In countless the-world-is-ending scenarios in films, TV shows and sci-fi books, an asteroid on course to smash into Earth is usually the source of all the stress and the implausible missions to destroy these near-Earth objects. Among the more ridiculous of these is Armageddon, which I watched as a teenager. A pugnacious Bruce Willis and a gang of irritatingly macho oil drillers are trained, in less than two weeks, as astronauts who blow up an asteroid on course to, yes, collide with Earth.
While reality isn’t as dire, astronomers and space agencies are always on the lookout for objects that could hit Earth. And pitching in to help them with their search are citizen scientists from across the world. We meet India’s asteroid hunters this week, which is coincidentally International Dark Sky Week, a global movement to cut light pollution and get people to appreciate night skies.
These asteroid hunters and citizen astronomers are a diverse group—from schoolchildren to retired professionals—for whom the night sky holds endless wonders. These stargazers widen their horizons with each discovery but staring at the sky, getting lost in its colours, imagining clouds into shapes or admiring the stars, seems to come naturally to most of us. Looking up at the expanse of the sky opens us up to the idea of a world without boundaries. And for astronomers, amateur or professional, the study of objects in the sky is actually a means to discover a different world.
The discovery of another world is a theme in other stories this week, though they explore the world within. Oscar-nominated director Lukas Dhont discusses his film Close and how he attempted to portray tenderness in masculinity. Author Mridula Garg speaks about her take on women, individuality and breaking away from cliched plot lines. Writer Jeyamohan, whose novels and films have transcended Tamil to reach audiences looking for multilayered narratives, explains how stories come to him “perfect, fully formed”. Combined with our usual recommendations on what to watch, do, eat and read, we have a lot to keep you busy all weekend—and to adapt a line from a bad song from that bad 1998 film, you don’t want to miss a thing.
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