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  • Akarsh Simha 10:21 pm on February 1, 2010 Permalink  

    No longer maintainer of KStars 

    Given the distinct declining trend in my commit rate, and the piling up of bugs on and the absymal levels of effort I’ve been putting into my B.Tech. project, I have transferred maintainership to Alexey Khudyakov. So folks, please welcome Alexey Khudyakov, the new maintainer of KStars.

  • Akarsh Simha 9:02 pm on January 20, 2010 Permalink  

    Trip to Rameswaram to view the ASE 2010 

    This trip definitely deserves a blog post, no matter how lazy I am.

    Prasanna and Pavan decided for me that I should be going to Rameswaram for the eclipse. Accordingly, we decided to make arrangements to reach Rameswaram and stay there. In the process we ended up doing the ticket-booking and accommodation reservations for 40 people from IITM! (Eventually, only 25+ of them turned up).

    The interesting bit of the story starts from the weekend before the eclipse, when Prasanna and Vinay Hegde went to Rameswaram to inspect local arrangements and fix various loopholes in the plan. That’s when we had a terrible shock — locals told us that Rameswaram was going to be extremely crowded on 15th January because of ‘tai amAvAsyA’ (the new moon day in the Tamizh month of ‘tai’) (this did not happen in reality, because the temple was closed for the eclipse — we did have this factor in mind, but didn’t want to take a risk anyway). So we immediately worked towards shifting location to Ramanathapuram. My dad’s friend Sri Shivamurthi was extremely helpful in linking us with the people at Aruna Stores, Ramanathapuram — probably the oldest and most famous bookstore in Ramanathapuram. The people at Aruna Stores were extremely hospitable and helpful (I hear so…) to Prasanna and Vinay who located, with their support, a lodge in Ramanathapuram. Before that, Prasanna and Vinay had already found us an awesome observation site — The Swamy Vivekanda Memorial Hall near Pamban. I was communicating with Prasanna and Vinay over the phone during this, and one thing they told me all the time was that “Local people here are very helpful and hospitable”. Mr. Radhakrishnan and others at the Vivekanandar Manimandapam (as it is called locally) welcomed the idea of 40 students (brats?) coming down to view the eclipse at their location with open arms.

    Having settled all local issues was a big relief. We had accommodation at Ramanthapuram at “Jothi Lodge”, and a place to observe the eclipse from. Calculatedly, we had 10 minutes 8 seconds of eclipse at our observing point. The next issues to fix were here at IITM. Smruthi, Akshay Subramaniam and Vinay got us a gate pass for the telescopes and what we’d like to call the “Non-Terrorist Letter” (a letter certifying that we were carrying telescopes — and not bazookas! :P). Prof. Sriram was very helpful here.

    What remained was the projection setup, to project the solar eclipse. Folks on the CloudyNights forums pointed us here — and we found that very interesting. We used a dustbin, and a pipe fitted to the dustbin using “M-Seal” to make the projection setup. A sheet of A3-size tracing paper stuck onto the top of the dustbin became the projection screen. Incidentally, to make a hole at the back of the dustbin (to fit the pipe in), we did use the help of the Sun, through IITM’s 8″ telescope :D. Naveen Sharma, Prasanna, Vinay, Akshay, Smruthi, and a few others helped us with the projector.

    This was done and tested in the last minute — probably an hour before we left for the Railway Station. We could not resolve the telescope motor issue though (IITM’s telescope’s RA motor has developed some issues with the feedback loop). Soon, there came a call taxi in which the telescope was put in. All participants assembled at the IITM main gate. There were 50 sun goggles with Prasanna for everyone. I got ready with camera and laptop. We all went to Egmore Station and met up there.

    It was amazing that we carried two telescopes in a jiffy to the platform, thanks to the large number of friends who were extremely helpful in sharing responsibility of the telescopes. Within minutes, we alloted parts of the telescope to various compartments and people took responsibility to load the telescope quickly into the train.

    After I was on the train and everything was checked, I began to relax :). All my friends were up on the train. All telescope components were up on the train. We did a quick check and chatted a bit, planned the next morning’s act (we needed to get the telescope down in a 2 minute stop at Ramanathapuram!) and went to bed. Next morning, everyone got the telescope (and themselves) off the train safely in no time! Well, Prasanna and I were somewhat worried about this — but things went off fine.

    Initially, when we got down at Ramanathapuram, skies were cloudy — but that was natural to expect of the early morning. Courtesy Prasanna and Vinay, two buses were waiting at the Railway Station to pick us up. We got off at Jothi Lodge, which was “adjustable”, as Madhav Vishnubhatta (who had gotten there earlier) remarked. By 9 AM, we were ready to take off. Prasanna ensured I didn’t do crazy things like climb on top of the bus :P. Skies were still cloudy, but there were patchy clearings and instances of sunshine. We had a hearty breakfast of two Utthapams with excellent “accompaniments” (Chutneys, Sambar etc) at Hotel Rajarajeswari on the outskirts of Ramnad. After breakfast, we headed towards Rameswaram. The trip was quite some fun. Skies were clearing slowly. A few kilometres before Pamban bridge, we were intercepted by the Tamil Nadu Governor’s security and asked to stop. We were prepared to setup the telescope right there and observe the eclipse, but they gave us clearing in less than 15 minutes, and we went ahead to cross the Pamban bridge.

    The view from the Pamban bridge is indeed breathtaking. Sadly, I don’t have good photos of the same. I’m sure someone from the group will. Mr. Vijay Kumar from TANASTRO was showing me some really good pics from the Pamban bridge. In any case, let me continue. After crossing Pamban bridge, we picked up Rajashekar who was joining us from Bangalore and headed to the Vivekanandar Manimandapam.

    Prasanna's photo of the Vivkenandar Manimandapam at night
    Photo Credit: Prasanna Ramaswamy.

    Just as Prasanna had described, the place was really beautiful. The beach was extremely clean, with deep blue water. The Manimandapam had a statue of Swami Vivekananda and one of the king of Ramanathapuram bowing in respect. There was also a very nice meditation hall. Overall, the place was brilliant. I wish I lived there! The people there — Mr. Radhakrishnan and the friendly pATTi who took care of cooking for the Manimandapam’s employees were extremely helpful! At some point after the eclipse, I surveyed the meditation hall — and as I closed my eyes, I didn’t feel like getting up! I really would recommend this as a must-visit spot for anyone going to Rameswaram. The Manimandapam was built in memory of Swami Vivekananda’s return from the Chicago Parliament of World Religions. After he returned, it is said that he first set foot on Indian soil near Kunthukal, which is where the Memorial is built. The rAjA (king) of Ramanathapuram, who funded his visit to Chicago, hence takes a place in the memorial hall.

    Prasanna's photo of the beach
    Photo Credit: Prasanna Ramaswamy.

    My photo of the beach

    When we pulled in at the location, the partial phase had just begun. People from Bangalore / BAS were already there, photographing the eclipse and trying to do some quantitative measurements / experiments. We distributed solar goggles to everyone and everyone enjoyed the view of the small cut across the sun. There was a lot of excitement in the air already. I was prancing around in excitement until Prasanna dragged me back to set up the telescope. We set up the two telescopes with the everyone’s help in a very short time. Soon, people were looking at projected images of the sun on Akshay’s 6″ telescope.

    Eclipse watchers. Photograph by Siddheshwar B. Patri.
    Photo Credit: Siddeshwar B Patri.
    Eclipse watchers

    The beginning stages of the eclipse on our projection. Photograph by Adarsh V E.
    Photo Credit: Adarsh V E.
    The partial phase after 1st contact on the projection setup

    Eventually, we rediscovered pinhole projection. So we had the eclipse projected from pinholes made in people’s hands, and by a nearby tree, which happened to be the only one in the vicinity of our telescopes.

    The tree that projected the eclipse for us.
    Photo Credit: Prasanna Ramaswamy.
    The tree that projected the eclipse for us

    Projecting the partial phase with Akshay's hands!
    Photo Credit: Siddeshwar B Patri.
    Using Akshay’s hands to project the eclipse.

    We had a lot of passers-by and visitors to the Manimandapam who showed some interest in the eclipse.

    Visitors who showed interest in viewing the eclipse.
    Photo Credit: Siddeshwar B Patri.

    And soon, it was time for the second contact. I was trying to photograph it at prime focus with IITM’s 8″ f/5 telescope, but I could not achieve sharp focus — so I lost out on Bailey’s Beads during the second contact — I didn’t even see them. But people who observed them on the projection got to see them. We had “warned” everyone in advance to not miss out on those Bailey’s Beads, so everyone was well prepared to view and photograph the fleeting spectacle that was going to last for 2 ~ 3 seconds.

    The first Bailey's Bead?
    Photo Credit: Siddeshwar B Patri.

    Bailey's Beads!
    Photo Credit: Siddeshwar B Patri.

    The spectacle of Bailey’s Beads was enjoyed by everyone at the 2nd contact (except for a few like me). The next celestial display was the Ring of Fire, the almost “perfect” annulus in the sky that we were going to witness. The ring of fire looked really divine through the solar goggles. One could see a beautiful annulus in place of the sun! We also saw beautiful circles beneath the tree during annularity.

    Annularity, projected beneath the tree!
    Photo Credit: Adarsh V E
    Shadows under the tree during annularity

    Ring of Fire, projected on our setup.
    Photo Credit: Siddeshwar B Patri.
    Ring of Fire, on the projection setup

    Ring of Fire
    Ring of Fire at the prime focus of the 8″ f/5

    As the annularity was about to end, we prepared for Bailey’s Beads again during 3rd contact. This time, I went to the projection setup to witness the phenomenon with my eyes! The sight was really beautiful! The beads lasted for about 2 seconds and we were back into the partial phase! Adarsh made a video of the annularity, and that is yet to be uploaded. Watch the comments section for a link.

    After a very satisfying annularity, we took a few shots of the partial phase, and headed towards the beach! In the meanwhile, folks who had joined us from BAS left.

    Partial phase post annularity. Moon uncovers sunspot AR11040
    Moon uncovers the sunspot group AR11040
    Click here to see an processed image that shows the sunspot clearly

    AR11040 de-eclipse from projection
    Photo Credit: Siddeshwar B Patri.
    Moon uncovering AR11040, as seen on the projection

    Partial phase post annularity
    Partial phase after annularity

    Partial phase post annularity

    BAS + IITM Astronomy Club
    BAS + IITM Astronomy Club

    Some folks decided to have some fun in the beach, while the rest of us tried to get some lunch. I joined the lunch-hunters’ group. The day being celebrated as mATTupongal, no eateries in Pamban and Tangachchimadam were open. We had some excellent tea at a tea kaDai near pAmban bus stand and some random biscuits and chocolate to eat. ( Well, I did miss out on the beach fun 😦 )

    Playing in the Beach
    Photo Credit:Prasanna Ramaswamy.
    Playing in the Beach
    Photo Credit:Adarsh V E.
    Nobody can resist a clean beach!

    For lunch, we satisfied ourselves with several rounds of tea (Yay!), and got back to the Manimandapam to discuss the evening’s programme. Majority of the folk wanted to return to the Manimandapam and spend the night there, under starry, dark skies. After making some arrangements for transport, most folks left to Ramnad for lunch + dinner + freshening up. Akshay and I took our Danish visitors to Rameswaram to ensure that they were comfortable in their accommodation. We packed dinner for Prasanna and others who were staying back at the Manimandapam from Hotel Ariyas, Rameswaram. Hotel Ariyas had some good dOsai with nice accompaniments. I also had pongal there, which was okayish. The local people did recognize that we came to view the eclipse — maybe we weren’t looking like devotees! In the meanwhile, the folks at the Manimandapam were having some fun photography (on empty stomachs! :O)

    Photo Credit:Prasanna Ramaswamy.

    Photo Credit:Prasanna Ramaswamy.

    Not-so-soon, Akshay and I were back at the Manimandapam with food, much to the relief of the folks in the photo above. While they had their food, we set up IITM’s 8″ f/5 on the beach! It was really nice observing from the beach. (An interesting anecdote here — I found that we were missing the wide-field 32mm eyepiece, which is crucial for observing anything with the telescope. We thought we had left it in Akshay’s telescope, which had been sent back to Ramnad. So we called up the folks who had gone to Ramnad, only to find out that they had already left Ramnad. We asked them to stop, turn back and go get the eyepiece, until someone asked me to check my pockets — it was right there! I still have a quota of bumps left for this.)

    Having witnessed Orion Nebula and a few other celestial sights through the telescope, it was time for the culmination of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Given that we were at 9 degrees North latitude, we thought we should give it a try. We had only the sea in the south — no lights for several kilometres! But then, there were passing clouds and sea fog. However, I was able to locate a few stars of the constellation Reticulum with the help of KStars, from where I was able to connect up to get to Epsilon Doradi, the reference star for LMC. The skies in the region cleared for quite a while, and with averted vision, one could see a HUGE, but faint patch of light there. Akshay confirmed, and so did Smruthi. In a while, we had found the brightest part and fixed its orientation and elongation. We later confirmed this against Prasanna’s photograph. By then, folks who had gone to Ramnad had come back, and after hiding secretly from them (in the dark) for long, we revealed our locations and showed everyone the LMC. More than 15 people were able to see the LMC with the naked eye!

    Large Magellanic Cloud
    Photo Credit:Prasanna Ramaswamy.
    Large Magellanic Cloud

    We were joined a little late by Parag and others from Bangalore, who sadly missed out on LMC, but got to see some deep-sky objects between the passing clouds. Soon, the tide began rising, and we had to desert the beach and move the telescope to the elevated back-side of the Mandapam, were we spent the night and observed a few more objects. In the morning, we all stood at the beach for some photographs:

    Group Photo!
    Photo Credit:Prasanna Ramaswamy.

    After that, we all headed back to Ramnad. At Ramnad, we split into groups and headed for sight-seeing. Majority of the folks went to Rameswaram, while Prasanna, Sathish and Smruthi attempted a visit the confluence point at 10,79. Shafeeq and I stayed back to finish some local work, and then headed to Rameswaram. At Rameswaram, we met up with the rest of the group at Hotel Ariyas, where they were waiting for lunch. Lunch at Hotel Ariyas was excellent — particularly the Vatha Kuzhambu. We all helped ourselves to multiple servings. For the Rs. 40/- we paid, the unlimited meal in the A/C hall was definitely worth it!

    After lunch, we were debating on where to go. We again split into two groups — a large group left for Dhanushkodi, and the remaining 6 of us left for the Ramanathar temple. (When I entered, I did not know whether it was a Rama temple or a Shiva temple!) The main siva linga is said to have been consecrated by Lord Rama, who prayed to Siva when he wanted to cross the Ocean to reach Sri Lanka. We got a brief glimpse of the linga. Goddess Parvathi in the ambAL sannadhi looked really beautiful amidst the lamps illuminating her and all the floral decoration. Adarsh’s cousin Balaji was our tour guide through the temple, and he helped us a lot there.

    On our way back, we again had overpriced, but nevertheless good tea (served in unhygienic tumblers :P) at a tea stall in Rameswaram bus stand, and then boarded a bus to Ramnad. At Ramnad, we checked our reservation status at the railway station, and then went to the neighbouring Hotel Amritha Balaji. At Hotel Amritha Balaji, I had one of the best Ghee Roast Dosas I’ve ever eaten. We were struggling to finish our second Ghee Roast dosas! They were really full of ghee and very very tasty, along with the awesome chutneys. We then left to our accommodation at Jothi Lodge and got ready to leave for the railway station. A quick talk with the bus driver, and we had a bus for 21 of us. Everyone + Telescope got onto the train in the 2-minute stop very comfortably. Prasanna, Smruthi and Sathish boarded the train at Trichy. We took some group snaps after arriving at Egmore, and parted ways (home / IITM by different routes).

    Another Group Photo!
    Photo Credit:Prasanna Ramaswamy.

    Overall, this was one of the best trips I’ve been on! Interestingly, I never met Shashank and Pavan (friends from Bangalore who were at Rameswaram too!) throughout the trip! We met Mr. Vijay Kumar, Mr. Parthasarathy, Balaji and others from TANASTRO on the train back, though.

    Links to photo albums:

  • Akarsh Simha 6:14 pm on December 23, 2009 Permalink  

    Observing during December 2009 

    I haven’t blogged about lot of things — starting with Hackfest Day 2 onwards, the end of the semester, the dyonic Reissner-Nordstroem blackhole and associated realisations, FOSS.IN/2009 and KDE PoTD, and whatever I’ve been doing all through December.

    But let me selectively blog about the observing sprint of December 2009 right now, because I’m in an excited state after finishing that. The rest after I finish this.

    So I had planned from the very start that I should make full use of my new-got 17.5″ telescope (which I got in March 2009, after nearly 18 months of waiting after placing the order). Little did I know, back then, that I’d have little time to use the telescope when it arrives — so I planned to make use of it this December by going away observing to a dark site for a lot of nights.

    I thought I could get away doing this during the Christmas week, but it turned out that it was full moon — so I had to change my plans so that I could stay back here during the new moon and go observing to “vasUlify” (Hindi + English, roughly meaning ‘get the returns / profits out of’) the telescope.

    Without much ado, let me go on to summarize the observing sessions and the objects observed, supplemented with sketches.

    Observing Sessions:

    Observing Session 1:

    Date: Saturday, 12th Dec 2009
    Location: On the terrace of some complex, Siddharabetta village, near Koratagere, Tumkur Dist.
    People: Naveen Nanjundappa and me.
    Weather: Skies were exceptionally good and BLACK, but there was a lot of humidity and haze that diffused every star into a halo. After local lights turned on at about 1:30 AM, the skies were washed out by scattering of local lights by low-level humidity. Fog set in by 3 AM and we slept.
    Bortle Class: a little better than 3, I suppose — before local lights came on.
    Start Time: 12:15 AM
    End Time: 3 AM
    Highlights: Horsehead Nebula, Orion Nebula, M 74, some random nebulae, Rosette Nebula — the first times.

    Observing Session 2:

    Date: Monday, 14th Dec 2009
    Location: doDDamallayyanpALyA, near Koratagere, Tumkur Dist.
    People: Amar Sharma and me.
    Weather: Skies were okay for most till 1 AM. It fogged by about 1 AM and cleared by about 3 AM, but we were fast asleep. We got up by 4 AM, and it was worth getting up.
    Bortle Class: 4.
    Start Time: 6:45 PM
    End Time: 5:45 AM.
    Highlights: Roughly for every galaxy we pointed the telescope to, we found one or two other galaxies in the field! M 51 was pretty good. Sombrero galaxy too. Helix Nebula, NGC 55 etc.

    Observing Session 3:

    Date: Tuesday, 15th Dec 2009
    Location: doDDamallayyanpALya, near Koratagere, Tumkur Dist.
    People: Amar Sharma and me.
    Weather: Skies were cloudy when we were on the way, and cleared for a while when we reached Koratagere. But by the time we set up the telescope, it fogged up and never cleared. The session was a failure.
    Bortle Class: a little better than 4, when it cleared.
    Start Time:
    End Time:
    Highlights: None 😦

    Observing Session 4:

    Date: Friday, 18th Dec 2009
    Location: Keemale Estate, near Karada Village, Coorg Dist.
    People: me alone.
    Weather: Clear in patches at 6:30 PM, overcast by 7 PM, cleared again by 10 PM, clear till 3 AM. Overcast after that.
    Bortle Class: Better than 4.
    Start Time: 10:15 PM
    End Time: 3:00 AM
    Highlights: NGC 891, NGC 1300, NGC 1055, Sculptor Galaxy, Thor’s Helmet, Skull Nebula, NGC 247, etc

    Observing Session 5:

    Date: Saturday, 19th Dec 2009
    Location: Keemale Estate, near Karada Village, Coorg Dist.
    People: About 13 people — we had a starparty organized by BAS at the location.
    Weather: Clear in patches at 6:30 PM, overcast by 7 PM, cleared again by 9 PM or so, clear till 3:30 AM or so. Overcast after that.
    Bortle Class: Slightly better than 4.
    Start Time: 9:30 PM (?)
    End Time: 3:30 AM (?)
    Highlights: Horsehead Nebula seen through the 8″, Orion Nebula, Double Cluster, M 81, Leo Triplet, Splitting Alnitak, lots of other bright stuff.

    Observing Session 6:

    Date: Sunday, 20th Dec 2009
    Location: Keemale Estate, near Karada Village, Coorg Dist.
    People: Keerthi Kiran, Amar Sharma, Pavan Keshavamurthy and me.
    Weather: Clear till 4 AM, when it clouded up for a while and cleared again by 4:15 AM. Clear till 5:15 AM or so.
    Bortle Class: 3
    Start Time: 6:30 PM
    End Time: 5:00 AM
    Highlights: Eridanus Galaxies, Sculptor Galaxy, NGC 891, M 51!!!, M 31, Extragalactic Globulars in M 31 and Fornax Dwarf, lots more.



    Sculptor Galaxy: Nearly a black and white photograph! It was really beautiful on both the days I saw it. The short dark lane was clearly visible. Here’s a sketch of the same:

    NGC 55: Showed the eccentric nucleus and the knot at the other end. Seen on 14th December. Here’s a sketch:

    M 77: Showed clear nucleus and surrounding haze.

    NGC 1055: Sported a dark lane and central bulge.

    NGC 1087, NGC 1042, NGC 1052, NGC 938 and nearby galaxies were visible. Didn’t bother seeing features.

    NGC 1300: One spiral arm was clear. Bar was clearly visible. Knots at the edge of the bar were visible. Other spiral arm could not be detected. Here’s a sketch:

    NGC 1365: The bar and two spiral arms were clear. One spiral arm was fainter than the other. It looked like an N-shape. Here’s a sketch:

    This is the best image to compare with: Link

    NGC 1232: During session 4, showed two spiral arms, not very distinctly, though. During session 6, it showed the feeling of a lot of spiral arms, but could not see anything concrete.

    NGC 1187: During both session 4 and 6, showed vague spiral structure, as depicted in the sketch here:

    The Phantom (M 74): The best view I got was during Session 6, where we turned up magnification to 140x. It revealed three spiral arms with two of them being pretty distinct. A descriptive sketch is here:

    This sketch depicts the difference that magnification made:

    Triangulum Galaxy, M 33: The best view of M33 was during Sesion 6. It showed a whole lot of knots and 4 spiral arms — but I did not spend enough time to register enough to sketch it. An older sketch showing less detail than I saw during Session 6 is here:

    NGC 891: The best views of NGC 891 were obtained during sessions 4 and 6. It was nearly like a black and white photograph. I observed it best on session 4 and was able to see mottling in the dark lane! Here’s a sketch:

    NGC 247: This object was very low in the horizon when I saw it during session 4 and the trees were probably blocking part of my scope’s aperture. However, I could still notice that the nucleus was somewhat eccentric in the brightness — which is a feeling because of the dark lanes on one side of the nucleus as seen in a photograph.

    Bode’s Galaxy, M 81: Showed hints of spiral structure, which Pavan confirms is correct. Best view during session 5.

    Cigar Galaxy, M 82: Beautiful as usual — didn’t step to higher magnification as I’ve done that earlier.

    M 65: Couldn’t see details — probably because of lack of time and deteriorated skies. Didn’t switch to higher magnification.

    M 66: Showed some hints of spiral arms — but nothing distinct. Didn’t switch to higher magnification.

    NGC 3628: Showed clear dust lane, and wisps at the ends. A sketch here:

    M 95: Did show some hints of spiral structure, but could not spend more time on it.

    M 96: Could not spend time to see details.

    M 109: Best view during Session 2. Could see hints of spiral strucuture, but no distinct spiral arms. Bar was visible on Session 6 as well.

    M 100: After much trial — showed one spiral arm. Nothing more, sadly :(. Sketch:

    Andromeda Galaxy (M 31), M 32, and M 110: The view was really wonderful! We saw two dark lanes and the knot, and even the dark patch below the know. The satellite galaxies M 32 and M 110 were clear and bright. The extent of Andromeda galaxy was breathtaking. We were able to see two extragalactic globular cluster — G 1 and G 76 that are part of Andromeda Galaxy. Sketch:

    Whirlpool Galaxy (M 51) and it’s companion: The view was indeed breathtaking during Session 6, when I saw what was nearly like the black-and-white photograph in the eyepiece. The galaxy showed a disk of light around the bright nucleus, and the spiral arms stood out with some contrast from this background of the galaxy. The contrast of the arms was less than that in M 74 (as confirmed by images). Sketch:

    NGC 4565: This edge on spiral sported a beautiful view during Session 6. Central bulge and dust-lane were visible. The galaxy was really long! Sketch:

    NGC 7739: We stumbled on this accidentally while trying to search for Sculptor Galaxy. It looked like an elliptical-shaped resolved globular cluster. We later found out that this was NGC 7739 and that the “resolved” feeling was indeed because of the mottled structure of the galaxy and the several knots that it has.


    Horsehead Nebula: We were able to barely detect it with the 8″ during Session 5, but were able to see some details in the 17.5″ during sessions 1 and 5. It required us to hide the glare of Alnitak and use averted vision. I assert that I saw it in the 8″ because despite trying to look for an inverted horsehead, I noticed an erect horsehead — later, I realized that the field in the 8″ was inverted relative to that of the 17.5″ at that time — and thus confirmed my observation. Keerthi and Pavan also were able to confirm this. Sketch through the 17.5″ telescope:

    Sketch of view through the 8″. The contrast has been exaggerated quite a bit.

    The Great Orion Nebula complex – M 42, M 43, and Running Man Nebula: We were able to see a grayscale photographic view of the Orion Nebula region — including M 42, M 43 and Running Man Nebula. A lot of wisps, dark patches were visible. It was a breathtaking sight. Too much detail to sketch! Rather, look at a grayscale photograph 🙂

    Rosette Nebula: While we thought this was a purely photographic object, we were able to seethe brightest part of it during Sessions 1 and 6. The part we saw appears to the top right in pinkish white in the photograph here. A semicircle of nebulosity around the star cluster was visible without the OIII filter!

    M 78: Nothing much to say — appeared like a patch, as usual.

    Skull Nebula (NGC 246): Was able to make out the shape of the nebula to some extent. Didn’t have the patience to put on the OIII filter.

    Thor’s Helmet (NGC 2359): I saw this object during session 4. It did show some shape, but could not make out the helment distinctly. There was a train of stars with some nebulosity that I could imagine to be one of the feathers of the helmet and there was some nebulosity that resembled the helmet — but I could not confirm this against images. It might be that I’ve seen the train of stars to the 2 o’ clock in this image and seen only the other feather of the helment and the helmet itself correctly.

    NGC 1788: I saw this nebula during session 1 and session 4. The nebula “originated” from a star and had a bright portion just above it (as seen in the image.

    Helix Nebula (NGC 7293): Helix nebula appeared faint, but with the OIII filter, it was showing clearly the central hole, the wisps and the mottled surroundings. It was almost like a black-and-white Hubble image.

    Owl Nebula (M79): With some averted vision, I was able to notice the “eyes” of the owl. Confirmed the orientation and location of the guys with a nearby reference star against a photograph.

    NGC 604: We were able to easily see this extragalactic nebula in Triangulum Galaxy with the 17.5″ as well as through the 8″. It appeared as a bright spot next to the foreground star.

    Open Clusters

    37 Asterism: We were able to see this beautiful asterism that looks like a ’37’ written in the sky. The view was better through 17.5″ as it increased the brightness of the stars that formed part of the 37. I saw it through 17.5″ during Session 4, and through 8″ during Session 5.

    M 35: We saw this open cluster during several sessions (particularly Session 5). The nearby dense NGC globular was very beautiful in the 17.5″.

    Double Cluster: We saw this pair of open clusters, once again, on several sessions. Everyone enjoyed the view during Session 5. It looked really beautiful through the wide-field 31mm Nagler eyepiece on the 17.5″ telescope!

    We saw a lot more open clusters, but I will not document them here.

    Globular Clusters

    M 79: This globular in the constellation Lepus was completely resolved into stars with the 17.5″ telescope at 400x. Seen during session 5. Everybody seemed to enjoy the view.

    G 1: This globular cluster belongs to Andromeda Galaxy. We were able to see it during Session 6 as a faint fuzz flanked by 2 stars with the 17.5″

    G 76: Amar showed me this tiny, faint globular in Andromeda Galaxy during Session 6 through the 17.5″.

    M 3: Seen during session 5, everyone seemed to enjoy the view of this globular as it was completely resolved into stars.

    NGC 1049: Amar showed me this tiny, faint globular that is part of the Fornax Dwarf galaxy during Session 6, through the 17.5″

    Double Stars

    Alnitak: We were able to split this tight double star in Orion using 200x magnification on the 17.5″. Both stars are similar in colour, but one star is marginally fainter than the other.

    • Sriram 12:10 pm on April 27, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Brilliant Sketches man!! Great job.. Some of the pictures’ links are broken though 😦
      I met you in Yelagiri and you have one insanely awesome scope; I never ever thought that I would get to see individual resolved stars in Omega Centauri!!!!! Brilliant 😀

    • Akarsh Simha 3:20 am on January 3, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply


  • Akarsh Simha 4:21 pm on October 2, 2009 Permalink  

    Shaastra 2009 Hackfest – Day 1 

    Okay, Day 1 started with me trying to schedule some sleep in vain. While still trying to setup a distcc farm, build Qt, I went at 10 AM for a break, followed by Atul Chitnis’ talk on “FOSS and Technology” at 10:30 AM. Atul was down with Chickengunya, but gave an excellent talk nevertheless. I don’t know about others, but I did have something to learn from it.

    He started by saying that the talk would appear a little biographical to begin with, and went on to talk about his younger days, when he pulled apart a grandfather clock, and about his college project – they had quite a lot of learning in them. The punch line of the first bit of the talk, if I’ve got it right, was “Understand everything deeply, to the core. Because, if you want to develop something new, you had better know the inner workings of the system at hand”. Trying to take things apart is sometimes the way to understanding the inner workings of a system, and Atul stressed that this is of educative value, even if it fails. Even while putting things back together, you can learn something. He then explained how the FOSS way of doing things – open interaction, open source code, a nice community that is always willing to help – supported the user to dive deep into the working of technology. He asserted that it is through Free and Open Source Software that new technologies could be born, because building new technologies implies the requirement of understanding how things work on the inside – not just how to use an API. He also explained how FOSS was beneficial to students of technology, in enabling thinking, and in helping them to work with a large team. (On a side note, I was wondering whether the community-interaction in the scientific community would be analogous to that in KDE and other FOSS projects would, when he said this). He told the audience several anecdotes – I found the one about Harald Welte’s GSM stations the most exciting. The question-answer session at the end was very interesting. Someone who had attended one of Atul’s talks before could easily say that Atul had Chickengunya, because he wasn’t moving about as much as he would, but I don’t think someone who was blindfolded would! His talk very good in my opinion.

    We quickly broke for lunch, because Shreyas’ talk was next. Shreyas re-did the “FOSS Foundry” talk after guaging the audience’s skills, although he had originally intended something different (and more exciting!). It was very interactive, and everyone in the audience was actively participating. He managed to keep people who had not slept the entire night awake and absolutely active. I’m sure everyone enjoyed his talk.

    Okay, now let me talk about the pre-hackfest talks. I assumed the responsibility of building KDE this hackfest. Prakash has been running around doing many other things, so he goaded me to join him in the pre-hackfest talk for KDE. I didn’t know what to say – we didn’t even have presentations prepared – but I think we did something reasonable. I couldn’t afford to stay through the rest of the pre-hackfest talks (that were intended to give an overview of various organizations), so I can’t comment.

    Then, the hackathon began. The kernel hackathon seemed to be the most attractive and the best in my room. Aneesh is a charismatic speaker, and from whatever I could gather during my compile-time breaks, he, Kamalesh and Prasad really had motivated their participants. Participants stayed up as late as 4 AM. I heard that they talked about the release cycle of the Linux kernel, helped people build the Linux kernel, went over some of the options in the kernel config, and talked about how to debug the kernel running on an emulator using gdb.

    As for KDE, we had a few people staying as late as 4 AM. Kashyap was probably busy with other responsibilities, while Prakash gave an introduction to the KStars code-base and I sat trying to build KDE. (I made a lot of blunders, which is why it still hasn’t built). Later in the night, I live-fixed a simple bug to demonstrate the thought process and the procedures involved in fixing a bug and commiting it to the repository. Here’s a link to the commit. The participants made several suggestions, and we filtered the good ideas from the “unclean” ideas. Some folks were still hacking on KStars early in the morning with Prakash’s help, while I went back to the failing build.

    The Mozilla JetPack hackfest seemed to be going really well, although they were in a different room, and I didn’t get to hear much. Siddharth was very enthusiastic. He was teaching people JavaScript, which was a pre-requisite for JetPack.

    The GNOME mentor Arun found out that people didn’t know about function pointers, so they couldn’t understand event-driven programming. So he opted the route of “get your fundas right” and strengthened participants in the basics, so that they can hack GNOME today. I don’t know much of what happened there.

    I was completely isolated from the Sugar hackfest, so I have no idea what went on.

    Jai was conducting the ffmpeg hackathon. They submitted a patch for review. Today, they will be writing a decoder! That’s a lot of nice news :). Kudos to Jai.

    So that was Day 1. We knew what to do, unlike last year. Things were completely under control and went off fine, although KDE didn’t go as good as expected.

    We should be hanging out on #iitm-hackfest on FreeNode. Do catch us!

    • Pranesh Srinivasan 10:17 am on October 4, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I seem to have missed some awesome fun too 😐

    • Hobbes 5:16 pm on October 10, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      “guage” is not an English word, “gauge” is — couldn’t resist the temptation to pick on you(see para 3). Nice write up.

    • coenEveveLeld 6:51 am on November 25, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Lots of people talk about this issue but you wrote down really true words.

  • Akarsh Simha 3:31 pm on October 2, 2009 Permalink  

    Shaastra 2009 Hackfest 

    Apologies: This post is coming MUCH MUCH later than it should have!

    Wow! I wonder if you remember last year’s “Hackfest” at Shaastra, the technical festival of IIT Madras. Last year’s hackfest, despite failing miserably in a LOT of ways, had a whole lot of impact in other ways. I learned that it was partly responsible for the creation of two new LUGs, and the activation of one dormant LUG. It also indirectly played a role in bringing two new KDE developers, apart from quite a few things that I’m sure have escaped from my sight.

    Last year’s hackfest was something that we coordinators placed really low on our priority list. S V Vikram, Sanjeev Sripathi and I were coordinators last year, and SVV and I had our most heavy academic semester going on. We really didn’t want to do the hackfest, but well, no one else pursued it. I did expect some juniors to do that! Well, nevertheless, we hardly spent any time working on it. The whole thing was a terrible disaster in terms of organization, but it actually did something significant!

    Considering that this was one of those events which would actually motivate people to contribute to FOSS and to learn deeper, this event has entered the mainstream of Shaastra! We had four third year students – Prakash Mohan, Kashyap Puranik, Vinay Hegde, and Kashyap Garimella – applying as coordinators for this event. That felt really nice – something I wanted to do, but someone else (mind you, they are equally inclined towards the event as I am, or probably more!) to organize it! I decided not to pull myself in until those 4 days of Shaastra (we’re on Day 2 now) where I promised to be available to help with KDE – some contribution to KDE from me after my commit rate has been dwindling :|. It’s really awesome to see motivated juniors taking care of the event. They have worked REALLY HARD on it. Thankfully, their fifth semesters are lighter than ours was.

    We got Atul Chitnis (tech. guru), Shreyas Srinivasan (GNOME, RadioVerve), Aneesh (Kernel), Kamalesh (Kernel), Prasad (Kernel), Jai Menon (ffmpeg), Vamsi Davuluri (Sugar), and Siddharth Agarwal (Mozilla) to give talks / mentor people during the Hackfest. We also have our very own Arun Chaganty (GNOME), Prakash Mohan (KDE), Kashyap Puranik (KDE) apart from me (KDE) mentoring folks at the hackfest.

    I was hoping to publish this post before the hackfest, but I couldn’t rest because KDE was not building. Not that I’ve built it successfully now, but I’ve decided to do something else to keep me entertained while it builds. I was hoping for a better Day 1 than what actually went, but unlike last time, Day 1 was pretty good this time! Hopefully, Day 2 will see the real work happening.

    I will describe Day 1 from my POV in the next post. Till then Tschues.

  • Akarsh Simha 8:42 pm on September 19, 2009 Permalink  

    Carnatic Music vs Hindustani Music vs Other forms 

    I simply couldn’t resist penning down my views on this subject after reading Smt. Lakshmi Sriram’s article in The Hindu (Chennai):

    I must admit that I am hardly familiar with forms of music other than Carnatic (and maybe to some extent Western Classical). However, I have attended a Hindustani concert or two, and I hope I do make sense when I talk about Hindustani music or other forms. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Of course, this post might be highly biased, but that is natural because it’s a personal opinion – take it or chuck it!

    While not purely so, most forms of music have some aspect that results in ‘intellectual enjoyment’. One must be able to understand the nuances of the music to wholly appreciate it.

    In my opinion, the ingredient of music that requires the least amount of musical training to appreciate is simple rhythm patterns. Somehow, I’m inclined to believe that this is why the likes of Shivamani are extremely popular – because they come up with simple, but yet innovative, rhythm patterns which the common man can understand and appreciate. The other ingredient is Lyrics, preferably in English. I attribute the popularity of those forms of “music” that I would love to derogate by branding them as ‘noise’ to the fact that they are rhythm-intensive or Lyrics-intensive, and thus understandable by most people.

    Then there’s harmony. I found out from my friend that not everyone can actually appreciate harmony. Western music primarily relies on harmony. Western Classical music utilizes ensembles of instruments to produce harmonious tones. Other ingredients like the tonal content or rAga, are harder to pick up unless one is trained in the particular form of music.

    Carnatic music involves not only a lot of rhythmic complexity (eg: Pallavis, or stuff played in a taniyAvartanam) that is hardly understandable to the untrained ear, but also a lot of tonal complexity (heavy bhRgas and gamakams) that requires a really fast ‘Fourier Transform’ in your brain! What is suprising is that training can make the brain capable of ‘parsing’ every single note in a tonally complex phrase of music.

    While Hindustani music might be tonally complex, it is mostly mellifluous and doesn’t involve as much rhythmic complexity (unless I’m mistaken) as Carnatic Music. Carnatic music is sharp, whereas Hindustani is mellifluous; and unless your ‘Fourier Transform’ is fast enough, you can’t appreciate T N Sheshagopalan’s 3rd kAlam swaras in the Alapanai (I still can’t!), which will just sound like drab nonsensical oscillations with no tonal beauty, explaining the popular impression of Carnatic Music. Hindustani Music, especially when rendered popularly, on the other hand, doesn’t require as fast a Fourier Transform – except for some parts of the concert. Thankfully, Hindustani music has these slow phrases which the untrained ear can appreciate, making it more popular.

    So I would conclude that the popularity of non-classical forms of music, and above that, that of Hindustani over Carnatic is mostly because Classical Music, and in particular, Carnatic Music doesn’t pander to the average unacquainted man but offers a steep learning curve and calls for appreciation at various levels – emotional and intellectual.

    • Pavan K 3:07 am on September 20, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Nice post. /me concurs on most points.
      Some observations:

      1) Taste for music (as personal and random as it is) is subject to culture and upbringing – which in turn breeds preferences and biases thereof.
      For instance, Convent educated, High Society bred people might have a tendency to favor anything western, The typical Tambrahm might prefer Karnatak classical over other things, The typical music enthusiast from the Dharwad belt is likely to favor HindusthAni.

      Within these cultural constraints – Few people tend to have enough openness to appreciate or experiment with their taste for music. Infact the average Indian knows way too little about Indian classical music, HindusthAni or Karnatak (How many people in south india have heard of Tyagaraja or Purandaradasa?) than the average westerner is informed about Western Classical.! They’d prefer more popular Music (Bollywood, otherwood).

      The vast majority of Indians only know of folk forms or Filmi Music.

      That doesn’t mean that there’s a pathological constraint – intellectual or otherwise preventing them from appreciating classical music, but that it’s a culture-gap, preferential bias.

      2) Comparisons on complexities between HindusthAni and Karnatak traditions: Agreed about the technical comparisons. I don’t think everything about Karnatak music is technical (which you seem to hint towards, esp when you talk about FFTs and tone-sequencing). I think everyone is capable of “enjoying” the musical element regardless of the technicalities involved (The musical element of a soulful keertane, say)
      There’s a slight difference here between Hindusthani and Karnatak music though. HindusthAni was always meant to be entertainment + pleasure oriented music. HindUsthAni gained identity with (and thanks to) royal patronage unlike Karnatak Music, which to a large extent never strayed away from it’s Bhakti-oriented roots. Till date, Tansen is the poster boy of Hindusthani music and not his guru Swami Haridas. Compare that with Tyagaraja or Purandaradasa down south. Even composers under royal patronage, like Muttaiah BhAgavata or maisUr vAsudEvAcArya retained identity well beyond their court-vidvAnship.

      No wonder HindUsthAni is aesthetic and appealing out-of-the-box, while Karnatak music (atleast the keerthanes part) is savvy only to the devotional people, language understanding notwithstanding. Unlike musical tones, linguistic phonemes *do* require understanding inorder to make sense. Tune apart, I don’t think it’s possible for a non-kannaDiga to appreciate JagadodhdhArana without understanding the lyrics.

      Lastly, Karnatak Music’s non-bhakti oriented facets (RTPs, tanis) et al are so completely technical that they can’t possibly appeal to anybody who doesn’t understand them. Richness of tradition apart – these displays of musical wizardry are so specific that it’s almost meant for peers and not the public. I don’t think Karnatak Music will ever get as popular or *appealing* as Hindusthani.

      Last point: To continue on the previously mentioned point: One of the reasons why Karnatak Music has very niche following (apart from the fact that it has forced it’s evolution this way), is that it’s exposure outside it’s cultural realm (Typically South Indian Brahms?) is really low. Compare that with Hindusthani of the Beatles and Ravi Shankar Fame. It’s pretty self explanatory.

    • marc lavigne 8:43 am on October 3, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      first days with program need more time but look good too me

    • Madhav 12:40 pm on February 26, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      The popularity aspect of Carnatic music is a difficult thing to analyze. It partly has to do with the musical aspects (like complexity, lyrics etc) and many non-music aspects – like the fact that it is simply not a trend outside of a certain subculture to invest time into appreciating this music.

      But popularity aside, the original article makes a more important comment about Carnatic music, suggesting that it may not be appealing even to serious and open-minded listeners if they are not from South India because there are some inherent shortcomings in this music. Things like noise levels from the accompaniments, excessive lyrics, lack of a gradual and slow build up and the like. Debatable whether these are really shortcomings or just a different kind of aesthetic but it is good food for thought.

    • Akarsh Simha 4:20 pm on February 28, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Hi Madhav… very nice points.

      As a person who hardly has any formal training in Carnatic Music, and as a person who hardly knows a single tyAgarAja song, I can’t appreciate kRtis for the most of it — but you can still appreciate the neravals and swarams, so I still feel that the excessive lyrics aspect is not really problematic.

    • Pranab Sen 9:32 am on May 25, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I think there is some truth to the fact that you need a shorter time Fourier transform to appreciate the gamakas of Carnatic music, so it presents a steeper appreciation curve. Another issue is the lyrics and the language of Carnatic compositions. There are several languages in use in Carnatic compositions, Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil etc. This presents a big barrier to non-Southerners, especially since Carnatic performances are lyrics heavy. In contrast, Hindustani performances are not lyrics heavy at all (some would say the lyrics are quite unimportant in a Khayal performance), and they are almost always in Brajabhaashaa which many more understand, at least to some extent.
      Hindustani singing emphasises the purity of the frequency of a note, which is more visceral to the human psyche. So it appeals more to the heart. For a non-southerner who has not grown up with Carnatic, the gamakas of Carnatic sound like off key singing! And this is not just because they may not have a very short time Fourier transform in their brains. They do viscerally feel that notes should be stable and pure as long as they are held. Intermediate frequencies can only be touched during the slides (meends, touching nyasa swaras). So I feel Hindustani will always be more popular. And there will always be southerners who are attracted to Hindustani, even if they have been exposed to Carnatic from their childhood.
      On the point of Carnatic music staying closer to its Bhakti roots, I would like to point out Dhrupad music in the Hindustani tradition. That is quite close to Bhakti roots too, yet it revels in the purity of the note, much more than Khayal. It also is much more Taala (rhythm) conscious than Khayal (singers routinely keep track of one-fourth of a beat). I am not expert enough to comment on the Taala consciousness of Dhrupad versus Carnatic. Dhrupad has almost no meend and no taans, so it is not as exciting to the public as Khayal. And that is why it is far less popular than Khayal or Carnatic. But it is quite different from Carnatic too. It is hard to say which, Dhrupad or Carnatic, is closer to Bhakti roots. Dhrupad goes back in form to 11th century and its modern performance style was developed in 12th-14th centuries. Purandara Dasa, the doyen of Carnatic music, is from the 15th century. The bifurcation of north and south Indian schools started before Purandara Dasa though, so it is really hard to argue who is closer to Bhakti traditions. They just developed in different ways because of different conditions. Let’s keep it at that. And by the way, Tansen, and also Haridas, were Dhrupad singers!

    • Pranab Sen 9:44 am on May 25, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Oh and by the way, from my perspective of a non-southerner who nevertheless has greatly enjoyed listening to a few Carnatic concerts, there is one thing about Carnatic concerts that I find jarring. It is the Taala-Vaadya-Kacheri where the percussionists try to show off their talents by going in a round-robin fashion. For God’s sake, I have come to listen to the singer, or the instrumentalist. If I wanted to listen to a pure percussionist, I would have gone to Zakir Husein’s solo tablaa performance. This may be one eliminable noise c.f. last paragraph in the original Hindu article

    • athray 11:51 pm on July 17, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      ” While Hindustani music is more than tolerated down South, the warmth is not reciprocated towards Carnatic music.” – This is a fact – Reason is so simple(in my view) – Carnatic has everything including complex taala swara sanchara and simple raga bhava keertanas. Where as hindustani is mellifluous and not as complex as Carnatic. Thus south Carnatic group can easily understand and appreciate the hindustani where as hindustani group can’t do it so easily.

    • Akash Hegde 6:30 pm on July 22, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I think hindustni is better than carnatic because carnatic is only restricted to classical & devotional genre.Whereas hindustani is well suited for all the genre such as classical,romantic,pop,sad,devotional,bhava geeta,ghazal and other genre!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Varun 8:04 pm on October 25, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      This sort of question is too contentious and I find opinions in the article and in the comments which disturb me to various degrees, so I shall not venture to address those points, but I just wanted to point out this one thing: the brain has little role in Fourier-analyzing sound stimuli. The ear already does that, and what the brain receives is the amplitudes of different components. I don’t see what you mean by “fast Fourier transform” in this context. There are the tone-discerning, and there are the tone-deaf. If one can appreciate tonal patterns in a slow sequence, then he can in a fast sequence just as well.

    • Akarsh Simha 10:29 am on October 26, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      You’re right — the Fourier analysis is in the ear. And yeah, my opinions are strong, but those are just opinions…
      Thanks for your points!!

    • anjana 3:00 pm on November 7, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      thank you to all. your views helped me to know more about music . i ll b back soon for further knowledge.

    • Rajan KSS 12:36 pm on November 26, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      kudos to Mr Simha,for his understanding about the comparison of Hindustani and Karnataka systems of Music.
      i have a few observations to offer.
      It is by ignorance or the highly over demonstrated rhythmic patterns of Karnataka music,that undermines the extremely complicated rhythmic structure in Hindustani Music.While the (Present day) karnataka music with earsplitting and over straining tala structures loses the aesthetics of Karnataka Music. The Hindustani music flows with the melody,especially shuddha swaras,with minimum Gamaka employment and not following strictly to a regimental aarohana avarohana system for Ragas,It should be understood that the innate rhythmic structure in Hindustani Music is again aesthetic based.and unlike in Karnataka music,these days the emphsis is more on noisy rendition,vimba kala is almost vanished,Too much interpretation of lyrics,and the so called intellectual process of the rndetion of Ragam Tanam Pallavi.It is slowly becoming Pallavi only.Raga is sang as a formality,and the great form of the Karnataka music ,the TAANA singing is also a part of the RTP>Again the aesthetics,creativity,Manodharma sangeeta which was the hallmark of Karnataka music is unfortunately getting redundant fast.We should be clear that when we say classical music it need not be catering only to the intelligentia,or pseodo intellectual crowd.we go to listen to certain aesthetically rich music.
      In a Music concert,especially Karnataka Music The Raga is the only part which is to an extent sententious and rest are reproduction of rehearsed part.The concept of low profile but with a rich colors of varying sounds are not identifiable in a karnataka concert these days.Over gamakas,so called complicated talas,unnecessary emphasis on Lyrics,are marring what could be an ethereal experience. The concept of quality sound production,clear shddha swaras,(Plain notes)simple anuswaras and most of all the artistic liberty makes the hindustani Music take us to a higher plane.Our concert format is highly dated because instead of following the melodic,aesthetic music,our present Karnataka Music is noisy,un easthetical,less music and very high quantity of words(lyrics)and fete oriented.The Karnataka music system is by itself is great but during the course of passage of time and fall in the standards of qualitative listeners, has turned the musicians to package their music to commercial
      advantage.If we have to retrieve the great Music system of Karnataka music,we need to take a re-look at the present day concert Format. Emphasis on Ragas and manodharma sangeeta,the system needs a bold,and a radical change.Concerts with many Raagas and or a few ragas with different (creative)treatment.The concept of Vilamba kala raga rendition and singing in Mandara shadja(Baritone),must be a definite part of the change we are talking.I am only a rasika but I would appeal to great Musicians,Musicologists,scholars,Music organisations to brainstorm objectively and restore the Glory of Karnataka Music.

    • Rajan KSS 2:48 pm on November 26, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply


    • Hansi 12:33 am on December 8, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Hi I’m a music student from Sr Lanka 🙂 I don’t understand this debate about which tradition of music is ‘better’ than the other. I think you cannot do that because the experience of music is very subjective. One should be able to appreciate and value all types of music and not draw any prejudices.
      I don’t understand Hindi, Tamil or any other language used in Indian music but we learn songs in Hindi as part of our syllabus. (I learn Hindustani music but I’m exposed to a lot of Carnatic music on the TV/radio because we have a Tamil community in SL) I think that enables us, despite translations being widely available, to value music for its tonal value alone.

    • Surya 4:57 am on January 15, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Here goes my 2 cents.

      I mostly listen to carnatic music but have listened some amount of hindusthani music. I’ve not learned carnatic music, so I’m kind of a lay person who naturally got attracted to carnatic music. Since hindusthani kind of sounds similar to carnatic (atleast terms like the swarams and the raga are similar to both). I’ve tried to read a lot about the theory inside carnatic music and what makes it so complex (atleast from a layman’s point of view). I should admit I havent read much about hindusthani music though I have listened to quite a number of concerts.

      Almost all the hindusthani concerts I have listened to make me feel “ah, how peaceful it is”, irrespective of who the artist is. Thats not true with carnatic music, each artist will give you a different feeling. In carnatic music, some people’s concert seem so boring but still people talk about technically sound the concert was, but part of the problem in carnatic music is that you definitely have to please the learned intellectuals (who look out for technically sound concerts) to get some good feedback and reviews. In the process of doing that, the artist may get so technically involved in the music and lose the melody lying there. However, one thing we have to keep in mind is that all the complexities and theory in carnatic music was not developed over night and there’s a reason for so much theory backing up the carnatic music system. Most of the complexities in carnatic music are optional and are not mandatory (though people try to employ a lot of them almost always). Take for example, changing that nadai (different rhythmic tala counts) of a popular pallavi and singing it. This gives a different picture to the pallavi compared what we are used to, and if done right, this will give a refreshingly new picture to the pallavi or the raga itself. The artist is not expected to change the nadai but welcome to do so if that elevates his performance. Same is the case with sruthi bedham, no one asks you to do a sruthi bedham during the alapana (alaap), but you have an option of doing it if you feel that it will sound more pleasing.

      Time and again great artists have proven its possible to exploit those technically sound concepts of carnatic music and bring different shades to a ragam, and hence bring different feel to it. The complexities actually give more freedom to the artist and his manodharmam. If not handled right, it can spoil the musical piece totally. Well accomplished carnatic musicians always stress on this point when talking about how to be technically sound. Dont overuse gamakams, dont do sruthi-bedham just because you can do it, dont show off your complex thalam skills just because you can do it. There’s a place to do all these things which brings more sowkhyam (adds on what feeling you are trying to bring) to the musical piece. So, its possible to give a carnatic music concert without any intellectual usage of any technique, and its also possible to give a concert that much resembles a hindusthani concert, but again you have to please the musically learned intellectuals to get good feedback and reviews. Try listening to the olden day movie songs in tamil, telugu etc. There, they dont employ much intellectually rigorous stuff and the music is just so pleasing. That would give you an idea of how pleasing are the melodies in carnatic music.

      I have not attened too many hinduthani concerts, but all the ones I attened gave me a peacful feeling irrespective of who the artist is and irrespective of what ragam is being sung. They kind of slowly start the alaap and dwell on notes, and try to gradually build it up from there. You will get to enjoy each sangathi (phrase) when sung and even when they sing fast after the initial buildup, the melodious feeling will carry you. I’m able to enjoy them for the first couple of times I listen to. However, when I hear the same raga (raag) being sung by many artists and try listening to it again and again, all of them kind of sound the same and I feel its very repetetive. I feel that “I need a break!” when I listen to the same raag continuously for a long time or hear it rendered by different artists successively. Maybe it has do with my personal preference or the way I’m tuned to. Interestingly, when I listen to the heavy ragams of carnatic music (say, Khambhoji or Kalyani) rendedered for a very long time or listen to it by different artists in succession, I feel the need to listen to more and more, and the more pleasing it is. I used to listen to a long Khambhoji alapana by Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer followed by Khambhoji of GNB followed by Sanjay and keep going. Again, this does not prove anything regarding if carnatic system or hinduthani is better, it just shows my personal preference maybe.

      We get music of all sorts to create different feelings and to suit our different moods. When I want to listen to some peaceful music, I tune to hindusthani artists or some artists like MD Ramanathan or KV Narayanswamy in carnatic music. When I’m brisk, the flashing brighas of TN Seshagopalan or the storm-like rendition of GNB blows me away. When I’m in the mood to enjoy some fast paced music, I tune to Semmangudi for his brisk kalpana swarams. When I just to hear for some pleasant music, I have several other artists in carnatic music that I can tune to. In a similar way, a single song of Dikshitar can sound so soothing and meelifluous, and its instant joy. Same way, when I learn a thing or two about a new ragam, all the technically complex rendition impress me. So, some form of music is suited to only some moods. Same way, listen to a concert of Vijay Siva for a serene performance, and listen to Sanjay or TN Seshagopalan (TNS) for a power-packed high voltage performance. If you’re not in a mood to listen to such power packed performance, you may not like his concert, but if you are looking for such a concert, then attending his concert would be the best thing you did that day. You ask for something and you get it in carnatic music. Sometimes, I try to draw an analogy between music and life. I do want a peaceful life but do like moments that are powr packed, thrilling etc.

    • krishnamoorthy 4:56 pm on February 26, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      people who are discussing about the music does not have a sense of music. if you want to more debate on this topic please go and just listen illayaraj music (south ) and RD Burman music (north) then you come up and write your openioins.

  • Akarsh Simha 6:49 pm on September 19, 2009 Permalink  

    Artifical real-time reverb using sox 

    I had to dig through several pages of tweets to find this command:

    sox -d -d reverb 80

    It basically feeds back from the mic to the speaker with the reverb effect. So if you like a lot of reverb while playing a musical instrument, for instance, but your room doesn’t have the reverb, then you could run this to get the required reverb.

    I’m putting this down here, so that I can search for it the next time I want it 🙂

    There are other methods, like:

    rec -t wav – | play -t wav – reverb 80

    But that requires a lot of processing time, so there’s a significant delay between the input and the output…

  • Akarsh Simha 8:09 am on September 5, 2009 Permalink  

    A python IRC bot for keeping up with arXiv (or any RSS feed) 

    After some internet searching, it wasn’t hard to find enough inputs to write a IRC bot using Python. I hardly know any Python, but the language being so simple, you could write code in it just right away. Needless to say, the best part was that there were libraries for both Feed Parsing (duh!) and for IRC clients. A simple one hour long digging through documentation resulted in the following put-them-together code:


    1. IRC b0t that keeps track of RSS feeds
    2. Licensed under the GNU General Public License v3
    3. Copyright (2009) by Akarsh Simha

    import irclib
    import feedparser
    import os
    import threading
    import time

    channel_list = [] # Put in a list of channels
    feed_list = [ "", "", "", ""]
    old_entries_file = os.environ.get("HOME") + "/.b0t/old-feed-entries"

    irc = irclib.IRC()
    server = irc.server()

    server.connect( "", 6667, "" ) # TODO: Make this general

    1. server.privmsg( "NickServ", "identify " )

    msgqueue = []

    def feed_refresh():
    FILE = open( old_entries_file, "r" )
    filetext =
    for feed in feed_list:
    NextFeed = False
    d = feedparser.parse( feed )
    for entry in d.entries:
    if entry.title in filetext:
    NextFeed = True
    FILE = open( old_entries_file, "a" )
    FILE.write( entry.title + "\n" )
    msgqueue.append( entry.title + " : " + )
    if NextFeed:
    t = threading.Timer( 900.0, feed_refresh ) # TODO: make this static

    for channel in channel_list:
    server.join( channel )


    while 1:
    while len(msgqueue) > 0:
    msg = msgqueue.pop()
    for channel in channel_list:
    server.privmsg( channel, msg )
    time.sleep(1) # TODO: Fix bad code
    time.sleep(1) # So that we don't hog the CPU!

    Forgive me for writing ugly code. I’m a newbie pythoner, and this is my first python script that actually does something useful.

    On a side note, I attended a semi-classical concert by Anil Srinivasan (Piano), Unnikrishnan (Vocal), and B S Purushottaman (Kanjira), and it was one awesome experience. The auditorium (the Lady Andal School auditorium, where Margazhi Raagam was shot AFAIK) was simply superb. The ambience, and the stage lighting were amazing too. It was the confluence of the music of all three artistes, the auditorium and the lighting that created the paradise that we experienced.

  • Akarsh Simha 1:21 am on August 1, 2009 Permalink  

    Dibrugarh photos uploaded! 

    Snow-capped-peak-2, originally uploaded by Akarsh Simha.

    Photos of my trip to Dibrugarh are finally up, after I’ve overcome eclipse-depression. A few processed ones are on my Flickr Album at while the bulk, raw photos are on my Picasa Album at

  • Akarsh Simha 10:07 pm on July 22, 2009 Permalink  

    A terribly disappointing TSE2009 

    This trip to Dibrugarh was the most miseventful and depressing trip so far in my life, IMO. Never have I felt so disappointed before. Dibrugarh neither turned out to have a good lot of scenic travel options around, nor did we get to see the eclipse of the century – the 3.5 minute totality predicted at Dibrugarh. All we got to see was the Brahmaputra, and the darkening of the cloudy, overcast skies during the totality (and the random behaviour of birds).

    The only “perks” of the trip were insignificantly few – that of having a brief look at Kolkata, some good photographs involving dragon flies, the Brahmaputra, spiders and tea plantations, and some time spent away from the computer, with friends. Not enough and not worth it – just like several of those recent Hosahalli trips under overcast skies.

    Besides, I hate travelling without good company – sitting doing nothing in the flight, for example. All I can do is to crib and compose this post, so that I can vent out some frustration of an untriumphant waste of a journey at the least, and ease myself a bit.

    Over all, it was really disappointing to go all the way for absolutely nothing. This was much worse than that pathetic, most pointless visit to Kavalur that happened last year around the same time (which I did not blog about), which was much better in that I did not miss any significant event. These are the times when you start becoming agnostic… Wish I were in Varanasi with Amar and Vivek instead.

    I amn’t alone – all of us were really disappointed. Particularly the two Pavans who calculatedly (and I say their arguments were logical!) changed the venue from Varanasi, which we had initially planned, to Dibrugarh. I don’t blame them for anything, because their reasons to favour Dibrugarh were absolutely sensible. Many folks pointed out that Dibrugarh was at a cloud-cover maximum as per predictions, but then Patna, which was at a predicted=cloud-cover minimum, had only overcast skies. It’s just our bad lack… really bad luck.

    I guess I will be making a lot of trips to Argentina just to compensate… at the least I will end up visiting and exploring a foreign country instead of a boring, hot, and monotonously Indian town.

    I’m currently at an enthusiasm minimum, so don’t expect any trip photos in the near future.

    • Ashwin 10:25 am on July 26, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      This is Ashwin. I happened to read some posts of yours like this one, tifr and laptop at iitm. i am a freshie joining iitm this year. I like your blog a lot, though there is no particular reason as to why i should tell all that for this post. Even i viewed the solar eclipse.. just that i viewed it on youtube. 😛

    • Akarsh 1:23 am on August 1, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Hi Ashwin

      Glad you enjoyed my blog. Hope to meet you some time at IITM.

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