Archive | February 2012

Highlights of Mumbai

I’ve still got lots to write about our time in India, it went way too fast but was lots of fun. We spent a couple of days in Mumbai after my time at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics was over. It was a good few days. Overall I found Mumbai quite a dirty place, much dirty than Pune and there seemed to be much more rubble around the place. The part of Mumbai we stayed in, Colaba at times could look like European country with grand Victorian buildings lining the streets. I guess that’s cause this was the heart of Victorian British India. One of the most striking sites is the Gateway of India:
Gateway of India, Mumbai
which was rammed the first time we went there. It appeared that there was some kind of rally going on. The second time we went it was much more relaxed still there was obvious security with our bags being checked on both occasions. Again though its the same security you see across all of India – you go through a metal detector, it goes off and you are waved on. Its a shame you can’t walk through the Gateway but apart from that it was one of my favourite sites in Mumbai. I was definitely non-plussed about the Taj Mahal hotel next to it. I’m sure its fantastic inside, but a price I wasn’t willing to pay.
The University of Mumbai appears to be quite expansive, not to the same extent as Pune (in this location anyway), and their is some lovely buildings:
Of course we continued my tradition of finding the cathedral and taking a few pictures. St. Thomas Cathedral in Mumbai from the outside doesn’t look that grand and indeed on the inside its quite basic but does have some nice stained glass windows. It also has some “interesting” dedications from the East India trading company – really makes you step back in time a little.
Probably the best place we visited was the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). We spent something like 5 hours wondering around this expansive museum.
Prince of Wales Museum
Oh and I even fell down there stairs there – just as we were leaving and since we were getting a flight at 2am meant I was feeling a bit achy all the way home.
All in all, we quite enjoyed Mumbai but I don’t think we would have found much to do past the few days we stayed.

Fast food in India

India has many options for fast food. This varies from the random looking food cart on the street (which you should NEVER eat from) to the very fancy restaurants. We didn’t eat at either during our stay in Maharashtra. We did, however, eat at some very good “hotels” – which seems to me as a means of distinguishing that they aren’t just some dodgy cafe. We ate lots of excellent food including some of the best thali I’ve ever had (and it was unlimited) in Aurangabad (here is a pic of the place). You really have a massive selection, even the proper restaurants that we ate in provided a very fast service. Around Mumbai there was many options but of course we were a bit selective where we ate. Though saying that when we went past a McDonalds we just had to give it a go. I’m a vegetarian so probably not the choice you would imagine but I wanted to see what Elizabeth thought of a Maharajah Mac. I think she quite enjoyed it, though the big surprise was their selection of Veg options. This included a delicious McSpicy:
Its basically a paneer burger. Something I really wish they offered in the UK. When we left Mumbai we decided to go to KFC at the airport and yet again I was delighted with the number of veggie options which also included a veggie burger. The best veggie burger I’ve ever had was at Montana’s cookhouse salon in Calgary but this one is not far off it:
loving the veggie burger at KFC in Mumbai
Yet again I’m left thinking that I wish these options were available in the UK. Maybe I should write them a letter? I bet it wouldn’t do much, and its not like we eat at either of these places often but it would help (I can think of a few occasions that it would have saved my brother-in-law times).

Around Pune

We have been in Pune for a few days now and have done a bit of exploring, including some clothes shopping and a bit of tourism. Pune is a quite nice city and the easiest way to get around appears to be by auto-rickshaw which is no where near as bad as I thought it would be (I’ll upload a video once back in the UK).
On Friday we took a short walk through the sprawling University campus and went and took a look at one of the highlights of our guide book – the University main building.
Pune University main building
This was built in 1864 and was known as the Governor’s House. It currently looks like their is some renovations going on though.
On the way back we came past a site that was quite fitting:
Cricket at Pune University
But we also came across another, what the… ,
Pune University - bricks on power
Yes that’s bricks hanging from the power lines. Odd, must have some purpose but not a good one I’m sure.
A site that you see around lots of Pune is statues of Ganesh, a Hindu god:
There a lots of little temples or jotted over the place and I think a few can even be found in the middle of the road, which is most inconvenient for all parties!
Earlier today we went over to the Pune botanical gardens and saw the largest bats I’ve ever seen:
Bats at Pune Botanical Garden
Anyway, that’s all for now – I’m about to start my last observing run of my time in India this year – so lets all hope for no scintillation and no RFI (radio frequency interference).

Around Maharashtra

As I said yesterday we took a few days out todo some travelling. I’ve still not had chance to put all of our images online yet and I’ve not even had chance to properly reflect on what we saw – it was just unreal. Anyway, I thought whilst I have a few minutes while my data is processing, that I’d share a few other images of our recent travels around Maharashtra.
Lets start off with a few WTF India images…
Avoid head on!
Yes that is avoid head-on collisions whilst over taking. I bet that’s a common thing to happen and definitely worth having advice about, even if the sign before says no overtaking on corner…
Carrying sugar cane
A great way to transport goods – and block the single lane for a few kilometres.
Back to Ellora – and I really wanted to give you an idea of the size of some of these caves, so I had a willing assistant:
Scale of Ellora.
Probably my favourite cave at Ellora was the Buddhist cave 10, the vaulted ceiling is just stunning:
Ellora cave 10
Some elephants at Ajanta:
Ajanta Elephants
Ajanta Elephants
and finally a bit of the paintwork (many more shots like this to come):
Ajanta paint work

India day: 3 – 6: Exploring

When I’m less tired and when I’ve got a bit more time I’ll sit down and write up the last few days. They have been amazing. We visited the Ellora and Ajanta caves, which were mind blowing. The carving of the stone is just unbelievable. We also spent a couple of nights in Aurangabad which was quite nice – the hotel was really nice. Now back to observing and the GMRT.
For now a few quick pics, Ellora (yes this was cut out of the rock!):
and the little Taj Mahal (Bibi Ka Maqbara), Aurangabad:
Bibi Ka Maqbara

India 2012: Day 2

The second day of us being in India kinda merged into the first. So far the observations that I came over todo are going well and I’m even processing some of the data – so at least I’m not too sleepy. We have spent most of our time so far sat in the GMRT terminal room, not the most of exotic places but the area around the telescope is quite nice – and the control room has some wildlife of its own:
gecko in control room
I’ve also got my second, WTF India images:
Interesting power cable...
Yes I had a shower. It was safe. Heated water first, turned off power. Had a fight with a spider. Won. Had a shower. But gosh look at that. Now I think the UK is overly cautious about power in the bathroom but that is scary.
Oh and here are some lovely flowers that are all over the site:
Flowers at the GMRT

India 2012: Day 1

Today has been long, actually it still feels like yesterday. In an hour or so I start my first run of 10 hours with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope. I love observing, but not when i’m this tired, though its not that bad. The flight from Heathrow to Mumbai was pretty nice. I watched a couple of good films (50/50 which in no means should be described as a comedy – was really sad!) and had a nice veggie curry. We landed and our car wasn’t there – no fear we got it sorted but made an otherwise stressful journey more so. Oh well. We are now at the GMRT and I’m eager to get on with the science. Of course, though we have had time for a few photographs. I wanted to start off with one of the funny things I saw (and managed to capture) on the road:
Yes, that is a guy reading a broadsheet on the back of a motorcycle! Oh, how India does it differently.
We made it to the GMRT just before “snacks” so the sweetest cuppa you can ever have was waiting for me nicely. We then went and had a wonder around a few of the dishes while the sunset:
and of course the important me standing in front of antenna photo:
I’ll post more as we go on, and I’ll dump all of my India photos in this flickr set.

A walk in the Cambridge snow

My first proper snow since I came back from Canada has been quite epic. We had quite a lot of snow over a few hours here in Cambridge. We went out for a quick gander on Saturday night, a nice midnight stroll in the snow.
This morning we went out for a walk a bit further down the road and it was obvious that there had been some drifting going on – some parts were very deep. Lots of fun until I got covered in snow by t’other one.
I do now hope it all goes away by Wednesday… we have a flight to catch!

FAS Newsletter #1

I feel like someone having in their hands issue number one of a comic… well maybe not like that but its still quite cool. I love looking back at how things started. The Federation of Astronomical Societies newsletter has been running since June 1984 and over the last few months I’ve been sorting and scanning in a bunch of older records. This will eventually enhance the full online archive (before we only had back to 1999 online) of our newsletters.
The highlights of this issue are a write up of a night out at the Temple Observatory by a member of Coventry and Warwickshire Astronomical Society. Oh and if you were wondering, as I was, the telescope is still used. There is the first ever news round up, a stable of the FAS newsletter over the years and an article on how to make a star clock. I quite enjoyed seeing that the FAS subscription for the year was £7.50 – which would not be for a small society. Lets compare that to our medium society now of £44.50 (not including early payment) – its not that bad given we are looking back close to 3 decades.
Anyway, if you wish to read FAS Newsletter #1 you can get a pdf of it from the FAS website.