Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Of cosmic events


Events happen in the sky and we sometime term them rare or extraordinary. On 8th Feb 2013, there was one such rare event; a Mars - Mercury conjunction. The Mercury is usually elusive for,it stays very close to the Sun. But at times it drifts apart a bit owing to ts orbital elongation (not much as compared to other elliptical orbits) and that is perhaps the time to catch it. You have to be accurate all the time to spot it. It was about half an hour after the sunset on the 8th that I spotted the conjunction. There was a twinkle as both the planets were reflecting from the same spot. Since the Sun's glow hadn't died down till then any effort with my camera might have been futile.

2013 promises to be a year of comets. The PanSTARR, already shining in the southern hemisphere is being touted to present a spectacular view in the month of March (07 - 21) in the northern hemisphere. Then this ISON is scheduled to visit us from Nov 2013 to Dec 2014 (best till March 2014). At its peak it is assumed to better the luminosity of the Moon by a whopping 15 times. However, predictions regarding brightness of comets can go for a toss where a negative magnitude can turn into double digit positive one in a matter of months.

It was way back in 1996 and 1997 that we watched comets Hyakutake and comet Hale-Bopp. I could then get both of them on film / slide with least effort. Here's how they appeared in the frame of my camera.


Hale-Bopp


Hyakutake

Monday, February 11, 2013

The State in a hurry


I am among those who feel the Afzal Guru case was a fit one for retrial or reconsideration given the doubts raised about some shortcomings in the trial and ought to have been given a fresh look. But the law being law finally prevails, this way or that, and it did. The nation's conscience was without any doubt shaken by the terror attack on the parliament building but the question can be asked as why the same conscience is not jolted out of sleep when we hear that some of the lawmakers sitting inside the same building are facing some serious criminal charges, including rape and murder.

I strongly believe that the State should not decide matters on the basis of political exigency and / or as a populist gesture. In fact, in a democracy, rule of law ought to be the guiding factor in all public matters. Public referendum should be resorted to if the law becomes helpless or obsolete with changing times. For the law to be equitable and just it has to be the same for all citizens irrespective of their political or religious affiliations.

This particular case has thrown up another challenge at our democratic system. Should President of the Republic be given limitless latitude to decide matters of this nature? Technically, President is above law but to my mind he is not absolute. As a citizen of this country (in fact first citizen) he / she has certain duties to discharge. If a President sits on a file for five or more years I think this democracy should find a way to ask for an explanation.