Scouring the sky is all about discovering your special moment. As your eye bobs from the star-spangled spread to perhaps spotting a meteor shower and then suddenly focusing onto an enigmatic planet, brooding in the far recesses of the cosmos. It is the cryptic draw of the galaxy that draws you to peep into the heavens. Gazing into outer space has always been the frame setting for comics, with wise gems in blurbs. But if you thought that a tour of the night sky was the privy of locales abroad, think again. Redefining conversation in the space are Ramashish Ray, Founder, and Paul Savio, CEO and Co-founder, Starscapes—the new age pioneers of astro-tourism, opening up views of the Milky Way for cosmophiles pan India.
“It is possibly the first memory of stargazing I have, as an urban kid. A clear summer sky in a Kerala village, with only a wispy trail streaking the cloudless expanse. My father murmured, ‘that’s not a cloud. That’s the Milky Way’,” says Paul. In a flash, it struck him that he was staring at millions of stars. It was a humbling experience. “I don’t remember many details of that day—the year, month, colour of the parapet… But what I distinctly recollect is the feeling that hit me at that moment. The sense of discovery, riding on the enormous realisation of our insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe, was overwhelming and life-changing. It is this feeling that forms the core of astro-tourism,” says Paul, the stars shining in his eyes.
Call it a star party of a different kind, redefining conversation with space. “Unfortunately, unless you’re a serious cosmophile with a lot of time to spare, there aren’t too many readily available resources that can help you on this journey,” shares Ramashish. “It is on this insight that our company Starscapes is based. We create experiences to get you to experience and enjoy the cosmos better: Observe the night sky, track sunspots, experientially, build rockets, model sundials, learn about cameras, become an astrophotographer, visit dark sky locations, or buy telescopes and set up your own backyard observatory… It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete beginner, or an expert astrophysicist—you’ll find something to do here.”
Ray is an amateur astronomer himself, with a cottage in Kausani, Uttarakhand, where he had pegged a telescope. Whoever stayed here was thrilled to explore the night sky. “This prompted us to set up a small observatory there with ticketed shows. People who visited were not searching for astro experiences; they were just looking for something new. This insight led to us creating a platform to provide casual astronomy experiences to everyone, in 2017,” he says.
Shilpi Madan for Sunday Standard