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Shutterbugs bring home the stars to astronomy lovers
NIDHI GUPTA  22nd Dec 2012

Star trail over the Himalayas PHOTO: Atish Aman

t isn't hard to associate star gazing with romance – the dreaminess of the activity makes it perfect for songs and stories to dwell in its orbit. But taking astronomy to a whole new level of aesthetic pleasure is a new exhibition at the Nehru Planetarium – one that reveals to the human eye the fascinating worlds hidden in the sky. India's first Astrophoto Festival is a scintillating homage to the cosmos – and to all those who spend considerable energies wondering about little stars in the sky.

Organised by the planetarium along with the Amateur Astronomers Association of Delhi, this is a one of a kind display, where high-end technology meets some of the oldest sources of poetic inspiration. Initiated by 23 year old photographer Atish Aman, the exhibition showcases works by both amateur and professional photographers from over 20 countries including China, UK, US, France, Germany, Pakistan, Croatia, Chile, South Africa along with India. It has been organized to promote the activity as well as lay bare the deep skies.

"Astrophotography is slowly gaining popularity in India. People abroad have been indulging in it for a while now – there are thousands of photographers doing this – and that is only because they have greater access to technology," notes Aman. Now, by creating such a platform, and with some encouragement by Dr. N Rathnasree, the director of Nehru Planetarium in Delhi, he hopes to generate mass interest and sustain it over the years.

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Mohan, who is a doctor by profession, and moonlights as a photographer, says that the reason this activity does not garner mass appeal is because it is a very expensive hobby – “perhaps 10 times as expensive as golf,” as he puts it.

In the corridors of the planetarium building, one walks by a breath-taking array of telescopic images of deep-sky objects such as galaxies and nebulas, images of star trails in the backdrop of glorious heritage and natural sites such as the Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh, the Himalayan range, and the India Gate, and astronomical events such as solar and lunar eclipses, the recent transition of Venus and other comet sightings.

Star trail over the Himalayas PHOTO: Atish Aman Star trail over the Jantar Mantar PHOTO: CB Devgun

Aman says they started out by issuing notices to astronomy gatherings around the world, inviting submissions for the exhibition. This resulted in 700 responses by photographers from around the world – of which 200 are on display. Some of the noteworthy Indian photographers whose works are on display are Ajay Talwar, who does heritage photography, C B Devgun, specialising in star trails and Suresh Mohan, who, according to Aman, is the country's best astrophotographer today.

Mohan, who is a doctor by profession, and moonlights as a photographer, says that the reason this activity does not garner mass appeal is because it is a very expensive hobby – "perhaps 10 times as expensive as golf," as he puts it. "I have spent lakhs of rupees on my cameras and lenses and telescopes – people often ask me why I am not saving up for my daughter's marriage instead. You also need a lot of patience, and of course, a very loving wife," he laughs.

But this passion is one that is born young in most people. While for Aman, the sighting of the Hale-Bopp comet way back in 1998, when he was just 10-years old, did the trick, Mohan's love affair with the skies started when he was gifted a pair of binoculars at the age of 8. "This is a passion that I think should be inculcated in more people – a more active role by planetariums would certainly help," observes Mohan.

The India Astrophoto Festival is on at the Nehru Planetarium till Dec 30.

 
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