Thursday, February 2, 2017

Stardust 2017 Science Fiction Writing - Winning entries

Soul mate in the multiverse

15th August 2071
Augmented Warp Drive Launch Vehicle Complex, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, India (13°43’ N 80°13’ E)

“A severe drought due to devastating human advancements over the decade has left the world’s populace in starvation. The Exoplanet Exploration Organization setup under the aegis of the United Nations has been unsuccessful in finding sustainable alternative for Earth. The future of human race looks bleak with the Multiverse Wormhole Drive System (MUWOS) seeming to be the only option in hand. This launch congregates the efforts of M.S.Vishweshwara , an eminent Indian scientist in proving the existence of parallel universes , possessing exotic new worlds paving the way for existence of the human race” read a digi-news article of the Global Times, as Major Rudra Pratap , the flight commander of the Warp Drive Shuttle TS-42 initiated the countdown for the launch.

A sense of nervousness filled the atmosphere at the ground command as the Program Director Gen.Trivikram Samrat and General Secretary of United Asia Kaldev Narayan gave the nod for the launch. The ion propulsion system of the WOLV-Mk(III) launcher boomed shattering the glasses in the vicinity , propelling the shuttle to heliopause within a hour and half of the launch. A reminiscent Maj. Rudra , radioed the earth station about the successful completion of Phase – 1 , as he looked at his wife Vice Marshal Indumati Pratap seated with Colonel Fujikawa of the Japanese Aviation Corp. A feeling of complexity filled his head as his wife and the Colonel nodded their heads in approval of initiating the warp drive over the event horizon of the supermassive black hole Ghatotkach – which by studies should act as a wormhole(Einstein-Rosen bridge) in providing a singularity of transit to parallel universes . As the system locked on for the jump, the trio experienced dilation of space and time around the continuum. Maj . Rudra turned to his wife and said ,”Dear, no matter what happens in this journey , I will remain in your memory forever “ with a tearful eye. The shuttle warped around the accretion disk , where the true fabric of nature dismantled , engulfing even light and all that the trio could see now was darkness as they experienced
extreme G forces. Monstrous clouds of cosmic radiation and matter from the
nearby neutron star started to rattle the shuttle ,and within a second the
three capsules of the shuttle containing the trio dismantled and Maj. Rudra
stood as the lone survivor after having ejected his pod. Huge trauma
overtook him as he began desperately searching his wife but to no avail. The
individual cells of his body began to pixelate as they began to drift in to the
white hole , which until now contradicted the founding pillars of the universe*
and he was reduced to merely a fragment of a new universe where
indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in
irreversible succession abruptly stopped and past, present and future
became one. This new universe ,sustained itself on the realms of the Planck’s
scale , and Maj Rudra now merely a virtuality ,yearned for his lost love.

* The white hole is said to decrease the entropy of the universe. In this context
the other universe allows the possibility of the above, thus redefining the
fundamentals of thermodynamics , which according to Albert Einstein is the
basic pillar of physics which is eternal.
* The parallel universe here is unlimited by time , as the very concept of
change i.e., time(popularly known as the fourth dimension) is non-existent.
Adhitya K
NIT Trichy – B.Tech (I year) Mechanical Engineering


My name is Albert Brown, and this is my story. 

My father Michael Brown and his colleague were those that had theorised the existence of ‘Planet Nine’.  He worked tirelessly to predict its existence. His effort brought him closer than anyone else, but it sapped his health.  

Around the time I was 12, my father breathed his last. I decide to start where he left off.  Soon I found myself as one of the youngest astrophysicists in a senior position at NASA. 

Then an event occurred that changed my life altogether. Our sensors detected a stream of signals that seemed like absolute garbage. They were reportedly sent from a fast moving metallic object roughly 3 astronomical units from the sun, headed our way. They turned to us for help. 

The signals seemed to mean absolutely nothing. When we on the verge of giving up, I began to notice a pattern in the signal. It was something similar to the patterns in signals we used.
It almost seemed as if those signals were sent by us. Soon the mysterious object emerged from behind the sun and we received visual evidence confirmed that it was quite surprisingly, voyager 1. This seemed odd. Current technology predicted that the probe must be in the Oort cloud. But here it was. 

A question kept nagging me.  Why did voyager 1 turn around? On a whim I skimmed through my dad’s notes and ran some simulations while cross referencing with the NASA databanks. I realised the need for something of immense gravitational field to turn voyager 1 around. Moreover voyager was hurtling towards us as if it had picked up more speed. I realised that it could mean that voyager had taken a slingshot by ‘Planet Nine’. I wanted to publish a paper, but due to lack of evidence I kept my revelations quiet. 

Soon as word got out, the higher ups decided that Voyager 1 would be examined by specialists at the SkyLab. I pulled some strings and soon I spearheaded the project.

On examining we realised that the transmission system had taken considerable damage due to dust. However the modulation system was on point. It seemed as if the onboard systems on the Voyager had been programmed to calculate the distance from earth by taking into account the time that had passed and the speed that it was reported to travel at, and accommodate for any red shift. However this backfired when Voyager took an unexpected change of course. Due to the system damage, while the on board systems recorded data continuously, the last transmission to earth was churned out over and over again, on a loop. This explained the odd signals we were getting all this time. 

And that was the moment all the colossal implications of that struck me.  If the systems were still recording and storing research data, and were intact, there was a possibility that it may have picked up data on ‘Planet Nine’. I immediately set the process of publishing the paper into motion. As we combed through the endless data, there it was.  Like a pearl in the middle of an oyster, all the data mankind may ever have on ‘Planet Nine’. This made my paper rock solid. My breakthrough was hailed as one of the greatest of this millennium. 

Soon ‘Planet Nine’ would become a full member of the solar system, heck there were even talks about me sharing a Nobel with my dad and his colleague. But none of that mattered, course a Nobel Prize would be awesome, but I was glad to have fulfilled my father’s legacy. 

Harish Ramesh 

Voyager I Reborn

By Joy Bhattacharya

23 December 2023

Finally, it had happened, the Voyager I ran out of power. It was a given, and hopefully, we had predicted it on time.

1 June 2018

The pressure from the Voyager I  signaling department was increasing, they had predicted that the Uranium based fission reactor will be going out of order, before 2022. Which had left us with no option but to start a new support project or to abandon our only view beyond the heliosheath.

The committee had taken a big hit, financially as well as morally due to the failure of the launch of Voyager IV, which, as the NASA claimed was running on a "controlled" fusion reactor.

We needed a breakthrough to empower the craft to travel the 15.9 billion km journey.

1 April 2019

The CERN announced that their EM drive projects a success, under the 20-year-old Dr. Shermann. Initially, we thought it was a prank, as the whole world stood confused and the social media went crazy over the infinite scope of research this would enable and of course, finding aliens.

The NASA president called the CERN immediately and confirmed the news. The next step was an increase in budget, it never fails to awe me, how the congress showers money on the NASA at the slightest glimpse of hope only to block it later. But this was a true miracle, and not funding it would be stupid.

1 June 2019

Within 3 months of its invention, a fully tested industry grade prototype was ready. The only thing holding us back was the rocket body. Yes, for the first time, the shell was holding us back.

But the good news was round the corner, the fusion reactor we had been testing had finally succeeded in all safety tests. The secret was the new polymer-like zigzagged and layered graphene, which was extremely heat-resistant and an efficient neutron absorber. The reactor could now be accommodated within a bus.

27 December 2023

Although late by 2 months, the Phoenix I had finally reached the voyager.  Not to mention, we received the message 33 hours after it's attainment of terminal velocity with respect to the Voyager I.

The next step was attachment, followed by disengaging of Phoenix I, into surplus parts and the Autobot (nostalgic, ain't it?), which would then reattach Phoenix to Voyager I.

The attachment went fine and so did disengagement, from our side at least, it would take 33 hours for a confirmation. The air grew tenser with time.

4 June 2019

The discovery of the fusion reactor and the EM drive would engrave 2019 in the history of physics.But with the next new structure, at least a year away, testing was the only thing we could hope to do.

The NASA president, however, had a trick under his sleeve, the model for Voyager I, the one used to train foreign signal catchers. And there we had our support structure.

28 December 2023

The next report came in and was bad. The phoenix parts couldn't be reassembled into the Voyager I, because of the size difference, but we had come far enough to turn back.

The next set of commands asked Autobot to cleverly dismantle the Voyager I and reattach only the comms to the internals of phoenix I.

5 September 2019

Work on project Phoenix I had started immediately. The plan was to have the fission reactor in the middle, with two hydrogen tanks on both the sides. The EM drives will be in the front and the back acting as propulsion or breaks.

The EM drives could only generate power in order on millinewtons per 80W of power supplied. However, the nuclear reactor would solve the problem.

30 December 2023

The next report came in. SUCCESS!!

The comms were working and compatible with the new instruments.

17 December 2019

The launch was timed at 1720 hours, with the President and the whole Cabinet as the witness, the Phoenix I successfully launched into the dark oblivion only to burn and rejuvenate.

31 December 2024, 23:59

The final report from Voyager I came over, "Good Bye, Voyager I" we all shouted as tears dripped from everyone's eyes.

1 January 2025, 00:00

The report continued, but this was no more Voyager I, it was the reborn Phoenix II.

We all welcomed this new year with eyes glimmering with tears of farewell and hope for the future.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Beginning With Astrophotography – Star Trails!


For every photographer, capturing daylight images and grabbing every precious frame around boosts up fun. Sometimes, shooting images at night with low light turns out to be a nuisance to you rather than a sweet piece of cake. The dark sky above you at night seems to show very little notable with your naked eye. Contrastingly, there’s not just a whole world, but a whole universe of moments that can be captured by you. It may not be your naked eye, but any basic DSLR can capture the amazing dramatic photos – Welcome to Astrophotography! 

Astrophotograph of a cosmic bubble- Bubble Nebula
As you had just stepped into astrophotography, it grabs a great courage for me to make you understand that you don’t need a space shuttle or a million dollar cash to capture the moments in space. Shuttling thoughts and a presence of mind is far enough to start with the beginner level of Astrophotography. A beginner Astrophotographer kit basically has a DSLR body, a wide lens – preferably 18mm focal length and a tripod. As you are on a 101-course status, the most simple understanding I would expect from you is that the earth keeps rotating on its own axis – this simply implies that your subject is never stationary.
A simple, no expense astrophotograph technique is the star trail. So what is a star trail? Star trail is a technique for capturing the path traced by the stars as the earth rotates on its axes. If you start gazing at stars for longer intervals, you may seem them move across the sky. Stars traverse a circular path of a smaller radius when seen from poles rather when seen from the equator. This is simply due to the shape and size of earth. Stars similar to the sun moves 15° westward each hour relative to earth. Tracing the path traversed by the stars lively with your camera is simply called star trail.
Now let us jump into capturing star trail with your camera!
1. Grab a wide lens – preferably 18mm focal length with a wide aperture (preferably f/3.5 or less)
2. Mount your DSLR onto a tripod and face the lens to the vast and deep sky filled with stars
3. The Manual Setting for star trail you may consider will be
Maintain an ISO of 400 that makes fairly dim stars visible and as well has no significant noise.
Maintain an aperture f/3.5 or less to enable maximum light passage to the camera.
Switch to bulb mode that enables you to capture long exposure shots greater than 30 second shutter time (a recommended ~50 mins for a good star trail).
Focus on infinity using Manual Focus and set the frame.
4. Capture the image of the deep dark star-filled sky with a shutter speed of 50 minutes by using shutter remote and allow post processing.
The trail of star you obtain resembles the below pic. The star trails are nice, curvy arcs or partial circles. The bigger the exposure time, the bigger the arc trails.
Star Trails!
It’s really important for you to understand that capturing a perfect star trail is a challenging task. One significant precaution that gets neglected by most of the beginners is the light noise. While you plan your star trail, make sure you are away from all light sources that can interfere the final image. Have a torch that you can use for placing the camera setup. I suggest you try the android application – Stellarium that can help you in positioning your camera.
So Grab your camera, pick your location, shoot the trails!
Got any questions? Ask us in the comments section below!

This post first appeared here.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Laser Pointers in Stargazing!

Our fingers are great tools. We use them to eat, pick our noses, and of course, point at things. However when pointing at things in the sky, fingers usually aren't long enough. When one beckons at a star overhead to a friend, he/she often meets cries along the lines of "Where? Where? What? That one? WHERE?" Modern laser pointers have changed that situation.

Laser pointers are instruments capable of producing powerful beams of light, which can be seen scattering in the lower atmosphere, and make it easy to point out astronomical objects. Generally, astronomical laser pointers are green and more powerful than standard ones used for presentations and such. Even though red lasers are the standard and can propagate the longest distance without scattering, green lasers are preferred for celestial pointing. This is because the human eye is much more sensitive to green light than red light. These usually use a neodymium diode core as the main component of the instrument.

Generally, the units used by astronomers have a power rating of no more than 5 mW. Nonetheless, these can still be harmful if the beam hits the human eye directly. A standard pointing laser viewed at point blank range will appear brighter than the sun, and since the rays are aligned and coherent, they can cause severe damage to the retina. Industrial class lasers can blind you instantaneously. (Lasers can be pretty darn dangerous!) 

Another hazard of lasers arises from a rather ironic reason - pointing them at the sky. Celestial objects aren't the only thing you can see above you. The sky is 'inhabited' by aircraft flying overhead frequently. The risk of the laser beam hitting the eyes of a pilot or messing with instruments is extremely worrying, and could potentially lead to a disaster. Because of this, several countries have regulations regarding laser pointers, even requiring the people owning the higher power lasers to register with government authorities. There are cases of people who have pointed lasers at airplanes, been reported by the pilots, and subsequently been arrested. This is a serious issue. Clearly, with great power comes great responsibility.

Laser pointers are a wonderful thing. When used right, they can be extremely handy astronomical aids and help bring to the joy of astronomy to everyone.


Content writer: Venkatraman Srikanth (1st year, Nakshatra)