Five Million Incidents | Workshop Saros 132 - Night Sky Observation

Saros 132 © Rohini Devasher © Rohini Devasher

Saturday, 5 - Sunday, 6 October 2019

Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi

By Rohini Devasher

What are the ways we might think about observation? As practice, mode, method?
Astronomy is unique by virtue of being the oldest of the observational sciences. It is also one of the few scientific fields where there will always be a need for the amateur because the sky is immense and there are simply not enough people looking at the stars. This overnight observation is an invitation to look at observation through the twin lenses of ‘participant’ and ‘observer’
Saros 132 - Night Sky Observation is the second event planned by Rohini Devasher in collaboration with Astro-photographer and amateur astronomer Ajay Talwar, as part of Saros 132. The invited group will journey to the Sagar School Observatory in Tijara near Alwar for a night of collective observation/speculation.

Over the course of the evening and through the night, we might think about observation and recording, the practices of taking notes and paying attention as they were cultivated by early modern observers and as they continue to be practiced by amateur astronomers across the world today. In the words of Historian of Science Lorraine Daston, we will “observe observation in its own spirit: open to possibilities for new knowledge in the most unexpected places”.

The Sagar School has an Observatory on campus which was designed and is run by Ajay, who takes weekly classes using their research level 14 inch Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain telescope.
The Night Sky Observation will begin with an introduction to the observation program for the evening and telescope orientation for the participants. On October 5th, the Moon will be in its first quarter, 7 days old, 48% lit in the constellation Sagittarius. Some of the highlights of this observation include, observing the Moon using the large 14inch telescope at high magnification, seeing its craters on the terminator – i.e. the boundary dividing the night and day on the Moon. We will observe the king of planets – Jupiter, its four Galilean satellites, and the cloud bands on the surface.  Saturn, the ringed planet will be visible later in the evening. We will also hunt for star clusters and double stars.
"Throughout its long history, observation has always been a form of knowledge that straddled the boundary between art and science, high and low sciences, elite and popular practices. As a practice, observation is an engine of discovery and a bulwark of evidence. It is pursued in solitude but also in the company of thousands. As a product, observations have been accumulated anonymously over millennia but also authored singly by individuals eager to secure priority and fame. They have been preserved in proverbs, in chronicles, in diaries, in archives, in learned journals and in computer banks. The very word ‘observation’ is suggestively ambiguous: at once a process, a product, an all-consuming pursuit."[1]

[1] Daston Lorraine, Histories of Scientific Observation, University of Chicago Press, 2011