Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Amateur Astronomy

Travel Package to Outer Space!


UP Astronomical Society in collaboration with Trade School Manila invites you to

The Travel Package to Outer Space I

A class (for all ages) that consists of interesting presentations about the following topics (celestial sphere, astronomical events and misconceptions, constellation and time telling). Fun DIY experiments await after the presentation!

NO REGISTRATION FEE! Take the class and pay for it with an item from the instructor’s wish list: tent, storage box, kiddie/roll up mats, flashlight with red lens, electric floor/box fan, celestial sphere model or celestial globe, Astronomy books (brand new or second hand)

This event is on October 5, 2013, 6:00pm at Liberty Plaza, 102 H.V. Dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City.

Directions on how to get to the venue: You can ride the MRT and get off at Buendia Station. Ride a jeepney beside McDonald’s and go down at Buendia-Makati Avenue (Petron gas station). Cross the street to get to the other side (Pacific Star building) and walk straight at Makati Avenue until you reach H.V. dela Costa. Walk through H.V. dela Costa until you reach Commune (it’s at the corner of Valero and H.V. dela Costa).


Register now at http://www.tiny.cc/astrotrade

#ThrowbackThursday post: June 6, 2012 Transit of Venus

transit of venus copy copy


June 6th last year, stargazers from across the globe gathered together to watch one of the rarest astronomical spectacles.

Many turned their attention to the daytime sky to view the planet Venus passing directly between the Sun and Earth – a transit that won’t occur again for another 105 years.

The transit of Venus happens in pairs eight years apart – but then with more than a century between cycles. During the pass, Venus appeared as a small, dark round spot moving across the face of the sun.

National Astronomy Week 2013

This year’s National Astronomy Week (NAW) falls on 18-24 February 2013. NAW  is an annual event in the Philippines that is observed every third week of February under Presidential Proclamation No. 130. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Solar Max 2013: Discovering the Sun’s Awakening Power”.

The Philippine astronomy community is especially active during this period. This year, aside from the exciting activities that are usually prepared by several amateur astronomy groups, PAGASA also launched its first astrophotography contest for  Elementary/High School Level (combined level) and College Students.

Below is a list of NAW 2013 activities organized by various Philippine astronomy organizations. (information taken from their own respective websites)

For more information or for other inquiries, kindly leave a comment or visit the online pages of the respective organizations.

Clear skies and happy NAW! 🙂

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The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the agency mandated under Presidential Proclamation No. 130, to spearhead the annual celebration, has prepared the following activities for the whole celebration:

  1. Free Planetarium Shows
  2. Stargazing and Telescoping Sessions at PAGASA Observatory
  3. First Astrophotography Contest for Elementary/High School Level (combined level) and College Students (First-Come, First-Served Basis)
  4. Free Posters in Astronomy to Visiting Schools at the Planetarium and Astronomical Observatory.
  5. Free 2 days Mobile Planetarium Shows, Stargazing and Telescoping Sessions in Selected Public Elementary and High School Students in Legazpi City.
  6. Seminar/Workshop on Basic and Observational Astronomy for Public Science Teachers in Metro Manila.

The free planetarium shows and lecture and telescoping sessions will be eld at the PAGASA Science Garden and Astronomical Observatory, respectively. It will be scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. Planetarium shows will be conducted from 8:00 AM to 5:00 P.M. daily, while telescoping sessions will start at 7:00 o’clock nightly. Please see Attachment 1 for the mechanics of the 1st Astrophotography Contest.

The Seminar/Workshop for Public Science Teachers of Metro Manila will be conducted at the Main Conference Room, 2nd Floor, PAGASA Central Office Bldg., Science Garden, Agham Road, Diliman Quezon City on 22 February 2013 at 2:30 PM. A stargazing session will follow after the Seminar/Workshop, which will be held at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

Interested parties who would like to visit our astronomical facilities during the celebration may call at telephone number 434-2715 for reservation purposes. Please click the following links for the Mechanics andRegistration Forms.

For further inquiries, please visit their website at http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph.

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Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP)


For more inquiries on ALP NAW activities, please contact NAW Chairman Christopher Louie Lu at (0919) 3057176.

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 Philippine Astronomical Society (PAS)

NAW 2013

20th National Astronomy Week 2013

Schedule of Activities NAW 2013
NAW special guests:

Arnold Clavio – Guest of Honor – Distinguished UST Alumni, TV GMA Personality

Prof. Edmund Rosales – Project Director, SkyXplore; ABS weather broadcaster

pas activities1

pas activities2

The image below shows the contest event floor plan.


Registration for the different competitions can be done by e-mailing your confirmation together with the list of participants to pasnaw2012@yahoo.com


February 19:  Paco Catholic School – “The Universe As We Know It”  by Engr. Camilo Dacanay

February 20: Ateneo – “Physics and The Study of the Universe”  by Engr. Camilo Dacanay

February 22: FEU-EAC – “Space: Weather Effects and Consequences” ”  by Engr. Camilo Dacanay

February 22: International Beacon School – “Stellar Evolution”  by Engr. Camilo Dacanay

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UP Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc)

The University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc), together with other Philippine astronomical organizations, celebrates the 20th National Astronomy Week (NAW) on February 16-23, 2013.  UP AstroSoc prepared a line-up of activities geared towards the organization’s objective of being able to enhance the awareness, interests, knowledge, and understanding of astronomy among students and the general public. The three main “star”-studded events that would be on February 23, 2013 are Big Bang, Take Off, and the Teachers’ Seminar.


BIG BANG!: The Astronomical Quiz Show

                Big Bang is a quiz show that will surely make high school students not just think outside of the box but think outside our world. It aims to showcase their knowledge about astronomy and boost their competitiveness as they battle for victory against students from Central Luzon, CALABARZON, and NCR. Big Bang would definitely create a loud blast this year so join now, if you can handle it.  Prizes await for those who can.

TAKE OFF!: A Rocket-Making Competition

                Take Off is a competition that will absolutely take you up to the skies.  With their creativity and innovativeness, students would make their own rockets using plastic bottles and boost it with pumped air and water.  The competitors would soar high as their rockets fly high to reach the gold.

TEACHERS’ SEMINAR: Astronomy Education

                UP AstroSoc believes that we should first appreciate before we educate.  That is why for this year, not only the students but also the teachers would take part of the National Astronomy Week celebration.  The Teachers’ Seminar aims to discuss through our educators what could we gain in promoting and spreading our knowledge of Astronomy to the society, the country, and to all humanity.  Some of the basic astronomical concepts would also be discussed during the seminar.

For inquiries, you may contact us at:

                BIG BANG!:Liezl Ann Motilla @ 09058052777 / leimotilla@yahoo.com

                TAKE OFF!: Kristine Jane Atienza @ 09152397942 / kjsatienza@gmail.com

                TEACHERS’ SEMINAR: Ericka Jane Angeles @ 09264254774 / ericka.jane.angeles@gmail.com


 For more questions regarding Astronomy and UP AstroSoc, feel free to like us on Facebook (www.facebook/upastrosoc), follow us on Twitter (@upastrosoc), and visit our website (www.askupastrosoc.blogspot.com).

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UPLB Astronomical Society (UPLB AstroSoc)

uplb astrosoc naw poster

Visit https://www.facebook.com/uplbastrosoc for more details.

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Stay tuned for updates!

Lunar Cycle Montage (November-December 2012)

lunar phases 1 copy

Click on image to view larger version


Before the world ends (just kidding! LOL), here’s my lunar cycle montage 🙂 Wheew. A month’s worth of work.

It’s been said that night photography has long been the realm of the persistent, strong willed…and sleep deprived few. LOL. However, despite being challenging, it is also a very interesting and rewarding venture. With the relatively decent weather last month until early December, I decided to try and capture the moon for as many nights as I could and then create a montage showing the different phases. Trying to catch a full sequence under Philippine skies isn’t the easiest thing to do! Favorable sky conditions may only arise a few times a year so I took this opportunity.

Please take note that no image was taken during December 4, 2012 because of the thick cloud cover during that day. What I did was I used a similar image (having almost the same phase and % illumination) that I took last October 31, 2012 as a replacement to fill the whole cycle.

All individual images were taken using my trusty Canon Powershot SX40 HS superzoom camera. Had to wake up during the wee hours of the night and endure a few mosquito bites only to image each one, especially the waning crescent phases. Haha. But I’m glad I did. Time and patience has paid off. 🙂

Celebrate World Space Week 2012!

Join the largest annual public space event on Earth!

World Space Week (WSW)  is an annual observance held from October 4 to October 10 established by the United Nations General Assembly to be an international celebration of science and technology and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition.

The start and end dates of World Space Week recognize the launch of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957; and the signing of the Outer Space Treaty on October 10, 1967.

UP Astronomical Society members held this WSW banner which contained the theme, “50 Years in Space” during the celebration of the World Space Week in the Philippines last 2007 (source: upastrosoc.multiply.com)

Every year, the World Space Week Association, in coordination with the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs, selects a theme that participants are asked to incorporate into their World Space Week events. The theme for World Space Week 2012 is “Space for Human Safety and Security.” All World Space Week participants are requested to: 1) Plan World Space Week programs that address this theme in some way; 2) Incorporate this theme into all of their World Space Week publicity materials.

Various WSW events will be  hosted by local participating organizations. In the Philippines, there are 11 registered events for WSW 2012. Everyone is invited to attend these events.

For more information about the WSW celebration, please visit http://www.worldspaceweek.org/. You may also follow @WorldSpaceWeek on Twitter and use the hashtag #wsw2012 in your tweets.

To infinity and beyond! 😀

Why I love Astronomy?

“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.”

—  Bill Watterson, author of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes

Don’t you just agree? 🙂

Looking up at all those stars just makes me feel so small and insignificant compared to the vast universe. Everytime I think of it, it makes me appreciate a lot of things in life. This may sound cheesy, but I can feel my heart pounding with unexplainable joy and amazement every time I look into the endless dark blue velvet sky filled with stars. The experience somewhat allows me to seek beyond my own self and my own personal struggles at the present moment.

As time went on, my love for astronomy began to grow without me realizing it.

Viewing the constellations, the Milky Way, planets that are visible to the naked eye and several members of the star family and the eye-catching moon – is simply fascinating. Even today, I love to sneak outside and gaze up at the breathtaking panorama played out in the night sky. And I guess I’ll never grow tired doing it wherever I am.

The stars stand as a testimony to my life on several occasions, for I attained bliss under a star-studded sky. Those experiences turned into moments of great revelations in my life and there are many such occasions . One time while setting out on a journey to explore the cosmos with a  friend,  I suddenly felt like I was somewhere miles away. All the distractions of the day are lost in the far reaches of space. We were beneath a beautiful night sky, caught up in the wonderment of the universe. We started gazing at thousands of stars, constellations; comets and the shimmering Milky Way – a sense of euphoria. Just for that moment – it took away all my worries and gave me a new meaning of life. Perhaps, this is why Carl Sagan called Astronomy “a humbling, and character-building experience,” in his Pale Blue Dot.

 I also like what Loren Eiseley said about this in “The Immense Journey.” Speaking of the first time a man looked to the stars, he wrote:

“For the first time in four billion years a living creature had contemplated himself and heard with a sudden, unaccountable loneliness, the whisper of the wind in the night reeds. Perhaps he knew, there in the grass by the chill waters, that he had before him an immense journey.”

Everyday I look forward to my immense journey, and I try to fulfill it to the best of my potential. 🙂

Venus Transit Observation in the Philippines

Viewing the Sun’s mole: People across the globe witnessed a very rare spectacular event that won’t be repeated until 2117.

I observed the whole duration of the  final  Transit of Venus of our lifetime at the College of Science Amphitheater in UP Diliman in a public viewing event  called ‘Rekindling Venus’ organized by members of various school-based astronomy organizations in the Philippines a last June 6, 2012.

There were lectures, talks, astro-images exhibit, free planetarium shows and telescope viewing, and more during the event, which have been attended by a lot of astronomy-enthusiasts coming from different places.

The sky was about 40-50% cloudy that day but it didn’t rain despite the weather forecast.

Observers set up their telescopes and pointed at the sun to view the transit.

Me and my own simple set up featuring my trusty Galileoscope equipped with a Baader 5.0 ND solar filter.

A lecture by Dr. Perry Esguerra of the National Institute of Physics explaining the phenomenon.

All smiles: Members of the UP Astrosoc, UPLB Astrosoc, and RTU Astrosoc posed for a group photo after the event . Image credit: Norman Marigza

Local newsgroups were present during the event and I was unfortunately spotted for a short interview. Haha!

This event was surely a memorable one.

Kudos to all the organizers and thank you to everyone who joined us in this event!

Art and Astronomy: Transit of Venus by Norman Marigza

Transit of Venus (medium: acrylic)

Only a few days left to the last transit of Venus of our lifetimes! Miss it and you won’t be able to witness it until the year 2117.

Amateur and professional astronomers from all over the globe were already gearing up for this big event. There were talks, lectures, public observations, videos, and other several projects and activities initiated by various local groups to promote this event among the public.

But one of  our astro-friends here has another cool way of sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for this upcoming event, and that is through painting.

Shown above is an artistic depiction of the upcoming Transit of Venus created by Norman Marigza, a young Filipino artist who is also in the field of Physics and Astronomy. According to him, his two greatest passions in life are Art and Astronomy, hence he can do both. He’s surely a gifted person, isn’t he?

To see his other astro-artworks, please visit his website http://blogstargazers.blogspot.com/2010/01/astroart-by-norman.html

During the transit of Venus, we will be able to see the Venus as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun. It happens when Venus passes directly between Earth and the Sun.

Historically, this rare alignment is how we measured the size of our solar system.

Crescent Sun at Sunrise

This morning, a wonderful view of a golden crescent sun was successfully observed  by a lot of skyviewers using appropriate filters for visual observing and photography. The partial solar eclipse began at sunrise at 5:27 am local time and ended at 7:06 am. Fortunately,  the weather cooperated this time despite bad weather forecasts and continuous rains during the past few days.

In some places like China, Japan, and United States, the event was seen as an annular eclipse which looked like a fiery ring in the sky.

I observed this event along with an Astrosoc orgmate in their house at Marikina City. Their location is great for observing events which can be viewed along the eastern sky. Moreover, it is also high enough to give a very good vantage point.

Only a few minutes after sunrise, a big yellowish grin in the east just above a layer of clouds greeted us earthlings who patiently waited even without sleep. Yay!

Below is a composite image that I created using Adobe Photoshop to illustrate how the the sun looked like when it was rising from behind the Sierra Madre mountain range.

Many Filipinos anticipated the event as solar eclipses are not frequently visible in the Philippines. The last one occurred last January 15, 2010, while the next won’t take place until March 9, 2016.

For avid amateur astronomers like me, this event was extra special as it provides a good opportunity for me to practice solar observation in preparation for the upcoming transit of Venus, a very rare phenomenon that won’t be repeated until 2117. I have never done any solar observation before using my own Galileoscope for fear of getting it damaged (its lens and body tube were both made up of plastic which are not great for viewing the sun using solar projection method). Moreover, the danger of having an eye injury also worried me. Hence, I decided not to pursue solar observation unless I get a decent filter that I could safely attach and use with my equipment — be it a camera or my scope.

Months before this event, I was very anxious that I might not be able to observe it having only a cheap plastic scope and a camera. But I was really determined that I’ve read a lot about solar observing and saved some money for it just in case there’d be a need to buy some materials. When the event came nearer, however, financial constraints became a problem, so I just forego the idea of buying a costly filter and chose to buy a #10 welding glass instead. It might not produce nice images but it’s a good and safe alternative.

Nonetheless, God must have heard my thoughts that he made a miracle. Haha! A few days before the solar eclipse, a nice surprise came in when a generous UP AstroSoc orgmate offered me an extra piece of Baader solar filter — for free! Wee!:)

Below were some of the images I took using a hand-held Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera on a 2-inch refractor (Galileoscope) with a Baader 5.0 ND solar filter.

By the way, these photos have been featured several times today in local news programs. They also got featured in front page of spaceweather.com and  in an article by Earthsky.org.

A screencap showing my image in GMA’s 24 Oras. Thanks to my sister who posted this!

I will upload the other photos soon, including a complete observation report. For the meantime, I’d better get some sleep first because I still need to attend some other important conventions outside the city. 🙂

To the stars!

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I created two composite images which show the progression of the partial solar eclipse as we observed the event.

The image above was featured in Amateur Astronomy Picture of the Day (AAPOD) last June 24, 2012.  It was my fifth AAPOD image. 🙂

To God be the glory!

Clear skies to all.

May 2012 Solar Eclipse

The first solar eclipse in 2012 will be an annular solar eclipse on May 20–21. The term came from the Latin word “annulus,” meaning “little ring”, because the moon will not completely cover the sun during the totality (unlike in a total solar eclipse), but will leave a fiery ring around its circumference.

A telescopic picture of the Sun taken during the annular eclipse of January 15, 2010 from the city of Kanyakumari at the southern tip of India. Image Credit & Copyright: Mikael Svalgaard

Warning: NEVER look directly at the sun through binoculars, a telescope or with your unaided eye.

At its peak, the moon will block roughly 94 percent of the sun’s light.

This potentially spectacular solar eclipse  will be visible from much of Asia, the Pacific region and North America, provided the weather cooperates.

Time table worldwide

The eclipse starts in one location and ends in another, the times below are for visibility for any location on earth.

Event UTC Time Time in Manila
First location to see partial eclipse begins 20 May, 20:56 21 May, 04:56
First location to see full Eclipse begins 20 May, 22:06 21 May, 06:06
Maximum Eclipse 20 May, 23:54 21 May, 07:54
Last location to see full Eclipse ends 21 May, 01:39 21 May, 09:39
Last location to see partial Eclipse ends 21 May, 02:49 21 May, 10:49

Note to Philippine observers: The fiery ring would not be visible in the Philippines. Instead, a partial solar eclipse beginning at sunrise on May 21 will be visible.

Local circumstances of the partial solar eclipse on Monday (May 21) in the Philippines courtesy of UPLB Astronomical Society. Screenshots were taken using Stellarium.

Remember that this spectacular sight can only be safely observed with approved solar filters or by projecting an image of the eclipsed Sun onto a flat white surface.  Look for pinhole effects on the ground (shadows of trees or bushes) or use some another projection viewing method to safely view the eclipsed sun.

The Sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye ONLY during the few brief seconds or minutes of a total solar eclipse.  Even at maximum, the annular eclipse will not cover the brightest parts of the sun. Partial eclipses, annular eclipses, and the partial phases of total eclipses are never safe to watch without taking special precautions. Do not attempt to observe the partial or annular phases of any eclipse with the naked eye. Failure to use appropriate filtration may result in permanent eye damage or blindness!

Tips on how to view the Sun safely

“Filters for visual and photographic use

Acceptable filters for unaided visual observations include: aluminized polyester specifically designed for solar viewing, shade 12 and 14 welding filters, black polymer filters (Thousand Oaks Solar Shield 2000 and Rainbow Symphony Polymer), and two layers of fully exposed and developed silver-bearing black and white film negative. For photographic and visual use, particularly with binoculars or telescopes, acceptable filters include: aluminized polyester specifically designed for the purpose, and Questar and Thousand Oaks T1 and T2 glass filters. The Thousand Oaks T3 filter should be used with extreme care for photographic use only. Not recommended are: metal-coated polyester that is not specifically intended for solar observation, smoked glass, floppy disk media, black colour transparency (slide) film, floppy disk media, and compact disks (because of the inconsistent quality of the metal coating).”

I reiterate that you must protect your eyes at all times with proper solar filters when looking at the sun. However, do not let the requisite warnings scare you away from witnessing this wonderful phenomenon. 🙂 Clear skies!
Recommended links for further information

For those who won’t be able to observe the eclipse from their location, you may still watch via live webstreaming of the event.

Transit of Venus Map in Many Languages

On 6 June, an event that takes place only four times every two centuries will enthral the world’s astronomers, as it has ever since the 1600s – but now it can provide priceless data in the hunt for habitable planets in deep space and in re-measuring the distance of the sun from Earth.

Venus will appear as a tiny speck on one side of the Sun in a few weeks and will slowly traverse the solar disc for a few hours. The movement of that little black dot may seem insignificant. But it is one of the rarest sights in astronomy, an event known as a transit of Venus. Miss this one and you will have to wait until 2117 for the next.

Image credit: NASA/LMSAL

As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible. On average, there are 13 transits of Mercury each century. In contrast, transits of Venus occur in pairs with more than a century separating each pair.

For Northern Hemisphere locations above latitude ~67° north (including the Philippines) all of the transit is visible regardless of the longitude.

A lot of astronomy-enthusiasts globally are preparing for this rare event. Some are even planning to travel in places where the transit will be fully visible.

As part of this preparation, visibility maps of the transit were created by volunteer groups to guide local observers. One of the efforts is called the Transit of Venus Project which is part of the Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) program. AWB is a global collaboration in astronomy.

Aside from providing useful information to the public about this event, the TOV Project also aims to form a collection of translated maps of the 2012 transit of Venus for different languages so that the transit of Venus will be enjoyed by more people around the world. Of course,  some people would appreciate a map in their own native language.

Michael Zeiler of  Eclipse-maps.com (and also one of the curators of the TOV Project website) sent me a message via Twitter asking for help with translating a summary map of the transit of Venus (June 5-6, 2012) into Filipino.

Here is a copy of the map:

These are the phrases to translate: World visibility of the transit of Venus on June 5 & 6, 2012 Venus overhead at transit maximum Entire transit visible Transit not visible Transit starts before sunset and ends after following sunrise Transit starts before sunrise and ends after sunset Transit visible from sunrise until end Transit visible from start until sunset Venus touches Sun’s disk at sunrise Venus within Sun’s disk at sunrise Venus within Sun’s disk at sunset Venus touches Sun’s disk at sunset

I made a draft of the translation in Filipino and consulted some professors from the Filipino Department of UP Diliman. Upon deciding that it the translated words were good enough, I emailed everything to Mr. Zeiler and he produced this map containing the translated phrases.

6 June 2012 Transit of Venus Visibility Map in our local language, Filipino. Credit: (map) Michael Zeiler/(translation) Raven Yu

Please take note that some of the phrases were not translated into its direct meaning but more of its contextual meaning so as not to confuse the map users.

Check out this link to view the translated maps of the 2012 transit of Venus for different languages.

If your language is not provided, you can help add a new map by following the simple instructions at this page.

You can also find local contact times of the transit at http://transitofvenus.nl/wp/where-when/local-transit-times/.

Remember that it is not safe to view the sun directly because it might damage your eyes. Read here for tips on how to safely view and photograph the transit using the right equipment and proper eye protection.

Don’t miss this rare spectacle! 🙂 Clear skies!

UP Astrosoc’s Summer 2012 Application

UP Astronomical Society is now open for Summer Application!
See you this thursday, 19 April 2012 6pm at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory Moon Deck near CHE.

Get the chance to look through the largest telescope in the Philippines, Andre the Giant!

Don’t miss it! 🙂

For inquiries, please contact

Andro 09162309138
CR 09065880080

Credit: Kin Enriquez (UP Astrosoc associate member)

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About UP Astrosoc…

The  University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP Astrosoc) is a non-profit, non-political and non-partisan organization in the University of the Philippines, Diliman established in 1991. UP Astrosoc now resides at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory inside the UP Diliman Campus in Quezon City.

A Dark Moonless Night for the 2012 Lyrids

The New Moon this month will guarantee the perfect dark sky to watch the Ancient April “shooting stars” called the Lyrid Meteor Shower or the Lyrids.

The Lyrids fall from Comet C1861 G1 Thatcher as the Earth passes through her tail. Activity from this meteor shower can be observed from 16 April to 25 April, but the perfect time to catch the Lyrids is during late night of the 21st to the early morning of the 22nd.

The Lyrids can offer a display of 10 to 20 per hour or have a surge of activity of up to 100 per hour.

The Lyrids, so named because they appear to originate from the constellation Lyra (The Lyre), have been observed in the night sky during mid-April for at least 2,500 years, NASA scientists say. On 21 – 22 of April you can see Lyra rise at around 11PM (local time) from the north east and continue to rise high into the sky towards the south east during the darkest hours of the night sky.

A screencap from Stellarium showing the radiant of the Lyrids located near the star Vega of the constellation Lyra.

The fifth-brightest star of the sky, alpha Lyr, called Vega (arabic for “stone eagle”), radiates from the top of Lyra with a pure white colour. Together with alpha Cyg, Deneb , and alpha Aql, Atair, Vega forms the famous asterism, the Summer Triangle (shown above).

Lyrid meteors are usually around magnitude +2, which is bright enough to be visible from most cities, but you’ll see more and enjoy them more if you leave the city for a less light-polluted area where the stars shine brighter. They often produce luminous trains of dust that can be observed for several seconds. Some Lyrids will be brighter, though, and the occassional “fireball” can cast shadows for a split second and leave behind glowing, smoky debris trails that last for minutes.

So, how do you watch these meteors? Like any other meteor shower event, watching the Lyrids requires no special viewing equipment like binoculars or  telescopes. All you need is an open sky and a place to lie down and relax. Someplace dark, away from trees and buildings is best. Meteors zip across the sky, so the more sky you see the better.  Gaze into the stars, and be patient. The best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, usually straight up, perhaps with a little inclination toward the radiant.

As an observer, you can make a careful meteor count and report it to the International Meteor Organization. Such counts are analyzed to yield the shower’s zenithal hourly rate (ZHR), which is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour under ideal conditions: with the radiant directly overhead (at the zenith) and the sky dark enough to reveal 6.5-magnitude stars.

Meteors Without Borders: #LyridsWatch

During Global Astronomy Month (GAM 2012), everyone is encouraged to observe the Lyrids and send in the reports of what they saw. You can also share your data by tweeting your postcode, your country (click here to find your country code) and, optionally, the meteor count along with the hashtag; #MeteorWatch (you are welcome to use GAM hastags as well – #GAM2012 #LyridsWatch)

The meteor data will appear in a map at MeteorWatch.org. This is an excellent way to get more immersed and socialize during your observations.

Observe the Lyrids with UP Astrosoc

For Philippine observers located near Quezon City, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) invites you to its Lyrids observation on April 21-22, 9PM-6AM at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory Sundeck (located within the UP Diliman Campus).

The event is for free and open to all, so feel free to bring along with you your friends and family.

For more information, please visit UP Astrosoc’s Facebook fanpage.

Meteor showers can be a lot of fun, so I hope you see some good ones this coming weekend!  Clear skies!

Mars, Regulus and the Waxing Gibbous Moon

Situated well above the 88% illuminated waxing gibbous moon tonight were two bright objects — one is the planet Mars and the other one is the star Regulus in the constellation Leo.

These three formed a nice cosmic triangle in the night sky just like what is shown above. (Please take note that the image was a composite.)

Reddish Mars has been in Leo close to the star Regulus for the past few weeks, and the two will remain companions all April. During May and June, Mars will drift away from Regulus, and will head toward the constellation Virgo where Saturn is currently residing.

Venus, the Pleiades and Hyades


Tonight, the planet Venus shining bright in the western sky appeared close to the dipper-shaped open star cluster, Pleiades.

Just above them was the V-shaped Hyades, another noticeable cluster. In mythology, the Hyades are the half sisters to the Pleiades, the daughters of Atlas.

Image taken with Nikon D60 DSLR camera (24 mm, f/5.6, 20 sec. exp. at ISO 1250).

More photos below:

(From bottom to top) Jupiter, Venus, the Pleiades, and the Hyades.

The streak of light was an airplane which happen to pass in between Venus and the Pleiades while the shot was being taken

AWB’s Venus-Jupiter Conjunction Image Collection

Enjoy the beautiful views of the Venus-Jupiter conjunction as seen from various parts of the globe through Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) image collection.

Last March 13-15, a lot of amateur astronomers participated in AWB’s event, “Beauty Without Borders: Conjunction of Glory” which highlighted the closest encounter of Jupiter and Venus — the two brightest planets in the night sky.

Images were submitted to AWB by uploading the them in Twitter and using the hashtag #VenusJupiter. Two of my images got included in this collection as well. Thank you, AWB!

Under the motto “One People, One Sky”, AWB brings people together from around the world through our common interest in astronomy .

True enough, “the boundaries we place between us vanish when we look skyward.” 🙂

Closest Encounter of Venus and Jupiter in 2012

If you’ve been looking west after sunset recently you can’t have failed to see Venus blazing there so bright, outshining everything else in the sky. To Venus’ upper left is another bright” star”, which is actually another planet, Jupiter.

Jupiter and Venus - 8 degrees apart. Image captured 5 March 2012 at 6:45 pm.

These two bright planets visible in the night sky have been putting on quite a show this past month as they have been slowly getting closer together in the western sky just after sunset.

Next week, Venus and Jupiter will be MUCH closer than they are now. 🙂

On March 15, an impressive celestial show at twilight will surprise sky observers as these two planets reach what astronomers call conjunction – the closest they can appear in the sky together.

Getting closer - 5 degrees apart. Image taken 9 March 2012 at 6:24 pm.

The pair of planets will appear to be only 3 degrees apart in the western sky. That is equal to the width of your three middle fingers at arms’ length. Their proximity in the sky is an illusion, of course, as Venus is 180 million km away from Earth and Jupiter is more than 600 million km farther away.

After their mid March close encounter, the two planets will quickly go pass each other – Jupiter dropping down towards the horizon, getting closer to the Sun, while Venus moves higher up in the sky, moving away from the Sun, and brightening as it does so.

The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013.

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Beauty Without Borders: Conjunction of Glory

13 – 15 March 2012

The Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 15 will be quite a spectacle, as both planets are very bright. This will be a fantastic visual and photographic opportunity, as it’s not often that you get the brightest planets in our Solar System so close together.

In line with this, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), in collaboration with Amateur Astronomers Association of Kurdistan & Opportunity Astronomical Observatory (Iraq), presents “Beauty without Borders: Conjunction of Glory”.

All the amateur/professional groups out there are invited to participate and enjoy the beautiful views.

Participate by hold an observing night with your local astronomy group or do a backyard astronomy session with your family and friend. Take your scope to the street for a “guerilla-astronomy” session.

Join the conversation on Twitter @awb_org using #VenusJupiter with other groups around the world. Post your images on our Flickr or Facebook page.

Chat by NASA on 25 March 2012

Join and share with your friends!

Clear skies!

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Here is a video from Newsy.com to help you know more about this event: http://www.newsy.com/videos/venus-and-jupiter-set-for-cosmic-meetup/

Finding Mercury at Twilight

March 5, 2012 – This would have been a very fine evening for skygazing if only the clouds weren’t so annoying.

Various sky events were happening all at the same time, but nothing can be seen but the clouds.

This day marked the closest encounter of Mars to Earth until the year 2014. Mars is now displaying its greatest brilliance in our sky. Also on this day, the planet Mercury arrived at its greatest eastern point, 18 degrees to the east of the sun. This was Mercury’s best eastern apparition in 2012.  In addition, a bright ISS (almost as bright as Jupiter) passed near Venus at around dusk. It was a nice opportunity to capture this ISS pass because of its proximity to two of the brightest objects in the night sky this month.

I was originally planning to take photos of Mars and Mercury during twilight – Mercury in the western sky, and Mars on the eastern side – but as I said, thick clouds came in and obscured my view.

Waxing gibbous moon at 6:01 pm. I took this photo while waiting.

Mercury, now shining at magnitude -1.2, is only a little fainter than Sirius (the brightest star in the sky). Though this planet is often cited as the most difficult of the five brightest naked-eye planets to see, there is now a fine “window of opportunity” for seeing Mercury in the evening sky. This window which began last February 22 and will close after March 12, provides several good opportunities to see this so-called “elusive planet” with our own naked eyes.

Locating Mercury in the west after sunset is quite a  challenge because it’s so close to the horizon. Moreover, although it is actually as bright as a first-magnitude star, the glow of evening twilight tends to subdue its brilliance.

This month, Mercury starts become visible around 30 to 45 minutes after sunset. This tiny planet can be found hanging beneath the brighter planets Venus and Jupiter. Using Stellarium, I estimated its location to be about 25 to 30 degrees below Venus. It was hard to spot Mercury at first glance but after a few seconds, my eyes were able to detect its faint glow.

However, it was visible only for a very brief moment.

As soon as I finished setting up the tripod and the camera, the clouds have already covered about 5 degrees of the horizon and Mercury was nowhere to be seen.

Western sky - March 5, 2012. Mercury was hidden beneath those clouds near the horizon.

I tried my luck to look for this planet on the following evenings but the sky was not any better until March 8.

Weather was not so bad as the past few days  so I was slightly optimistic.   The sun set promptly at 6:06 pm  and I searched in the same area of the sky, expecting to see Mercury.    After more than half an hour, Jupiter and Venus popped into the view – still there is no sign of Mercury.   A nice big full moon in the east was rising, and it seemed to grin at me cruelly!

I was just about to give in when at 6:40 pm, Mercury sailed into view;  flashing yellow and orange and battling the murkiness. Having just enough time to take a few photos before it disappeared a few minutes after, I hurried and managed to get off a few shots.

It was a pleasant surprise. 🙂

Jupiter, Venus and Mercury at 6:44 pm | UP Diliman, Quezon City


Photos above were taken using my Panasonic Lumix digital camera and were post processed in Photoshop to enhance the visibility of Mercury. The planet was too dim and too small to be seen without zooming into the images.

Mercury is quickly decreasing in altitude as each day passes, so take the opportunity well this month to spot it.

Clear skies!

AWB March 2012 Events

Global Astronomy Month 2012 (www.gam-awb.org) is merely a month away. Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) has organized three exciting events in March to do the warm-ups!

Spread the word and join in.

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“Hello Red Planet”

3-5 March 2012

Mars will come into Opposition on March 3, 2012 in the constellation Leo with its face fully illuminated by the Sun and two days later, on March 5, 2012, the planet will have its closest approach to Earth during this apparition: 100.78 million km (0.6737 AU)—the best time to say “Hello” to the Red Planet.

Read more…


“Conjunction of Glory”

13 – 15 March 2012

Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the sky, will be within 3 degrees of each other in the evening sky of 15 March 2012 at 10:37:46 UTC.  This will be quite a spectacle, as both planets are very bright—and this will be a fantastic visual and photographic opportunity, as it’s not often that you get the brightest planets in our Solar System so close together. 

The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013. 

Read more…


“March Equinox 2012”

20 March 2012

The March equinox occurs at 05:14 UTC, Tuesday 20 March.  The Sun will shine directly down on the Earth’s equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world.  This is also the first day of spring (Vernal Equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (Autumnal Equinox) in the southern hemisphere.

Wherever you are on 20 March, 2012, celebrate your season in the cycle of life with Astronomers Without Borders.  Enjoy your own unique Equinox this year—and why not tell others about the experience?

Read more…

To the stars! 🙂

More about GAM 2012:

Mars at Opposition – March 2012

Mars will reach opposition (when it is directly opposite the Sun in the sky and brightest for this apparition) on the night of March 3rd 2012, positioned 5º.4 SSW of the star Coxa ( Leo or Theta Leonis, mag. +3.9) and 4º.5 West of Leonis. Mars is now brighter and closer than it’s been for two years – and brighter and closer than it will be again until 2014.

However, Mars’ perigee (closest point  to the Earth) will take place two days later – on March 5th – when it is 0.6737 AU (100.7 million kms or 62.6 million miles) from the Earth. This is due to the eccentricity of the orbit of Mars.

The motion of an outer planet, as seen from a "fixed" Earth. | image from cseligman.com

It’ll be hard to miss Mars because it’s the fourth-brightest star-like object to light up the night at this time, after the planets Venus and Jupiter, and the star Sirius.

You can find Mars in the eastern sky at nightfall and early evening, in front of the constellation Leo the Lion. Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, is to the upper right of Mars when they are in the east in the evening hours.

Looking for Mars | image: Stellarium

On opposition day this 2012, Mars will shine at magnitude -1.2 and will have an apparent disk diameter of 13″.9. This is not as bright nor as large (when seen through a telescope) as it was at its previous opposition in January 2010, when the planet reached magnitude -1.3 and had an apparent diameter of 14″.1.

Trivia: At opposition,  the Earth passes in between the sun and Mars, so that the sun, Earth and Mars lie along a line in space. During this event a superior planet like Mars rises around sunset, is visible throughout the night and sets around sunrise. Its highest point in the sky is reached when it crosses the observer’s meridian at local midnight (due South at midnight in the Northern hemisphere and due North at midnight in the Southern hemisphere).

Say “Hello” to the Red Planet

Through the Beauty without Borders program, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) will bring together groups around the world to enjoy the event through observing, webcasts, activities, photography and poetry.

Beauty without Borders: Hello Red Planet

Mars will come into Opposition on March 3, 2012 in the constellation Leo with its face fully illuminated by the Sun and two days later, on March 5, 2012, the planet will have its closest approach to Earth during this apparition: 100.78 million km (0.6737 AU)—the best time to say “Hello” to the Red Planet.

For more info visit http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/projects/observing-activities/beauty-without-borders/1045.html

Join this event and share it with your friends!

Clear skies!

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Useful links:

Triangular Spectacle: Moon, Venus and Jupiter

Last February 26, 2012, the crescent Moon joined the other two brightest objects in the night sky – Jupiter and Venus – to form a spectacular celestial grouping during and after twilight! They’re just a few degrees apart at the time of twilight in the west.

This sky show dazzled a lot of  skywatchers around the world during the weekend.

I have always been fascinated with celestial conjunctions. Hence, I immediately headed to SM Mall of Asia (near the Manila Bay area) after my on-the-job training in Makati City to take pictures of this event.

Traveling around the city—especially during the busiest evening rush hour period is one hell of a headache. Nonetheless, all the effort was worth it. 🙂

When we came, big dark clouds threatened our view.  As the brightest objects in the night sky, Venus, Jupiter and the Moon can shine through urban lights, fog, and even some clouds. During that time, however they were hardly visible behind the clouds.

Fortunately, the skies cleared up just in time and we saw the awesome celestial trio. Thank God! 

Once the moon retreats from view, Jupiter and Venus will continue growing closer. The gap will narrow to 10 degrees by the end of February until they pass each other in mid-March.  On March 13 and 14, Jupiter and Venus reach their closest distance to each other. They will lie only three degrees apart. That’s just about the width of a finger and a half at arms length.

March 26, 2012: Venus, Jupiter and the Moon align | Image : Stellarium

By March 26, a crescent moon will join them once again, producing another brilliant sky display visible at twilight.

Don’t miss it!

Moon and Venus – February 24, 2012

Taken at 6:25 pm from the Gonzales Hall of UP Diliman (Photo details: 7mm,  f/3.7, 1/8 sec. exposure at ISO 100)

Conjunctions of the moon and the planets are quite special events.

Image taken at 6:43 pm (Photo details: 6mm,  f/3.5, 8 sec. exposure at ISO 100)

A conjunction is an alignment of 2 or more celestial bodies (usually the moon and planets) in the sky, from our vantage point on Earth. The objects aren’t necessarily physically close to each other in space, but from where we see them, when the bodies are grouped close together on the sky we call them in conjunction.

When the objects get so close together that one passes in front of the other from our vantage point, we call that an occultation.

A conjunction doesn’t have any particularly special meaning, but they can be interesting to observe because very close conjunctions are quite rare events. It can be very exciting to see two planets in the same field of view of your telescope!

Not only that, but conjunctions, especially with the moon and/or bright planets are involved, are just a lovely spectacle to look at and photograph.

On February 25-26, the crescent Moon will join the other two brightest objects in the night sky to form a spectacular celestial grouping during and after twilight! They’re just a few degrees apart at the time of twilight in the west.

This will be a lovely sight to see.

Clear skies! 🙂

All photos were taken by me using Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera.

UP AstroSoc’s Public Observation of the Celestial Grouping on February 26, 2012

In celebration of the National Astronomy Week (NAW) 2012, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) in partnership with the Philippine Society of Youth Science Clubs (PSYSC) invites everyone to a public observation of the celestial grouping of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter on February 26, 2012.

The said event will be at the Sun Deck of the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in UP Diliman.

Define closeness; see the thin lunar crescent pass close to Venus and Jupiter on the eve of February 26. Observation starts at around 6PM or later. 🙂

Messier marathon begins at 9 PM. Messier objects were discovered in the 18th century. These were listed so that observers using small telescopes would not confuse these with comets


To join the event, please visit its Facebook event page : https://www.facebook.com/events/148142481972887/

Clear skies! 🙂

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Related link:

National Astronomy Week 2012 in the Philippines

The National Astronomy Week (NAW), which is celebrated annually every third week of February (Presidential Proclamation No. 130), falls on 20-24 February 2012 this year.  The theme of this year celebration is “Viewing the Sky… Enhancing our Knowledge!”.

Lots of fun and educational activities have been prepared by different amateur astronomy groups this year which makes this year’s celebration more exciting.

Below is a list of NAW 2012 activities organized by various Philippine astronomy organizations.

For more information or for other inquiries, kindly leave a comment or visit the online pages of the respective organizations.

Clear skies and happy NAW!

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PAGASA will celebrate the NAW with a week-long activity which will be highlighted by the following:

1.  Free Planetarium Show
2.  Stargazing and Telescoping Sessions
3.  Star Party contest for (8) Public & Private School Science Club Members at the PAGASA  
     Observatory (First-come, first-serve basis)
4.  Distribution of posters in Astronomy to visiting schools at the Planetarium and
     Astronomical Observatory, free of charge.

Reservations for the Planetarium will be made at the PAGASA Central Office on a first-come, first-served basis.

Stargazing and telescoping sessions will be from 7:00 to 11:00 pm every night at the Astronomical Observatory, UP Compound, Diliman, Quezon City.  The public, especially the students and teachers are invited to the sessions.

2012 Star Party Contest for Highschool Students

In connection with the celebration of the National Astronomy Week on 20-24 February 2012, The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), will conduct a Star Party Contest for the eight (8) Public & Private High Schools (first-come, first-served basis) on 24 February 2012 at 3:00 P.M. until dawn at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory, U.P. Compound, Diliman, Quezon City.

The contest will be open to high school students, both public and private from Metro Manila.  The maximum number of contestants is nine (9) students who should be members of their Science Club and one (1) Science Adviser.

Star Party Contest Rules and Regulation will be given/discussed upon registration of the eight (8) participating schools on 24 February 2012.

Prizes at Stake:

1st Prize:                    P5,000.00
2nd Prize:                   P4,000.00
3rd Prize:                    P3,000.00
5 Consolation Prize:     P2,000.00

Certificates of participation will be issued to all contestants.

For further inquiries, please contact Engr. Dario Dela Cruz, Chief, Space Science and Astronomy Section at telephone number 434-2715 or visit our website at http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph

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Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP)

For more inquiries on ALP NAW activities, please contact NAW Chairman / SecretaryChristopher Louie Lu at (0919) 3057176 or ALP President James Kevin Ty at (0917) 8559863 or (0922) 8999ALP (257).

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 Philippine Astronomical Society (PAS)

Registration for the different competitions can be done by e-mailing your confirmation together with the list of participants to pasnaw2012@yahoo.com. You may contact PAS President, Ian Allas at 09063165154 or 09391682834.

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UP Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc)

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UPLB Astronomical Society (UPLB AstroSoc)

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Rizal Technological University (RTU)

National Astronomy Week Celebration in RTU:

Feb. 14: Opening

Feb. 15: Planetarium Show

Feb. 16: Exhibit Day

Feb. 17: Closing