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

UP AstroSoc

#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.

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!

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 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.

Sky Lanterns by UP Astrosoc

Send your wishes to the sky this love month,
End February gazing at the night sky.

UP Astronomical Society brings you

Rare Night: Sky Lanterns on the 29th

February 29, 2012 | 8PM

For inquiries, contact Kristine at 09152397942 or email us at upastrosocadhoc2011@gmail.com


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

Sidereal Times Online

Sidereal Times – the official publication of the UP Astronomical Society – is now available online! 🙂


Now, anyone can get the latest information on the upcoming activities of UP Astrosoc and learn more about the latest news and updates in the wonderful field of astronomy by visiting this site.

Helpful tips and trivia for amateur astronomers were also being posted to the site by members.

The External Affairs Committee of the org (to which I once belonged) is the one in-charge of this publication.

As its former editor-in-chief, I was really glad that a site was finally launched for it and that the publication can now be accessed by more readers.

Congratulations to UP Astrosoc on this success! 🙂 Ad astra per aspera!

UP AstroSoc’s Second Sem, 2011-2012 Application

UP Astronomical Society is now open for applications!
Visit our booth along AS Walk on Dec 6-9.
Apps’ Orientation will be on December 9, 2011 (Friday) 6pm at the PAGASA Observatory Moon Deck near CHE.

You can also sign-up online at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?hl=en_US&formkey=dC05c1NfdWJpTVM4ajdXSlQ4RmI5QkE6MA#gid=1

For inquiries, contact Andro at 09162309138.
See you! Ad Astra Per Aspera!

IAU Gala Night at the NIDO Fortified Science Discovery Center

Last October 21, 2011, I attended the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Formal Gala Dinner  at the Science Discovery Center in SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City.

Fellow members from my org, UP Astronomical Society; professors and students from different universities namely UPLB, RTU, and DLSU; astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers were also attendees of this gathering.

IAU Gala Night – October 21, 2011

The event’s theme was ‘Astronomy for Development’. It aimed to educate and promote awareness of Astronomy among Filipinos. It was also to inform the people about the importance of astronomy and to let them know the latest development and innovation in the field.

Speakers were Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, Head of Astrophysics Lab in the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, UPLB; and Dr. Kevin Govender, the current Director of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development.

Before proceeding with  the talks, a short  planetarium show entitled “New Horizons” was played to entertain the audience. It was an all-dome-video experience that features a majestic journey through our celestial neighborhood.

Dr. Sese was the first one to deliver a talk. He discussed several key ideas in pursuing Astronomy as a profession particularly in the Philippines. He further explained that having a career in astronomy is challenging and highlighted a few important points on what in takes to be an astronomer. These, according to him are the following:

  • Passion – main motivation for one to learn
  • Plan – [Because] the learning journey is long
  • Perseverance – main motivation for one to finish

He finished his talk my leaving this inspiring message: “Be passionate and patient. It’s all worth it in the end.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Govender gave a talk about the importance of astronomy in the society. He also mentioned the current promotional strategies of IAU to  stimulate people in astronomy and to establish Astronomy Education, Research, and Outreach in developing countries such as the Philippines. Moreover, he emphasized several important points about Astronomy and Science:
“Astronomy stretches our imagination.”
“Science is about exploring God’s universe.”
“Astronomy for a better world.”

A short open forum was eventually held after the talks to allow questions from the audience. A lot of curious questions about astrophysics have been asked by several students until after the formal dinner.

All in all, the event was truly a great and memorable experience.

I’m glad that IAU is still taking its commitment in expanding astronomy development programs in areas where astronomy is still an emerging and minor field (such as in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region), even after the successful International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009) was over. At the same time, I’m also proud that the Philippines is already taking part in holding activities such as this which enable  young astronomers and students in particular, to further develop their interest in the field.

The purpose of this office is to use astronomy to make the world a better place!

I hope that there would be more scientific collaborations such as this one, in the near future  that could stimulate the rapid growth of science among developing societies.

Ad astra per aspera!

Bataan Escapade: Observing the Perseid Meteor Shower 2011

Despite the 50% chance of a thunderstorm and a full moon, I and my UP AstroSoc friends braved our way to Bataan last August to observe this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower during its peak event.

Waxing Gibbous Moon – August 12, 2011

We stayed at Stella Maris Beach Resort in Bagac to observe overnight.

The Moon by the beach.

The sky was totally overcast when we came. Nevertheless, we were fortunate that the Full Moon was already low in the west when the eastern sky cleared up around 3:00 to 5:00 AM just in time for the Perseids.

Cassiopeia and Perseus. The radiant of the Perseid Meteor Shower can be found at the region in between these two.
Pleiades, Hyades, and Orion. A few meteors were seen passing by this region

We were able to spot a few fireballs zooming across the region near Perseus and around the Winter Hexagon. The highest meteor count that we had was 23.

We also got to observe Jupiter (with its Galilean Moons!) and the planet Mars though a friend’s Dobsonian telescope which we fondly call Lulin.

Peeking through Lulin

Here are some images of Jupiter taken through afocal method:

Jupiter and its Galilean moons
A closer look at Jupiter

We finished our Perseid viewing at dawn and left the place a couple of hours after to tour around Bataan. Some of the places we visited were the Bagac Friendship Tower, Dunsulan Falls in Pilar, and the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor)  at the summit of Mt. Samat.

The beach resort were we stayed at.

The Bagac Friendship Tower

Dunsulan Falls
Dambana ng Kagitingan and the Memorial Cross on top of Mt. Samat

Mount Samat was the site of the most vicious battle against the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942 during the Battle of Bataan. The shrine there was built as a symbol of courage and gallantry to all Filipino soldiers who shed their blood in defending our beloved country to foreign invaders. I felt honored to have been able to visit this place and pay respect to my fellow Filipinos who died during the war. 

Going at the top of Mount Samat was the best experience ever!  It felt like I can almost touch the clouds with my two bare hands when I was up there. I also love the cool gentle breeze and the nice view (you can see the whole town of Bataan and the Manila Bay from there). My friends and I were very excited as we climbed up the stairs going up the cross. It was a bit tiring though.

Overall, I consider this trip as one of the most memorable trips I ever had. 🙂 Aside from successfully catching the Perseids despite of the bad weather, we were also blessed with a great opportunity to visit some of the historical places in the country and experience nature at its finest. It was truly a sweet escape!

Thanks to Elaine, Kiel, Bea, Josh, Saeed, Ron and Pinyong for being with me in this endeavor. 🙂

*All images above courtesy of Bea Banzuela

Explore the Space: Join UP AstroSoc!

SPACE definitely matters.

UP ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY will introduce you to a space beyond your imagination.

COME JOIN UP AstroSoc on its platinum year and experience a night life in wonderland. 😀

Visit the UP AstroSoc Application booth at the AS Walk  (UP Diliman) from July 12-15, 2011.

Applicants’ orientation is on July 15, 2011 – 6pm
Venue: Moon Deck, PAGASA Observatory (near College of Home Economics)

For inquiries, contact Andro 09159739014 or Lei 09279748655

Ad astra per aspera!

Observing the ‘Red Moon’ from Seven Suites Hotel Observatory

I began my preparation to observe the June 16, 2011  Total Lunar Eclipse as soon as I’ve learned about it several months ago.

It was a relatively rare opportunity to observe a Total Eclipse of the Moon — not to mention that the duration of totality of this eclipse will be one of the longest in 100 years (totality lasted for 100 minutes, from 3:22 am until around 5:02 am PHT).

I immediately checked the eclipse circumstances available in the NASA eclipse website and estimated the location of the Moon for each phase using Stellarium, so as to choose the best place to observe the event. I also reviewed the previous photos I’ve taken to see which places have a clear view of the southwest sky — the region where the Moon was mostly located during the course of the whole eclipse event. After considering a few sites, I came down to only three choices — the PAGASA Observatory in UP Diliman, a place along San Miguel by the Bay and at the Seven Suites Hotel Observatory in Antipolo.

Dropping the other two choices, I observed at the Seven Suites.

Since I still have a class to attend the following morning, observing at San Miguel by the Bay was the least good option. It surely was a nice place to observe as it has a very clear western horizon (which will enable me to catch a glimpse of the eclipsed moon setting at the bayside), but traveling would be a bit of a hassle for me because it was too far. The most convenient choice was actually to observe at the PAGASA Observatory. It’s just a walking distance away from my college and most of my orgmates in UP AstroSoc were there, too. However, I was worried that the buildings surrounding the observatory might block the view of the Moon when it gets too low during the last phases.

Through Mr. Ramon Acevedo or Kuya Ramon —  an alumnus of my astronomy org UP AstroSoc — the manager of Seven Suites allowed me and a few more orgmates  to observe from Seven Suites for free 🙂 Thanks, Kuya Ramon!

Seven Suites is the first and only hotel observatory in the Philippines.  As it is situated along the hillside route of Sumulong Highway in Antipolo City (not too far away from UP Diliman), it offers a breathtaking view of Manila by night — a stunning view of the metropolis, its city lights and the dazzling night sky. It also houses a 12”diameter Dobsonian which is the fourth largest telescope in the country.

We arrived at Seven Suites at about two hours before the start of the penumbral eclipse. Upon reaching the roof deck, we marveled at the awesome cityscape just below us.

The star Arcturus above the cityscape.
The star Arcturus above the cityscape.

Despite the rainy weather forecast, thank God it didn’t rain a bit the whole night. Only a few patches of clouds could be seen floating amid the moonlit sky.

Scorpius hugging Luna. Photo taken by Elaine Tacubanza
A colorful lunar corona surrounded the Moon before the eclipse. The blue spot appeared because of the lens flare.

A few minutes past midnight, a group of mediamen from a local TV Network came to join us to cover the event. Someone from GMA contacted me earlier that day via Twitter  for an interview regarding the eclipse. He told me that he learned about me after seeing a post which linked my astro blog.  He further asked me where I will  be observing the event and I told him of my plan and the time of the eclipse . I also added that another group of my orgmates in UP AstroSoc will also be observing the event from the PAGASA Observatory. After our conversation, he said that they will send a group there. And they did. Kuya Ramon was also notified of their coming.

I shied away from the camera when they started doing the interview. Any how, my other orgmates were also there and they answered the interview questions adequately. 🙂

All of us were excited to witness the eclipse. But before it started, a bright fireball zoomed in to our view. It came from the northeast direction, near the Summer Triangle so we guessed that it could be a June Lyrid.

At the time of the penumbral eclipse, no visible changes in the moon’s brightness can be easily recognized until it slowly become dimmer a few minutes before the umbral phase. By about 2:30 AM, a small part of the Moon on its upper left limb was already being covered by the Earth’s shadow. This chunk grew larger and larger after several minutes until finally only a small sliver of the Moon remained visible. The Moon entered totality at 3:22 AM. Just before the light on the Moon totally disappeared, an apparent reddening of the lunar disk took place. It became more and more obvious to the eye until the whole lunar disk was transformed to a blood-red orb hanging above among the stars. It was a breath-taking view.

Moon at 3:19 AM — a few minutes before Totality
The Red Moon
Moon approaching the maximum totality of the eclipse
The Red Moon and the City. Image taken at 4:22 AM

I also created two montage composed of the images of the Moon during different stages of the eclipse. In the second photo, the images were taken by about 5-10 minutes apart.

Totality ended at 5:02 AM. Unfortunately, the fifth contact (end of the partial eclipse) and sixth contact (end of the penumbral eclipse) could not be observed from the Philippines since the moonset was at 5:30 AM.

Here is a time-lapse video of the setting eclipsed Moon which I made using Windows Movie Maker. The transition of the images were quite slow because each frame can only be separated by a minimum of 1 second when using WMM. Can anyone suggest a better video editing software (preferably with a small size on disk) that can be used by amateurs?

5:01 AM — The Moon was about to exit Totality

Only a small part of the Moon remained visible as it continuously sank near the horizon. A few minutes before sunrise, we noticed another nice atmospheric phenomenon — anticrepuscular rays.

5:14 AM — a small part of the Moon was visible above the city skyline. The pink lines above were anticrepuscular rays.

Anticrepuscular rays are similar to crepuscular rays, but seen opposite the sun in the sky during sunrise or sunset.

A final glimpse of the Moon
A panoramic view of the city skyline

We packed up and prepared to leave at around 6:00 in the morning. I was starting to feel tired during then but I resisted sleepiness as I still need to attend my class. One of us even said that we were already like zombies during that moment because of sleep-deprivation. Haha!

From L to R: Kuya Ramon, Miguel, Aaron, Me and Carmen. Elaine left earlier than us that’s why she’s not in the picture 😦

Our efforts didn’t go fruitless, anyway. Seeing the Red Moon was truly a priceless experience. Besides, I was also happy that I was finally able to set foot in Seven Suites after a few years. Yes, I’ve been planning to visit the place ever since. but some circumstances seemed to hindered me most of the time.

All photos were taken using Nikon D3000 DSLR camera. Thank you, Nicky for lending me your camera.  🙂 

My fellow UP AstroSoc members who observed at the PAGASA Observatory were also successful in observing and documenting this event. God is really great, we were not clouded out. 🙂 Like us, they also got interviewed during the event.

The news reports including the interviews came out later that day. The person from GMA who contacted me texted me that the video coverage was already being aired. I wasn’t able to catch it on the television but it was now available online. You can watch the video of the interview from here.

The lunar eclipse was the talk of the town during the whole day. Eclipse pictures, videos and articles flooded the Internet. Moreover, Google also featured the lunar eclipse that just took place  through its regular Google Doodle. So if you happened to take a peek at your Google homepage last June 16, you should have seen a playable lunar eclipse photos, like the one below:

This “live” doodle showed a live feed of the lunar eclipse from images from robotic telescope service Slooh. During the eclipse, visitors to Google.com can see a dial at the bottom of the image moving left to right, going through the various stages of the eclipse, before settling on the current feed.

On the other hand, clicking on the doodle will take you to the top search results about the 16 June Total Lunar Eclipse. Some friends told me that the link to my blog about the visible eclipses in the Philippines in 2011 was on the 4th spot. 🙂 And indeed, I got a lot of site visitors during that day. Thanks to all who dropped by and left their wonderful comments.

‘Til the next Total Lunar Eclipse on December. 🙂 Ad astra!

Dr. Dante L. Ambrosio and Ethnoastronomy in the Philippines

Last June 4, one of my orgmates in U.P. AstroSoc told us the sad news that Dr. Dante L. Ambrosio, a former adviser of our organization and a notable promoter of Philippine Ethnoastronomy, has already passed away.

Dr. Ambrosio – a History professor of the College of Social Science and Philosophy in U.P. Diliman – was considered by many as the “Father of Philippine Ethnoastronomy”. He has proven this through a lot of his works regarding the field, including his book entitled, “Balatik: Katutubong Bituin ng mga Pilipino” which discusses our very own version of the constellations and interpretation of the skies which were developed by our early Filipino ancestors. Just like the other early civilizations, they made the sky part of their culture and consult them as they go on with their everyday lives (as in determining the propitious times for planting, fishing and hunting).

Balatik which is an equivalent of the constellation Orion, is a local term that means a trapping device used by hunters.

Dr. Ambrosio spent a considerable amount of time interviewing the Badjaos of Tawi-tawi in an effort to record the rich knowledge retained by the elders of indigenous communities which may be lost if not passed on to the next generation.

The following were  also his written articles that were published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI):

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Ambrosio once when I was still an officer of my organization, U.P. AstroSoc and we  invited him to discuss Philippine Ethnoastronomy for our Alternative Classroom Learning Experience (ACLE) presentation last August 2008.

U.P. AstroSoc’s ACLE 2008 Poster
 Taking from how he discussed the topic, I can honestly say that Dr. Ambrosio was very passionate with his research. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk to him personally after the event.
Dr. Ambrosio during the ACLE last 2008

A lot of Filipinos around the country were  still not familiar with our local astronomy culture, that’s why Dr. Ambrosio’s works on Ethnoastronomy were really commendable. I salute him for being an outstanding Filipino in the field of astronomy who gave valuable and inspiring contributions in promoting our own culture and developing a sense of pride among fellow countrymen.

It’s  too bad that my friend who was supposed to interview him for her thesis didn’t got the chance to meet him again.

Nonetheless, he and his works will always leave a mark on our hearts. I hope that more Filipinos will be interested to continue what he had already started and will keep on promoting astronomy in the Philippines just the way he did.

I know that Dr. Ambrosio is now among the stars in the heavens now. 🙂

And for sure, he will always be missed. 

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!

My First Image of our very own Milky Way Galaxy!

Last April, I was invited along with some fellow UP AstroSoc members to join the 2011 Philippine Messier Marathon organized by the Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP). The event was held on the shore of Lake Caliraya at the Eco Saddle Campsite in Laguna.

It was a really nice opportunity for an amateur astronomer like me to be part of an event like this –  a trip away from the light polluted city to observe in perfectly dark skies. However, I found it hard to decide whether or not to join the observation because I was also supposed to attend the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) in Davao City. My heart was torn between my obligation and mission as a student leader and my love for the heavens.

Fortunately, the circumstances changed just in time for me to be able to join in the overnight observation.

I would finally see the Milky Way for the first time  in all its grandeur.

And I DID! 🙂

My image of the Milky Way Galaxy 🙂 Camera used: Canon EOS 1000D DSLR on a tripod. 90-second exposure at 1600 ISO. Using a powered motor equatorial (tracking) mount of some kind is necessary to compensate for the earth’s rotation when doing long-exposure photography. This is to avoid producing star trails and blurs just like those in the image above.

I was lucky to have with me a borrowed DSLR camera to capture images of the mesmerizing dark skies above Lake Caliraya. From the northern hemisphere, the best views of the Milky Way are in the summer -with the brightest parts in the southern sky.

It was a very cold and windy night by the lake. Dew kept forming on my laptop, and every gust of wind threatened to topple my camera and tripod. Nevertheless,  I stayed in the cold to take images. Such is the life of an amateur astronomer but it is always worth the effort. 🙂

Since I cannot take a single picture showing the expanse of the Milky Way, what I did was I took several shots of it and stitched those images together in Photoshop to produce a wide field photo.

Stitching Pictures Together with Photoshop's Photomerge Tool - This panoramic (sort of) view of the Summer Milky Way was created by merging 12 individual shots (all taken at 90 sec. exposure) of the Milky Way (spanning from the northeast to southwest). Click on image to enlarge.

I must admit that I still lack the skill in doing long-exposure photography. It was my first time to do that, haha. Every image that I took was a product of trial-and-error attempts, but thanks to the incredibly dark skies of Caliraya, my fellow orgmate’s useful tips, and the opportunity that God gave me, that I was able to produce my first images of our home galaxy. 🙂

I probably have to practice more on astrophotography and read tutorials to prepare for the next opportunity of taking pictures of the Milky Way. Hopefully, I could have my own DSLR camera (plus some real decent astro equipment) by that time. *I still have to save a lot of money for this.* 😛

Ad astra per aspera!

A Parade of Four Planets and the Old Moon

Throughout the month of May, a beautiful display of planets could be observed in the morning sky just before sunrise. Last May 2 – a day before the New Moon- the 1% thin waning crescent Moon joined the four naked eye planets in a very spectacular morning sky show.

This planetary display was quite difficult to observe in a residential place like ours because we were surrounded with several houses which blocks my view of the sky near the horizon. Moreover, as this event occurred near sunrise the view of the planets and the very thin Moon were easily spoiled by the glare of the rising Sun.

Hence, I never expected so much in my attempt  to observe this celestial grouping.

Fortunately, a friend and orgmate told me that she was able to witness the event and take nice images of it from the roof deck  of their house in Marikina City. She was lucky to have a clear view of the eastern sky from that vantage point. 🙂

I almost cried with joy when I saw her pictures!

Planet Trails (From L to R : Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus) Taken at 5:26 AM

The Old Moon, planets and the city lights during dawn 🙂 Image taken at 5:29 AM. Click on the image for hi-res version.

Bye bye Mars. Image taken at 5:36 AM.

Do you now understand why? 🙂

All images were taken by Bea Banzuela and were reposted with her permission.

Camera used was Panasonic Lumix DMC 10.1 mp digital camera (This camera possesses a remarkable capability of taking wide-angle shots just like the ones above!)

Happy observing! 🙂

Astro Shirts!

The UP Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) are raising funds for its upcoming projects.

You can help the organization by supporting its Astro Shirt Sale. 🙂

For only 150php,  you can already have a cool astro shirt just like the ones below.

You may choose from these 3 different designs. There several shirt sizes available.

To place your order, please contact the numbers indicated in the publicity poster, or visit UP AstroSoc’s Facebook Fanpage.

To the stars! 🙂


*Shirts are available in the Philippines

Spring’s First Full Moon Along Galaxy Street!

April’s Moon reached its full phase last April18 at 10:45 AM PST (2:45 AM UT).

During Palm Sunday in the Philippines last April 17, 2011, I and some friends spotted the 99.5% full Moon rising at dusk. It looked like a big ball of cheese hanging up in the sky along a street named Galaxy Street in Panorama, Marikina City.

It seemed larger near the horizon during moonrise than it does while higher up in the sky.

According to EarthSky.org, this is the first full moon of springtime for the northern hemisphere. We in this hemisphere call it the Pink Moon, to celebrate the return of certain wild flowers. Other names are Egg Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, or Easter Moon.

The first Full Moon of spring is also usually designated as the Paschal Full Moon or the Paschal Term. In most years, the Christian celebration of Easter is observed on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon. If the Paschal Moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is the following Sunday.

Interesting Fact:

For those living in the Southern Hemisphere, the autumn counterpart of the Paschal Full Moon is called Harvest Moon, the closest full moon to the autumnal equinox. 

What sets the Harvest Moon apart from the others is that instead of rising at its normal average of 50 minutes later each day, it seems to rise at nearly the same time for several nights.

However, in direct contrast to the Harvest Full Moon, the Paschal Full Moon appears to rise considerably later each night.

Here are the other photos taken by me and two of my fellow UP AstroSoc folks, Andre Obidos and Bea Banzuela.

A combination of the overexposed (1/8 sec exp., ISO-1600) and underexposed (1/320 sec. exp., ISO-400) photo of the Moon.

Cameras used:
*First 2 photos — Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS7 10.1 MP Digital Camera
*Wide angle photos — Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

All images can be clicked to see high-res versions.

When Luna Occults Subra

Last March 17, 2011 , the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) set up at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in UP Diliman to observe the  occultation of the 3.3 magnitude star, Omicron Leonis (or Subra) by the 92% illuminated waxing gibbous Moon.

This event was headed by UP AstroSoc associate member and alumni, Anthony Urbano of EtenyWorks. Kuya Eteny, as the members fondly call him, was experienced in observing occultations.

During this observation, he brought his 6″ Newtonian Equatorial Reflecting Telescope (NERT) with a self-designed home-built clock drive attached to the telescope’s equatorial mount. To record the occultation event, a Canon S3IS connected to a laptop was mounted to the telescope’s eyepiece by means of a fabricated camera adapter. This modified camera can show it’s system time on its on-screen display. According to Kuya Eteny, the default precision of the on-screen timer is limited to 1 second, but a patch, currently made available only for Canon S3IS, increased the clock’s precision to 1/100 of a second — the maximum precision of the camera’s built-in clock.

The telescopes set up which included the 6" NERT (left-most)

You can learn more about this improvised clock drive project, the camera modification and  the rest of observation set up by visiting his site where he posts a lot of cool stuff about observation and instrumentation. His inventions are most fit for those amateur astronomers interested in modifying their own telescopes and cameras especially for the purpose of doing astrophotography. 🙂

The event was from 10:20 UT (ingress) and ended at 11:10 UT (egress). Although it can be classified as a ‘bright star occultation’,  the light coming from the target star wasn’t bright enough to pass through the thick clouds during the entire event. By around 11:50 UT, we decided to packed up since there was still no trace of the star near the Moon.

On-screen display of Canon S3IS (with the CHDK firmware upgrade) showing the Moon under the dark patches of clouds. The system time (upper right corner) in this screenshot reads 19:18:44 PST (11:18:44 UT) The occultation event during this time was over, yet there was still no sign of Subra which should be located a few degrees above the Moons upper right limb.

When the Moon passes in front of a background star during occultations, the shadow of the Moon cast by the star sweeps across the Earth. When the leading or trailing edge of the Moon’s shadow crosses an observer, the observer sees the star “disappear” or “reappear”. These events are usually very sudden, and timing the instant of occultation is an important astronomical measurement.

But why is it important to observe lunar occultations?

  • Observing lunar occultations is important because the results improve our knowledge of the position and motion of the Moon. For example, when you time the disappearance of a star behind the edge of the Moon to 0.1 second accuracy (a value easily attainable), you are actually fixing the position of the Moon’s edge in space to an accuracy of about 80 metres. i.e. you are making a measurement with a precision of only 80 metres over a distance of 384,400 km. (This is one of the most accurate measurements an amateur observer can make in any branch of science!)
  • Combining many such measurements of the Moon’s position over a long time gives astronomers new information about the Moon’s motion and orbit. For example, total occultation observations have shown that the Moon is spiralling away from the Earth at a rate of a few centimetres per year.
  • Total lunar occultations have also been used to provide valuable information about star positions, about the hills and valleys on the edge of the Moon, and to discover new double stars.

Aside from occultations by the Moon, there were also Planetary Occultations and Asteroid Occultations. Just as the Moon passes in front of background stars, so too do planets and minor planets (also called asteroids).

Planetary occultations are occultations of stars by the passing of a planet in front of it. However planetary occultations occur less frequently than lunar occultations because the planets appear so much smaller in our sky than does the Moon. Nevertheless, observing occultations of stars by planets has yielded some stunning discoveries – for example, the rings of Uranus, and the atmosphere around Pluto.

On the other hand, Asteroid Occultations are occultations of stars by the passing of an asteroid in front of it. Asteroid occultations can occur anywhere on the surface of the earth. A few naked eye stars have been occulted during the past 20 years, but most occultations are of quite dim stars typically between magnitudes +9 and +12. An occultation might occur at any time of night, on any day of the week. More and more fainter asteroid occultations are being predicted, so that it is likely that at least 5 events will likely cross your area in the coming year.

While occultations of bright stars by major planets are very rare, occultations by asteroids are a little less so. This is not because any one asteroid has a greater chance of passing in front of a star. Rather, it is because there are so many more asteroids to choose from!

Anyway, asteroid occultations are the only way — apart from spacecraft missions to asteroids and radar observations of nearby objects — to determine the approximate size and shape of those bodies and are, of course, much cheaper.

If, as an amateur astronomer or telescope owner, you would like to be part of history, contribute something relevant to the study of astronomy, or would love to see sights that few have witnessed, then occultations are the thing for you. The occultation process offers discovery and research. It is possible for amateur astronomers to discover new companions of stars, help to improve the polar diameter of the sun and moon, identify the existence of possible satellites orbiting asteroids, to improve knowledge of heights of lunar mountain peaks and depths of valleys in the polar regions, determine corrections to ephemeris errors and assess star position errors, improve knowledge of the shape and sizes of asteroids, and more through occultation science. It does not matter where you live in the world. If you have access to a computer and possess a telescope of at least 4-6 inches, know your geodetic position either from GPS or a good topographic map, have a source of time signals and tape recorder, you can make your own observations of these rare and critical events.

The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) web site can be found here and that of the International Occultation Timing Association/European Section (IOTA/ES) web site can be found here.

 The IOTA web site contains predictions that are updated frequently.

To be able to observe and correctly record an occultation event, you should first have knowledge to find your way about the sky. Most stars that are occulted by asteroids have average apparent visual magnitude of 10.

The program Win-OCCULT, authored by David Herald in Australia, provides accurate predictions of all types of occultations and related phenomena. You can obtain a copy of Win-OCCULT by downloading it from here.

Good luck! 🙂

UP Astronomical Society’s Summer 2011 Application

Click on image to enlarge.

Learn more about astronomy and meet fellow astronomy enthusiasts!


The University of the Philippines Astronomical Society is now open for application this Summer 2011.

Currently enrolled UP Diliman students are invited to join us in our mission to promote astronomy.

For inquiries, please contact Beb at +639277086047 or Andro at +639159739014. You can also email us at upastrosociety@gmail.com

Follow UP AstroSoc on Twitter and/or like UP AstroSoc’s Facebook Fanpage to get updates.

Ad astra per aspera!

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! 🙂



* * * * * *

Photos by Julee Ann Olave and Ana Geronimo of UP AstroSoc

Supermoon Image Featured in Discovery News!

My image of the Lunar Perigree or ‘Supermoon’ last March 19, 2011 just got featured in Discovery News 2011 Supermoon Readers’ Photographs. Yay! 😀

It’s included in the slideshow found on this link.

Haha, I actually didn’t  submitted mine so I wonder how it got there. I just received a pingback from the page to my blog the other day that’s why I learned about it.

Ad luna!

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]