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

Public Observations

Rekindling Venus: Experience A Rare Celestial Event

Next month we will be the last people living today to witness one of the rarest astronomical events. On June 6, a special celestial event called the transit of Venus will take place, and it won’t be repeated in your lifetime.

During the transit, Venus will pass directly in front of the sun from Earth’s perspective, appearing as a small moving black dot.

The entire transit can be witnessed from eastern Asia, eastern Australia, New Zealand and the western Pacific, as well as Alaska, northern Canada and almost all of Greenland.

How rare is this astronomical event?

Transits of Venus occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by gaps of 121½ years and 105½ years. Only six of these transit have been recorded by civilization: 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882, and 2004. This June’s transit, the end of the 2004-2012 pair, won’t be repeated until the December 2117. This is the last chance for anyone alive today to see the rare celestial sight. Fortunately, the event is widely visible.

Unlike a total eclipse of the sun, which is visible only within a long narrow track traced by the moon’s shadow, during the 2012 transit of Venus the entire hemisphere of Earth facing the sun will get to see at least part of the planet’s solar crossing.


Astronomers during the 18th Century travelled thousands of miles and risked their lives to witness this precious sight.

They did so because they believed Venus held the key to the most pressing astronomical quest of the age: the size of the solar system.

In 1716, astronomer Edmund Halley realized that by timing the transits of 1761 and 1769 from widely-spaced locations on Earth it should be possible to triangulate the distance to Venus using the principles of parallax and give the distance between Earth and the Sun.

For astronomers today, the Transit of Venus offers a chance to gain insights into the planet’s notoriously thick, cloudy atmosphere, and use the refraction of sunlight to finetune techniques for hunting planets orbiting distant stars.

One of the most useful exercises will be to compare observations of the transit made by Earth-based telescopes, orbital telescopes and robot probes.

The Transit of Venus (TOV) is among the rarest astronomical phenomena and won’t happen again until the year 2117. So prepare now, and don’t miss out on this extremely special event!

Observing the TOV from the Philippines

Filipinos are lucky because the entire Philippines is well positioned to witness the transit of Venus on Wednesday 6th June 2012.

To those who are planning to observe this rare event, you might just be interested in joining us in this free public viewing.

Rekindling Venus
June 06 2012, 6am – 1pm
College of Science Amphitheater, University of the Philippines Diliman

This event was launched through the collaboration of the Australian Embassy, UP Astronomical Society, UP- Los Banos Astronomical Society, RTU Astronomical Society, DOST-PAGASA and D’Great Rovers.

This event is for FREE and is open to everyone. Even those who would be coming from other parts of the globe are invited.

For more details, please visit its Facebook event page:


Contact Times

Local transit times for Quezon City, Philippines. source: http://transitofvenus.nl/wp/where-when/local-transit-times/

The general transit circumstances can be found here.

Safe Viewing

Warning: NEVER look at the sun with your naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. Serious and permanent eye damage, including blindness, can result.

The Black Drop Effect

The black drop effect occurs when Venus appears to “connect” to the edge of the Sun before actually reaching the edge. You can model the black drop effect by slowly pinching your index finger and thumb together. Your fingers seem to meet even before they touch. This optical phenomenon was originally thought to provide proof of Venus having an atmosphere. For an explanation of the black drop effect, check out the following links:


A YouTube video of modeling the black drop effect with your fingers:

An online simulation of the black drop effect:

Other resources if you are looking for more information on the Transit of Venus:

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

Red Moon in June: Public Stargazing and Total Lunar Eclipse Observation

The University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) invites everyone in observing the spectacular total lunar eclipse on June 15 – 16!

After the moon got super huge last March 2011, this coming June 16 2011, the moon will once again be spectacular to watch as it turns red because of the total lunar eclipse.

The first of the two eclipses of 2011 will occur on the said date and it will start at around 1:25AM and will end at around 7AM but the fun part where it turns red will be on its totality at around 4AM.

What is more special about this eclipse is that this will be the darkest lunar eclipse in almost 100 years as the centers of the sun, the earth and the moon would nearly be on one straight line. This also means that the Moon will pass deeply through the Earth’s Umbral Shadow which will make the totality phase last about 100 minutes.

This event is open to all. Come and invite your family and friends, and witness this wonderful sky show.

Clear skies, everyone!

Sharing the Night Sky : UP AstroSoc’s Sidewalk Astronomy

This is a long-overdue post. 😛 I was really busy during the past few weeks so I never found enough time  to write a blog. Anyway…

Last February, the Filipino astronomy community celebrated the 18th National Astronomy Week, the theme for which was “Astronomy Transforming the Culture of Learning Toward Nation Building”.

As part of this major celebration, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) organized two public observation events based on the concept of ‘Sidewalk Astronomy’ last February 25 at the Quezon Memorial Circle and last February 27 at the Rizal Park.

Sidewalk Astronomy refers to the activity of setting up telescopes in an urban setting for a profit or non-profit basis as an entertainment or for public education. With the coming and growth of organized amateur astronomical groups, sidewalk astronomy has become associated with public education about astronomy via free public viewing for anyone who wishes to look through the telescope.

It’s like bringing astronomy to as many people as possible through public observations. 😀

Both events started at 6:00 PM. Even though the sky was a bit cloudy throughout that week and light pollution is a huge concern when observing in urban areas, we were still lucky enough to catch glimpses of the celestial objects like Jupiter, Saturn, bright Sirius, the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula through our telescopes. Unfortunately, the Moon – our favorite viewing target – did not rise until past midnight so we were not able to see it.

During the last public viewing at the Rizal Park, there were a lot of people who came by to peek through the telescopes. Most of them were families spending time together at the park. At first, it was a real challenge keeping the crowd – especially the kids – from bumping the telescopes. Everyone was too excited. 😀 Nonetheless, we soon were able to make the  viewing more organized so that everyone had a chance to peek through the telescopes.

Some of my fellow orgmates also gave short lectures on skygazing using Stellarium and astronomy books to those waiting in line.

It was fun to see people enjoying the view of the night sky. 🙂 I suddenly realized that I so love the job of promoting astronomy with many people especially to the young ones; hearing about how amazed they are while looking up the sky is truly priceless. 🙂

It eventually become cloudier  as the night went on. As it was already late and there was almost nothing that could be seen above except thick grey clouds, we decided to end the activity at around 11:00 PM.

The event was enjoyable! 🙂 To us, it was a really memorable way of capping off the celebration of the National Astronomy Week in the Philippines.

To my fellow amateur astronomers, I suggest that you try sidewalk astronomy, too. I have found it to be a truly rewarding experience. People are very appreciative of the effort that I and my orgmates have given and I also made new friends along the way while having a great time.

UP Astronomical Society together with RTU AstroSoc posing infront of the Rizal Monument

Thank you to everyone who joined us in this event, especially to RTU Astronomical Society and cheers to those organizations who also held their events for this year’s NAW celebration.

May the goal of sharing the night sky to everyone continuously unite us all.


Ad astra per aspera! 🙂



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Photos by Julee Ann Olave and Ana Geronimo of UP AstroSoc

My Image of the Supermoon!


Supermoon – March 19, 2011 | Image enhanced in Registax

This image was taken during  UP Astronomical Society‘s free public viewing of the largest full moon at the UP Diliman Sunken Garden.

Thanks to Kuya Anthony Urbano of EtenyWorks for letting us take pictures through his 6″ NERT!

The Moon was ~14% brighter and bigger at the time of this event. Thin clouds blanketed the lunar disk during this night but we were still lucky to catch a glimpse of this celestial beauty.We even saw a 22 degree halo and a colorful lunar corona circling the Moon at the same time.

Saturn was also there within the halo and there were contrails, too left by a passing aircraft.

Thanks to everyone who dropped by. ‘Til next time 🙂 Ad astra per aspera!

“The sky is the ultimate art gallery just above us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


[Some photos were grabbed from Nico Mendoza and Julee Olave 🙂 Used with their permissions]

Supermoon Misconception

Biggest Full Moon of 2011 (image: Celestia)


During the past few days, rumors associating  the March 19, 2011 “Supermoon” to some recent catastrophes were spreading all over different media like wild fire.

Again, we should not blame this largest full moon of the year for any natural disasters because it has nothing to do with those happenings. Tides will go higher than usual average tides along coastlines as a consequence of the moon’s gravitational pull, but nothing so significant that will cause a serious climatic disaster or anything for people to worry about like the tsunamis in Japan. These tsunamis were caused by earthquakes which were definitely not triggered by the Moon’s attraction.

The following links features helpful articles which debunks the idea of this junk pseudoscience.

Remember, the Supermoon is not a thing to be scared of rather, it is a spectacle to be enjoyed. 🙂

Watch out as the lunar disk rises above the eastern horizon after sunset at 18:10 UT. This will present a stunning sight with the naked eye, in binoculars, and through the camera viewfinder for those of you lucky enough to have a clear sky.


Observing the Largest Full Moon of 2011 with UP AstroSoc

Come and join UP Astronomical Society (UP Astrosoc) in witnessing this year’s Supermoon 🙂

poster by Francis Bugaoan, Observation and Instrumentation Cluster member (UP AstroSoc)

In the Philippines, Full Moon will occur at 2:10 AM (PHT) on March 20, 2011.

From www.popsci.com

On March 19th, the moon will be closer to Earth than it’s been since 1992. This day marks this year’s lunar perigee, the point in the moon’s orbit at which it is closest to Earth. The full moon that night will appear about 14 percent larger and significantly brighter than usual, but despite the brightness, the supermoon has a dark side. Supermoons have been linked to massive natural disasters in the past, from earthquakes to floods–but that connection is typically touted by astrologists. Astronomers and scientists, with typical drollness, say a catastrophe is unlikely.

It’s the moon’s elliptical orbit that’s responsible for the differences in distance between the moon and Earth (the opposite, the point at which the moon is farthest from the Earth, is called the lunar apogee).

Apogee/Perigee Credit: Anthony Ayiomamitis

Clear skies to all! 🙂

On March 19th, the moon will be closer to Earth than it’s been since 1992. The full moon that night will appear about 14 percent larger and significantly brighter than usual, but despite the brightness, the supermoon has a dark side. Supermoons have been linked to massive natural disasters in the past, from earthquakes to floods–but that connection is typically touted by astrologists. Astronomers and scientists, with typical drollness, say a catastrophe is unlikely.

UP Astronomical Society’s NAW 2011 Activities

As part of the celebration of the 18th National Astronomy Week in the Philippines this 2011, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) will be holding a series of activities on February 23, 25 and 27.

*February 23, 2011 :  “Solar Observation and Rocket Launching (water-propelled rockets)”

Time: 3:00 pM to 6: 00 PM

Venue:  UP Diliman Sunken Garden

Solar Observation set up during the ISS Solar Transit last January, 2011 by UP AstroSoc member, Eteny Urbano

Setting up the water-propelled rocket

Preparing the rockets for launching 🙂

*February 25, 2011 : “Sidewalk Astronomy — Stargazing Activity and Free Telescope Viewing”

Time: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Venue:  Quezon City Memorial Circle (near the Quezon Memorial Shrine)

*February 25, 2011 : “Sidewalk Astronomy — Stargazing Activity and Free Telescope Viewing”

Time: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Venue:  Rizal Park in Manila

Free telescope viewing


Note: All these events are open to everyone. 😀 Feel free to drop by.

For more inquiries, please text Aaron at +639177620297 or send an email at upastrosociety@gmail.com.

You could also visit UP AstroSoc’s Facebook Fanpage for updates regarding changes in the venue and the time of the events.

Ad astra per aspera!

Night with the Geminids

Last December 13,  I went to the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in U.P. Diliman to observe the peak of the 2010 Geminid Meteor Shower with my amateur astronomy group, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (U.P. AstroSoc).

When I came at around 11:00 PM, about 50 people were already at the Sun Deck of the observatory. Everyone was enthusiastically waiting for the bright Geminid meteors despite the growing chance of an overcast sky.  The other guests set up their personally-owned telescopes to view the Great Orion Nebula and other deep-sky objects not blocked by clouds.

Amidst the 40% cloudy sky, the constellation Gemini where the meteors seemed to radiate from could be seen at ~40 degrees above the northeastern horizon. In the west, bright Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon were already about to set. The pair looked beautiful as they went lower in the horizon and become partially covered behind the tree tops.

As moonlight disappeared, the sky become darker and more favorable for meteor watching.  Four big and bright fireballs zoomed across the sky before midnight. 😀 Unlike other meteor showers, the Geminids can appear almost anywhere in the night sky, making them fairly easy to spot.

However, this short-lived outburst was soon replaced with an overcast sky which lasted until about 2:00 AM. During this time, I took the chance to go online and update my twitter status regarding our observation (I was able to do this thanks to Sun Broadband plug-it!). Several groups locally and internationally were also sharing their meteor counts and meteor watching experience. Below is a screenshot showing  some of my tweets during that time.

As what I have noted there, the Observation and Instrumentation Cluster (ObsIn) of  U.P. AstroSoc kept a record of the  tally* of the number of meteors seen every hour during the Geminids observation.

Limiting Magnitude**: ~4.0

Dec. 13, 2010
22:00 – 23:00 —— 27
23:01 – 24:00 —— 29

Dec. 14, 2010
00:01 – 01:00 —– overcast sky
01:01 – 02:00 —– overcast sky
02:01 – 03:00 —– 20 (with one green fireball!)
03:01 – 04:00 —– 2
04:00 – 05:00 —– 0

Total: 78

prepared by: Francis Bugaoan and Carlo Selabao

* This report just shows the number of meteors seen.Values listed above are the max.  number of meteors observed  within each time frame which means that it includes all meteors seen by at least one person. These are not the computed Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of the meteor shower.

** This is used to evaluate the quality of observing conditions. It tells the magnitude of the faintest star visible to the unaided eye

By around 2:00 AM, clouds began to moved away which allowed us to continue on our meteor counting. One green fireball which crossed the northwest sky appeared like a falling big blob of light. 😀 Everyone cheered happily upon seeing it. It lasted for about 5 seconds before disappearing into view.

More than an hour later, Venus which is now a “morning star” lit up the eastern horizon together with Saturn, Spica and Arcturus. Gemini was then past the zenith while my favorite Winter Triangle was already in the west.

Because of this beautiful pre-dawn sky, U.P. AstroSoc members  took the opportunity to lead the guests into a star-hopping activity to familiarize them with these celestial objects and the constellations.

As sunrise approached, one member noticed a rarely seen atmospheric phenomenon called the Belt of Venus. It is an arch of pinkish band above the shadow that Earth casts on the atmosphere opposite the sunrise or sunset. It is best visible when the atmosphere is cloudless, yet very dusty, just after sunset or just before sunrise.  The arch’s pink color is due to backscattering of reddened light from the rising or setting Sun.

Venus rising behind the PAGASA Observatory Dome (image by Bea Banzuela)


We finished our observation at around 6:00 AM. A lot of the guest observers who came by told us that they enjoyed the meteor counting, as well as the stargazing activities and they’re looking forward to the next meteor shower observation.

Despite the cloudy weather, I was surprised that the Geminids still gave us a fairly spectacular cosmic  show. Truly, this shower never fails to live up its reputation as the best meteor shower.