Quarantined? Let’s visit skies from home

– Usman Qasim Riaz 

The life beyond the edge of our planet never ceases to amaze us. As we step into the new age of technology and exploration, there is much of the universe left to explore. Imagine you are in a 4×4 square. Imagine that the square represents our known universe. A singular dot in that square, smaller than the Planck constant (6.62×10^ -34 m^2 kg/s), is how much we have explored till present! Is that not jaw-dropping?

Coronavirus managed to bring all life to a halt, with its raging nature, and all of us confined ourselves to our homes for the greater good. That said, who says that space pondering and exploration cannot be done from home? We can perform numerous activities with just a bit of time and a spot to stand at, be it the balcony or the roof.

Take a moment to look outside and get your eyes used to the night sky. Even if you live in an area that may be riddled with pollution, there is still a chance for you to experience what this writer is about to explain. Avoid screens with you to reduce glare in your sight. https://in-the-sky.org/ is a site that allows you to check out the space adventures you can have, based on your geographical location. You can then download a night-sky chart which shows what exactly is present in your backyard.

Now, with that done, we take a pause to note that Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are easily visible without any special equipment. You can even check out alignments and planetary movements to gain a better sense of direction when navigating between the planets from your balcony or roof. Venus is the most visible planet in our airspace, especially in the province of Sindh and the fair city of Karachi. When there seem to be no stars in the sky except one bright glowing dot, you can take it as a sign that the dot is Venus. It can sometimes be seen towards the west.

It is also expected that, on April 15th, 2020, the moon will appear close to Saturn, with Jupiter and Mars visible. The most interesting piece of information to gain here is that, even if you miss the 15th April sighting, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are visible throughout the week, starting April 14th. One may take this opportunity to read up and learn more about the planets and how they are all seemingly organized in an order that is not disrupted, either by meteor showers or the gravitational pull. This activity may allow the observer to gain a wider perspective of our universe and how we can seem quite minute as compared to some of the giant planets and stars in our galaxy.

Exploring further in latest space news, the Mercury probe has successfully made a flyby beside Earth, as it now heads into the deeper parts of the solar system. The mission was launched in 2018, and the destination (Mercury), is quite challenging. It requires a seven year trajectory to achieve orbit around the planet in a total of nine flybys.

Finally, the writer of this article concludes by informing our audience about the mission to one of Saturn’s icy moons. That being said, go forth, explore and stay safe. Be sure to have a compass with you if you wish to gain bearings on the directions to properly note the stars and planets.