attends the star parties are of all walks of life and that they are a mix of experienced astronomers as well as students and newbies to astronomy. He added that star parties have also been conducted in Koratagere, Hoshalli, Kavalur, and Yercaud in the past.
Less light pollution
“However, Talacauvery is possibly the best dark night location in south India due to less light pollution. In astronomy, there is something called the Bortle scale which measures the night sky’s brightness of a location on a nine level numerical scale. The lesser the numerical scale it qualifies for a better dark sky location. For example, Hanle skies would qualify as Bortle one skies, Talacauvery as Bortle two, and Bengaluru as Bortle nine,” he added.
The star parties are usually conducted in the winter months between December to March as the skies are clearer during these months which is very important for stargazing.
Mr. Natarajan said a star party was conducted between December 23 and 27, 2022, and the next one would be between January 20 and 24.