Aim for the stars, the skies and seas

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - SPOTLIGHT - Aish­warya Iyer

If you miss the out­doors, train your eye on it. You’d be sur­prised how much you can still see. You can do some bird-watch­ing, star-gaz­ing, in­sect-study­ing and even dol­phin-spot­ting, all from within your home.

“Air and light pol­lu­tion are both down and that’s al­lowed me to spot con­stel­la­tions and plan­ets more eas­ily,” says Neeraj La­dia, an as­tronomer and Chennai head of Space In­dia, an in­sti­tute for astron­omy and space sci­ences ed­u­ca­tion and tourism. “I spot­ted the Pleiades star clus­ter near Venus. That was quite a sight­ing of a rare align­ment.”

Early morn­ing, from 4 am to 5 am, is the best time to stargaze, he says. There’s a higher chance of spot­ting plan­ets.

La­dia is con­duct­ing on­line ses­sions on the things eas­i­est to spot. Space In­dia also runs as­tropho­tog­ra­phy con­tests. “We did one dur­ing the last su­per moon,” he says.

Apps such as Sky Map, SkySa­fari and Star Walk can help tell you what you’re look­ing at too. “Put your lo­ca­tion in and you can zoom into the sky on your phone screen. Some apps give you real-time views,” La­dia says.

IS IT A BIRD, IS IT A FISH?

With hu­man ac­tiv­ity at a low, a wide range of birds is more eas­ily vis­i­ble too. Sam­rid­dhi Nandi, a stu­dent at Ma­ni­pal Univer­sity, has be­gun bird-watch­ing, usu­ally in the af­ter­noons. “Ini­tially, I would be read­ing or sip­ping tea by the win­dow, and I kept see­ing birds I’d never seen be­fore,” she says. “So I be­gan to look them up on­line, and so far I’ve spot­ted a yel­low-wat­tled lap­wing, a king­fisher, an ori­en­tal mag­pie robin and pea­cocks.”

Dar­shan Khatau, a wildlife con­ser­va­tion­ist from Mum­bai, is also spend­ing his af­ter­noons by the win­dow, but he’s spot­ting dol­phins from his sea­side home in Mum­bai. “More than any­thing else,” he says, “I think we now have more time to ob­serve the wildlife around us. I’m spend­ing more time look­ing, and look­ing more care­fully.”

FLUT­TER-BYS

Arati Ku­mar Rao, a jour­nal­ist and photograph­er from Ben­galuru, has a photo se­ries run­ning on her Twit­ter and In­sta­gram ac­counts that she calls #Back­yard­Sa­fari.

Ro­han Keshe­war from Mum­bai has be­gun in­sect-spot­ting in his build­ing com­pound too. “I was into bird-watch­ing but one day, an in­sect with a daz­zling blue lower body caught my eye. The colours were amaz­ing. In the sun, it re­flected shades of green,” he says. He had of­ten con­sid­ered moths and in­sects ugly, but af­ter see­ing that one up-close, he be­gan read­ing up. “Now I am to­tally lov­ing this,” he says. “I spot some bugs, bees, then look up their names and char­ac­ter­is­tics. The dif­fi­cult part is get­ting close enough to ob­serve. But most days it’s just me in the gar­den, and I en­sure I don’t scare the moths away.”

Dar­shan Khatua, a wildlife con­ser­va­tion­ist, is spend­ing his af­ter­noons dol­phin-spot­ting from within his home in Mum­bai.

Tas­mai Dave from Jaipur has taken to bird-watch­ing from his bal­cony. His favourite sight­ings in­clude two owlets at night, and this pur­ple sun­bird.

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