I read in the news that Pakistan is facing 4 Gigawatts of power shortage and that is a huge difference between demand and supply. Since 4 Gigawatts of electricity is not easy to generate,the load shedding is going to continue for some time.May be years. We are all geeks here,and a geek needs computers or consoles,and consoles need electricity.No electricity,no PC,no console,its that simple.
Can there be something good about load shedding? Well yes,there is one thing. The city lights are reflected by atmosphere and the dust particles,and that creates a curtain between us and the night sky.When the whole city plunges into darkness,the sky becomes more visible at night. Amateur astronomers travel to far off places for escaping city lights and to have a clutter free view of the sky.But since we are blessed with unlimited hours of load shedding,we can all be Amateur astronomers and can have a clear view of the sky from our roof tops.
Depending upon our budget and how much we want to sky watch,the equipment required can be a simple binocular or it can be an expensive Telescope.When i say expensive,it doesn't mean we will have to sell our house to buy one.A normal astronomical telescope for hobbyists starts from something like 10,000 RS and goes all the way up to 3 million RS. Powerful binoculars and Telescopes are available in Pakistan,but you may have to search for a dealer,as they not that numerous.
If we decide to be an amateur astronomer,what can we see? With a fairly powerful binocular or a low end telescope,we can observe moon,but that gets boring after some time.Another less known hobby is satellite spotting. It was started by the Americans during the cold war for spotting soviet spy satellites,but now it has become a hobby and there are many satellite spotter clubs worldwide. People have successfully discovered and tracked many secret NASA satellites from their backyards,and using simple binoculars. The largest man made object in the sky is the International space station and many beginner satellite spotters try to locate ISS and watch it when it passes above their horizon.Its a good sight specially when the Space shuttle docks with ISS. The other object for beginners is the Hubble telescope. That too is large enough to be visible with a Binocular. There are 35000 man made objects of different shapes and sizes revolving around the earth and on the average on passes from above us every 15 minutes. For satellite spotters its same as spotting an expensive car,such as Rolls Royce Phantom,or Ferrari Enzo in your town. With experience,people can tell what kind of satellite they watched,if it was a communication satellite,geo survey,weather or a spy satellite. With a fairly powerful telescope,detailed observation of those marvelous pieces of technology can be possible.
There are many online website and free software available on the internet,which can be used to predict the path of ISS and other satellites,and to identify a satellite you observed.
If you buy a powerful telescope,you can do the usual Astronomical observations,such as watching galaxies,nebula,comets,planets and stars. Meade,celestron and seben are well known telescope makers for amateurs. They also provide telescopes with built in computer or a PC connection,and you only type in the name of the celestial body you want to observe and the telescope will automatically point towards that direction. That will be an unusual addition to your PC hardware.With your telescope you may be the first one to spot a comet that is on collision course to earth,or you may become the only human who watched a exploding star.The possibilities are endless.
With hundreds of thousands of telescopes watching the sky the world over,there are now millions of photographs of stars and galaxies but not that many resources to analyze those photographs in detail. For that reason,universities,observatories and other astronomical research organizations are turning to general public for help. There are many website which host newly photographed images from large telescopes,such as Hubble,and general public are urged to help scientists in identifying those millions of heavenly objects that are photographed every day.
Here is the story of a young volunteer who took part in galaxy zoo project,and from her Desktop PC she discovered a totally new type of galaxy which was previously unknown to scientists.You may be the next discoverer.
I dont know if this article is off topic or not,but i hope that next time when you are trying to sleep on your roof during load shedding in hot weather,you will take interest in that little flashy thing crossing the night sky with speeds you dont expect from an aircraft.
Happy load shedding all of you.