Global Warming. It’s just gettin’ started…

Since Karachi is experiencing the hottest day of this year so far and the country is undergoing one of the worst heatwaves in history, I thought it was appropriate to educate everyone on a little thing known as…Climate Change!


This is just the start of our troubles. This concerns everyone, but especially people in Asia-Middle East-Africa need to WAKE UP because it affects them the worst.

Okay- so Karachi is expr. the hottest day of this year so far at 46 celcius. No electricity in many areas in Karachi and most cities of Pakistan are facing an electricity shortfall upto thousands of MW. Our power plants are also failing due to the heat and there seems to be no end to the torture in sight. Some other areas e.g Larkana are a scorching hot 52 celcius (124 F).

Even Islamabad that usually is considered a “cooler”city, rarely experiences a 40+ temperature. But that’s exactly what it is experiencing.



Commonfolk dependent on travelling by foot for their business, farmers dependent on rain for crops, and pretty much anyone doing field work in this temperature is to say the least facing an impossible task. But it is going to get much MUCH worse.

Know why? Two words: Global Warming.


I have decided to compile some facts and figures highlighting why this is so.

Lets talk some facts and figures:


– CO2 is a greenhouse gas, along with Methane and water vapor. Which means the amount of these gases in the atmosphere are directly related to the amount of heat trapped in Earth’s atmosphere. and folks…the world has just passed 400 ppm (parts per million) CO2 emissions in atmosphere. This is the record HIGHEST for Earth in 25 million years in the past (Natural is around 250 PPM). The current amount is highly unnatural.


The biggest contributors are US, EU, Russia, China…




– Overall the January-May period that just passed us, in history for majority of areas of the world were the hottest 5 months in recorded history. Particularly April was, in the whole world the hottest month of April on record since 1880.




– The measures being taken by the HIGHEST emitters of Carbon, that is America, Russia, UK, China etc – are not even putting a dent towards globally contribution of CO2 emission cuts. They need to act, and act FAST. According to studies (see image below) the worst affected countries aren’t the US, UK, Russia but are countries lying close to Equator, such as Pakistan, India, Middle East, Indonesia etc. We need to have our researchers’ voices heard there, the message conveyed to them “You need to act. Morally, for the good of billions. For the good of our world”.


The chart shows the populations most affected by Global Warming in coming years:




– The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is now facing an irreversible meltdown due to this heat. and in about a century from now due to rising sea levels, many coastal citiies of the world will be underwater. This includes Karachi too. This is a gradual change though, and one can not notice it that easily in a lifetime. But by 2050-80 we can start to see the effects of sinking coastal cities. This will again affect all major coastal cities forever,

– The billions of people of Pakistan-India-China that are dependent on Himalyas for their water supply will face a shortage of water in rivers… when there will not be any SNOW to melt in the years to come (when our children will be living and breathing). No rivers mean no crops to farm, droughts lasting years and our food supply chain gone… FOREVER.

– Climate change gives rise to extreme weather events, like powerful storms, unprecended wind speed tornadoes causing wide scale damage.Heard about the continous tornadoes, storms in Europe, America, etc? That is just the beginning. The storm that each year seems to ‘just’ miss Karachi, well let’s just say Karachi’s luck might be running out soon. Be prepared for a powerful megastorm later this year, or next year.


– Further, coming years will see more freak events happening. and 40deg C + days will be the norm in SE Asia, Middle East


Unless we do something – make our voices heard to the powers that be!



climate change 1IMPACT




April 2014 Ties for Hottest on Record



Science: Moon Sighting Prospects in 10 Sentences or Less

The Eid-ul-Fitr in Pakistan is likely to fall on this Friday as per the Ruet-e-Hilal’s decision to sight the Moon on Thursday, creating a 2 DAYS difference (!!) with Saudi Arabia. Read on; and I am continuing from this article: (+ check the comments for a pre-requisite of why I wrote this blog post…)

This website shows the New Moon’s birth for the city of Islamabad, Pakistan for August:

1121 7 Aug 02:51

Okay – the decision by the Ruet Hilal Committee and Met Department’s to look for the Moon on Thursday is actually correct and set in concrete science. Let me explain:

There are several conditions that have to be fulfilled first before the prospect of Lunar visibility occurs. Scientifically, birth of the Moon is when the the Moon crosses the plane of Sun from old (month) to new. At this time the Moon is not yet “thick” enough to be visible as a crescent as it is too close to the Sun. As it moves further away, the sun light falls on it’s rims and this is what makes the “crescent” shape and allows us to see it (You can illustrate this by holding a sphere/ball in your hand blocking a light source in front of you, then slowly moving the sphere to left/right). For the Moon crescent to actually become thick enough to be visible, you have to wait a while till it moves away in it’s orbit. This takes anywhere from 18-22 hours – minimum. And then you have another basic condition; the new Moon is only visible at most, half an hour after sunset.

According to the website above, the birth of the Moon occurs on 7th August 2:51 (AM). If you add 20 hours, this gives you 22:51 or 10:51 PM on the 7th August. This violates several conditions of visibility: the 18-22 hours visibility period and the post-sunset visibility condition (to name just two- there is another condition violated in this case which I call the “ecliptic” condition and isn’t easy to explain).

Hence the only possibility of Moon sighting is on the next day, that is 8th. Which is a Thursday.

(Source: Doing observational astronomy for past 14 years)

For further arguments regarding how the issue is handled in Pakistan/KPK/S.Arabia, read my other blogpost: The Luna(cy) of the Moon Sighting.

Thank you, and have a joyous Eid.

Viewing the ISS on 3rd June (and How to View Satellites from your Home. Part 1)

Did you know that stars, planets, comets and Nebulas aren’t the only “things” in space you can view from the comfort of your own house? (If you did, then congratulate yourself. Why are you still reading this post? I kid.) Well for the unaware, there is a host of MAN-MADE objects in space that are visible from the Earth as well. And if you are still reading this, then you are about to find out how to view them yourself
(Careful there, don’t injure your brain with all that excited jumping you’re doing in your mind) 😉

Let’s Start…

…with the easiest and largest of them all: the International Space Station (ISS).

What is the ISS? Well, it’s a satellite about the size of a football field (100m x 80m) on a free-fall orbit around the Earth. It orbits at an average distance of about 346 km (this varies with intensity of Solar activity – something I’ll explain in later posts) from us, Earth dwellers. It was designed to be a “space outpost” or a “stopping place”…

International Space Station over Earth

Initially, ISS was not-so-large. The first module of it was launched in 1998 and with subsequent launches, further “parts” were added and today all those parts make up it’s current size. It isn’t the first, nor the only man-made object visible from Earth. But it is the largest of the ones in orbit, and thus one of the brightest. Hundreds of other satellites are also constantly orbiting the Earth and if you know where and when to look for em; you can pretty much become a full-time satellite hunter.

Oh did I mention there are actual humans in it (6 of them) and an AI robot (which assists the astronauts on the satellite), working around the clock, conducting experiments, taking stunning Earth and Space shots and poking into space-water-balls in their spare time (Eh I might have exaggerated a bit on the last one :D). ISS has a fully habitable environment with oxygen generators (using electrolysis). The total number of people that have been to the ISS is a WHOPPING 209! (Thanks to @Astroguyz over at Twitter for finding this out) You can see a really nice map of the satellite right here.

You’re obviously thinking “Eh. He’s kidding. Mankind has never built anything that large to be visible. Nobody saw the Apollos, or the Vikings, or the Voyagers. Conspiracy? Word.”

Ok. Two can play at this game.

Watch it for yourself then!

On 3rd June 2013, the International Space Station (or ISS for short) on it’s orbit will make a flyby over Pakistan. The flyby will be visible in many of the major urban centers, but is advantageous to more East-wardly locations (Karachi, Hyd, Lahore etc). And the ISS is bright enough to be visible easily with your own eyes. It appears like a moving star in the sky!

Picture showing satellite “brightening” in the sky. 5 sec exposure using Olympus sp-550uz.

A Breakdown of 3rd June ISS Fly-By

You’ve made it this far in the article? Good. I am not going to tell you right away how you can yourself look up satellite passes just yet. That we will keep for the 2nd part of this article. What I will tell you now are the details to the ISS pass that is today. Once you’ve gotten a taste of how it looks like, I am sure you’d be wanting more…

Alright then. Let’s make a checklist of what’s required.

Required materials:

A pair of eyes (Er. How else would you be reading this? :-p )
Curiosity for the skies
Clear skies (Clear-ish also works)
A basic sense of where West direction is (tip: it’s the prayer direction for most of Pakistan)
Ability to look up for extended periods of time 😀

Viewing Times

These are the times you must keep your eyes glued to the sky.

Karachi 8:28 PM – 8:32 PM
Hyderabad 8:28 PM – 8:32 PM
Lahore 8:30 PM – 8:34 PM

(If you are not in one of these cities, then approximate with the one closest to you)

Where to Look

This is the tricky part for most of you. As it is not easy to get a sense of direction in the sky on your first viewing, I’ve designed a few pictures to assist you. Make sure you go outside and have a look above a few minutes before the fly-by to get a sense of the sky at that time.

Here goes! 

Step One and Two:


Step Three:Image

Step FourImage

Amazing, right?

(You can simulate these images yourself using the amazing & free software called Stellarium  Here)

For the casual sky observers, a chart may be more suitable:


We’re good to go! Alright?

Just so you know, here is how the FLY-BY looks like from up-above.


When watching the fly-by…

I hope you are having fun and aren’t clouded out!

If you are on Twitter, make sure to send in a tweet with your views when you see the ISS. And do it with the hashtags #ISS #Pakistan #YOURCITYNAME

Have fun. And wait for Part 2 where I tell you how to get all flybys information by yourself.  Or if you are curious enough yourself, you can check out the following sites:



That’s all folks!

The Luna(cy) of the Moon Sighting

It’s 2012, the age of enlightenment, education and science.

Yet once again we have 3 different days of the Moon-sighting (17, 18, 19 August) in just one country (Pakistan).

And as always, Pakistan media joins in the frenzy, throwing more fuel to the fire and continues its trend of irresponsible and immature coverage of this non-issue that’s always plagued us and gets the best of us as a nation.

I consider myself a student of Quran. And like all Muslims I believe in what it says. Quran encourages us to keep an open mind, to explore an to seek out the truth:

“Behold! In the creation of heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed Signs for men of understanding.” [Aale Imran 3:190]

And I am also an avid enthusiast of astronomy, science and mathematics. Being an independent “astronomer” by my own I have learned a good deal about astronomy, often seeking out opportunities to capture the new crescent Moon myself all around the year [1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8] and in this process learning a whole lot about the visibility opportunities of the Moon.

Yet year after year I see the “learned men” (muftis) of our country fighting it out like schoolchildren over the Moon-sighting issue, calling each other names and degrading insults (all on public TV, mind you!)

So here I offer a few simple solutions for them to consider.

1) A simple 2 minute cross-examination of these witnesses with a religious mufti with open mind and educational background of math/astronomy and reasoning can easily decide if they are right or wrong. Questions can be like:

– What place in the sky was the Moon observed? What direction?
– What was the observed elevation of the Moon?
– How was the weather? Was it cloudy? Were there any isolated patches of clouds that might be mistaken for a Moon?
– What was the tilt of the crescent? The new crescent “limbs” always face a different portion of the sky during different times of the year
[1 2 3]
– Could you see the Sun at the same time as the crescent Moon?

I do believe the central Ruet-e-Hilal committee has such persons and they have thus ruled out the shahadaat which did not conform to these conditions.

2) Do follow up observations. Get the media and people of KPK with Ruet-e-Hilal members together the NEXT day and observe the Moon and then see if the shoe fits. Funny thing is, tomorrow (19 Aug) the “southern” cities of like Karachi and Quetta have a broad window of opportunity of spotting the Moon after sunset (about 40 minutes) while Peshawar will still have only a thin time-span (about 15 minutes) of spotting the new crescent. Such an observation should remove all doubts once and for all (Again, why aren’t our news channels playing a more active and positive role with all the tools at their disposal?)

3) Consult lunar calenders. We have computers advanced enough to predict lunar dates of the next 1000 years, believe it or not (yea, welcome to 21st century) :p Actually, some of these calenders were even published by Muslim astronomers and thousands of observatories around the world today can predict to the accuracy of a millionth of a degree. Sadly the sorry state of this country’s education prevents access to these simple educational tools.

4) KPK says they are being victimized and abused racially. Halke hojao yaron! Agar hum racial abuse kar rahe hain to aapne khud Waziristan walon ke sath Eid kyun nahi manayi. Aakhir un ke paas bhi to 13 Shahadaten theen. Why did they ignore it then? RACISM?

Spot the ones playing the “racism” card, they’re the trouble makers! By diverting it to a non-issue, defamation and not focusing on the actual problem they may get satisfied. What about the general innocent population of Pakistan?

The solution is to think open mindedly. And jo “molvi” hazraat yeh kehte hen ke “science” kahan se agayi, yeh to religious kaam hai” With respect sirs, but count the number of times you’d have used “science” to get your daily errands done. From a simple alarm clock waking you up to using a car for transport, to going to Hajj by the convenience of a plane (before there were planes, Hajis struggled, literally, to travel. And their families would worry if their loved ones would return on not). Admit that science it has made your life a million times better and you do have to listen to the power of reasoning which science offers.

Think about it my fellow brethren.

Astronomy Podcast Ep 1

Here it is, an astronomy podcast from Pakistan! A lot of it is general as I have no experience with speaking on astronomy publicly.

Topics talked about: General introduction, Karachi Astronomers Society, Progress of Pakistan in Space Tech, Space Shuttle Program, Dark Skies of Pakistan.

I hope to make this a regular feature from now on.

I welcome any feedback. Anything you may have to say, good or bad. Thank you.

Click the big red button 🙂

The dark-sky trips I referred to in my podcast:

— Pictures from the dark-sky trip to Kanrach

— Pictures from the dark-sky trip to Goth Haji Ismail, Lakhan


Driving Things to the Extreme

I liked looking up at the sky since I was a kid. Typically I am afraid of the dark, but the darkness of space had a unique, attractive like feel to it. The attraction factor comes from knowing, that the objects you are looking at are so mysterious and so far away that humans could only one day wish to unravel the mystique surrounding them.

A flame was ignited in me ever since I was able to appreciate the heavenly beauty with my eyes. I wanted to be an astronaut, have my own space-center and all that jazz. However, growing up in Pakistan I soon realized there was anything but an appreciation for this science. In fact, I also realized that in the cities–where majority of the population lies, and goes to educational facilities; light-pollution was devouring the skies faster than a speeding bullet. In fact all that can be seen from my city, Karachi, were the few brightest stars. Plus, the state of Astronomy was not helped by the lack of Govt infrastructure and funds in this regard.

I consider myself a most lucky individual for my father had bought a telescope from U.K when he worked in Jarrow, Newcastle in the 80’s. I wasn’t even born then. When he came back to Pakistan, the scope did too. Unfortunately, (as one would expect) it was relegated to an old closet, unused, for a decade. Finally, my father noticed that I was taking a healthy interest in this subject. It must have been around 2000/01 (the 99 solar eclipse was the final nail in the coffin; a big boost to my interest), that the scope was finally unpacked again. What scope was this you ask? It was nothing more than what one would call, a ‘junk’ 65 mm refractor. So why do I consider myself to be lucky? Because scopes are difficult, if not completely impossible to come by here in Pakistan!

I will spare you details of the many “endeavours” I have undertaken time and again to look for a new scope in the local bazaars.  Let’s just say that a few friends have been a tad bit more luckier than me! Apart from a few classifieds each year in local newspapers or websites where people were selling old scopes (most that never saw the light of the day) at obscenely high prices, the market has been largely h0-hum.

Fast-forward to 2005; I made a few upgrades to my telescope. Bought a sturdy tripod. The existing eyepieces and barlow unit that came with the scope were indeed scrap. It was getting this set of eyepieces that made all the difference in the world (and they are still serving me well). From the moment I saw Saturn’s rings for the first time through the new lenses, that my eyes were truly opened to the heavens. I still remember rushing down the stairs, screaming with joy that I’d seen the Lord of the Rings. It was hard to take your eyes off it once you’d seen it. During the Saturn opposition of 2005/6 it also passed by the Beehive cluster in the sky and for the first time I saw a star-cluster through any telescope. It was just indescribable beauty. And boy was I hooked!

The Beehive Cluster and Saturn (Saturn is the bright star) Picture by Houston Astronomical Society

Professional astrophotography is an expensive avocation, one that only dedicated hobbyists can afford. But I wanted to try my hand at it as I loved photographing things. At that time I only had one camera, and that was in the form of my Sony Ericsson K750i camera cell-phone. I, however, was determined to take it to the extreme. I modded the camera using a few guides I found on the intrawebs that enabled control over shutter time and aperture. How were the results? Here, decide for yourself

(Results of K750i Cell-Phone camera + 65 mm ‘junk’ refractor)

Moon using K750i Cell Phone Camera

Saturn in 2007

Saturn before being occulted by the Moon (2007)

Lunar Eclipse (4 Mar 2007)

Impressive, eh?

In 2010, doing a Google search lead me to the Karachi Astronomers Society website. It was a new project, as a result of collective efforts by several senior Karachi enthusiasts. The aim was to bring this science closer to the masses. I immediately joined in.

And it took off really well too; the first ever dark-sky party of Pakistan was hosted in 2010, one of many to come. Several public sessions followed all over the country, with interest rising exponentially among the public. In the beginning two months of this year alone, 3 dark-sky trips have already culminated successfully. And with enthusiasts attending from all over the country, it seems the gap that has always existed between Pakistanis and this science may finally be closing. And astronomy may well be on its way to finally becoming accessible to everyone.

(I hope you liked the first post on my blog. For a little technical introduction to myself; I am Ramiz Qureshi, a student of computer-sciences from Pakistan. Astronomy has always been my passion. I also like sports and photography. Please leave a comment because feedback is very important to me.)