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

Observation

#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.


May 10, 2013 Annular Solar Eclipse

An annular solar eclipse will occur on May 9-10, 2013 (depending on your location). During an annular eclipse, the Moon is near its farthest distance from Earth (i.e., near its apogee) so it appears slightly smaller than the Sun’s disk. Since the Moon doesn’t cover the Sun completely, this leaves a bright ring of sunlight surrounding the Moon’s disk, often called the “Ring of Fire” effect. About 95% of the solar disk will be eclipsed by the Moon.

Screenshot from the live webcast from SLOOH Space Camera during the May 20, 2012 annular eclipse.

Screenshot from the live webcast from SLOOH Space Camera during the May 20, 2012 annular eclipse. (via Universe Today)

Visibility

The path of annularity of the eclipse passes through parts of North Australia, SE Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, provided the weather cooperates. Partial eclipse will be seen in a much broader path, which includes other parts of Australia, Eastern Indonesia, Oceania and Southern Philippines.

Overview_map_of_the_annular_solar_eclipse_of_10_May_2013

Global visibility of the eclipse courtesy of Michael Zeiler of Eclipse-Maps.com

Time table Worldwide

Eclipse circumstances                               UTC             Philippine Time
First location to see partial eclipse begin 9 May, 21:25   10 May, 05:25
First location to see full Eclipse begin 9 May, 22:31   10 May, 06:31
Maximum Eclipse 10 May, 00:23   10 May, 08:23
Last location to see full Eclipse end 10 May, 02:20   10 May, 10:20
Last location to see partial Eclipse end 10 May, 03:25   10 May, 11:25

The eclipse can be observed from 6:08 am until 7:34 am in the Philippines. For local observers, please check the gallery below to give you and idea on how the eclipse would look like for selected localities. Other locations nearby will also see similar views.

Partial eclipse as seen from various locations in the Philippines at maximum eclipse, 6:41 a.m. local time. Simulated in Stellarium. Hover your mouse over an image to view the location.

PAGASA indicated the areas where the eclipse can be observed, including Sorsogon, Masbate, Roxas City, Puerto Princesa City, Cebu, Tacloban, Dumaguete, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Zamboanga, Hinatuan, Cotabato, Jolo, Davao, and General Santos. It also created a table of local times for viewing the eclipse for the above-mentioned locations.

Note that the eclipse is not visible in Luzon except in the southern tip.

Eclipse circumstances for selected locations in the southern part of the Philippines courtesy of PAGASA.

Eclipse circumstances for selected locations in the southern part of the Philippines courtesy of PAGASA.

Viewing the Eclipse SAFELY

For observers along the path of the eclipse, astronomers recommend using either a professionally manufactured solar filter in front of a telescope or camera, or eclipse-viewing glasses that sufficiently reduce the sun’s brightness and filter out damaging ultraviolet and infrared radiation. NEVER 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!

A view of the crescent sun during eclipse maximum of the May 21, 2012 solar eclipse in the Philippines. Image taken using a hand-held Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera on a 2-inch refractor telescope with a Baader 5.0 ND solar filter.

Crescent sun during eclipse maximum of the May 21, 2012 partial solar eclipse in the Philippines. Image taken using a hand-held Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera on a 2-inch refractor telescope with a Baader 5.0 ND solar filter.

To view the eclipse safely, Fred Espenak (www.mreclipse.com) compiled here a  list of the acceptable and non-recommended filters for visual observation.

Acceptable filters for unaided visual observations: 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: metal-coated polyester that is not specifically intended for solar observation, smoked glass, floppy disk media, black color transparency (slide) film, floppy disk media, and compact disks (because of the inconsistent quality of the metal coating).”

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

Clear skies and happy viewing!


Moon Meets Jupiter – February 18, 2013

moon and jupiter- feb 18

Avid skywatchers had a chance to witness tonight’s close pairing between Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon — a nice sky event that kicked off the celebration of the National Astronomy Week 2013 in the Philippines. If you look closely at Jupiter in this image, you’ll also see a hint of its 4 Galilean moons.

During the closest approach, Jupiter and the Moon were 0.5 degree apart.  For comparison, the angle covered by the diameter of the full moon is about 31 arcmin or 0.5 degree.

moon angular measurement

Image credit: Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network

Astronomers use angular measurements to describe the apparent size of an object, or the distance between them. Knowing how to measure angular distance is an essential skill to finding your way around the sky.

Clear skies!


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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PAGASA

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)

2013naw_eposter

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.

NAW 2013 FLOOR LAYOUT rev3

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

PAS NAW CAMPUS TOUR

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.

 NAW-Poster

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!


Skywatching Highlights: February 2013

Mercury and Mars less than a degree apart after sunset on February 8th

Mercury is well placed in the evening twilight this month, but spotting it won’t be easy. The closest planet to the sun will be low in the west-southwest horizon and will be a bit washed out by twilight’s glow. Binoculars may be needed to find it in the glare of twilight.

stellarium-003

Mars and Mercury in the western sky at twilight on Feb 8. Image: Stellarium

On February 8, Mercury will be less than 1 degree from pale orange Mars. The sky won’t be dark enough to see them until they’re just setting, so you’ll need a view to the west that is unobstructed and free from light pollution.  They should be visible half an hour after sunset. During the event, Mercury will be about eight times brighter than Mars.

On February 11, a thin crescent moon, one day past new moon will join Mercury and Mars in the twilight sky.

stellarium-004

Mars, Mercury and a thin crescent moon (2.5% lit) Image: Stellarium

Mercury’s visibility will continue to improve until February 16, when it reaches its greatest eastern elongation from the sun and appears 11 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon. Afterward it will drop back toward the sun, disappearing into bright twilight by the end of the  month.

Moon and Jupiter less than 1 degree apart on February 18

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Moon and Jupiter roughly 0.5 degrees apart on Feb. 18. Image: Stellarium 

Another close conjunction between Jupiter and the Moon, joined by Aldebaran and the Hyades to the left and the Pleiades to the right, will occur on February 18th. At the moment of closest approach, the Moon will be at mag -11.9, and Jupiter at mag -2.4, both in the constellation Taurus.

The pair will be a little too widely separated to fit comfortably within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or a through pair of binoculars. To some parts of the world like in the southern Indian Ocean, Southern Australia and Tasmania, this will be viewed as an occultation event where in the Moon will actually pass in front of Jupiter.

Other events this month:

* FEBRUARY 1: Moon ~10 degrees above Spica (in  the constellation Virgo)
* FEBRUARY 4: Moon ~7 degrees below Saturn in the eastern sky
* FEBRUARY 5: Moon by “Scorpion’s Crown” before dawn
* FEBRUARY 8: Mercury & Mars in tight conjunction in the western sky shortly after sunset (about 0.4 degrees apart)
* FEBRUARY 9: Moon ~8 degrees above Venus before dawn
* FEBRUARY 11: Thin moon near Mercury & Mars after sunset
* FEBRUARY 16: Mercury in greatest eastern elongation (11 degrees above WSW horizon)
* FEBRUARY 18: Moon and Jupiter less than 1 degree apart
* FEBRUARY 25: Moon and Regulus (in the constellation Leo) ~10 degree apart

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MOON PHASES:

* FEBRUARY 3: Third Quarter Moon at 21:57
* FEBRUARY 10: New Moon at 15:20
* FEBRUARY 18: First Quarter Moon at 04:31
* FEBRUARY 26: Full Moon at 04:26

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Measuring angles in the night sky

The post made reference to angular separations of objects in the night sky, like the moon and planets. If you’re wondering how to measure or approximate these angular distances when you do skygazing, below is a simple guide that will teach you how.  The good news is you don’t need any device. You only have to use your own hand. 🙂

Hold your fist at arms length, and:

  • Extend your little finger; it’s width is approximately 1 degree.
  • Extend your three middle fingers (without the little finger); thats about 5 degrees.
  • A clenched fist (thumb to little finger) is about 10 degrees.
  • From the tip of the little finger to the tip of the thumb, an extended hand with fingers and thumb splayed subtends about 20 degrees.

Thats it!  Those measurements are approximations but are accurate enough to locate the objects in the sky .


January 2013’s Full Wolf Moon

The first full moon of 2013 occurred last 26 January, Saturday.

Some call it the Wolf Moon, which the Farmer’s Almanac attributes to the Algonquins and other American Indians, under the notion that hungry wolves would howl on the outskirts of Native villages in the dead of winter.

According to EarthSky.org, the January full moon—like the July sun—”follows a high path across the sky as seen from the northern part of the globe, and a low path as seen from the southern”. Hence, it rises north of due east around sunset, climbed highest in the sky around midnight and sets north of due west around sunrise.

This happens because a full moon lies opposite the sun, mirroring the sun’s place in front of the backdrop stars for six months.

FULL WOLF MOON

The moon can appear orange when it is low in the sky and when there are a lot of haze or dust particles in the atmosphere just like when the image above was taken. Another image below is a composite with one underexposed and one overexposed image of the moon.

wolf moon

 

 


Moon and Jupiter – January 22, 2013

Last January 22, 2013, the waxing gibbous moon appeared near the bright planet Jupiter in the evening sky.

As seen from the Philippines, the Moon and  Jupiter made a close approach within roughly 5 degrees of each other. Some folks in the Southern Hemisphere, however have seen Jupiter completely disappear behind the moon – an occultation.

During this event, the Moon was at mag -12.3, and Jupiter at mag -2.6, both in the constellation Taurus.

The sky condition was mostly cloudy. When the clouds parted, I was able to a couple of wide angle images which includes the two famous star clusters in Taurus — the Hyades and the Pleiades. In another image, the moon was shot at two different exposures to show the amount of separation between it and Jupiter.

Images were taken from Bulacan, Philippines around 8:40 – 9:00 pm PHT.

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Photographing the Lunar ‘X’

Today I had a nice opportunity  to spot the “Lunar X” on the First Quarter Moon! The Lunar “X” is a well-known “optical feature” on the Moon, which resembles the letter “X” when the lunar terminator is along just the right lunar longitude. The intersecting crater walls of Purbach, La Caille and Blanchinus make the illusion “X” that is only visible for a short time.

Based on my observations during the past few months, it is possible to see the Lunar X when the moon is nearly 54% illuminated.This is why you cannot see it every month. In fact, the last time I was able to image it was during October 2012.

By the way,  I refer to Stellarium, a free planetarium software, to determine the lunar phase and illumination  during a particular date and time for my location. Note that the values given by Stellarium may not be very exact, but they are still very useful as guides for amateur astronomers.

lunar x - january 19 copy

My first image of the Lunar X:

Lunar X copy

Both images were taken using my Canon Powershot SX40 HS camera.


From Sunset to Dusk

The best time to take photos of the sky 🙂 My favorite part of the day.

At dawn and dusk, the sky opposite the sun takes on a pastel pink color that makes a wonderful backdrop for many subjects.

Most photographers agree that the hour surrounding sunrise and sunset is the best time to take pictures due to the unique lighting opportunities. The sky color at the point of the rising or setting sun takes on a gradation of warm tones at the horizon and bleeds into a blue color the higher you look. Approximately twenty minutes before the sun rises and twenty minutes after the sun sets reveals this beauty at its peak. The tones are riveting and compel me to remain fixated on the glow in the sky.

The following are hand-held shots taken last January 15 and 17, 2013 from Quezon City, Philippines using my trusty Canon Powershot SX40 HS.

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Moon and Venus – January 10, 2013

A 6% illuminated waning crescent moon and the planet Venus were in a close conjunction low in the southeast just before sunrise last 10 January 2013.

The waning crescent which looks like a thin “smile” on the sky, tilted a bit to the right. The soft glow on the dark side of the moon is called the Earthshine.

I always love taking pictures of a thin crescent moon, especially when it’s also nearby another bright objects like the planet Venus. It just makes my day complete. 🙂

Clear skies!

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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. 🙂


Moon, Mars and Antares – October 18, 2012

A few minutes after sunset last October 18, 2012, two reddish objects were found near the waxing crescent Moon (12% illuminated) in the western sky. These two bright red objects were actually the planet Mars, and the bright star Antares in the constellation Scorpius. Mars was about 2 degrees to the upper left from the Moon, and Antares about 4 degrees to the lower left from Mars.

Mars and Antares are often mistaken for each other because of their similarity in appearance. In fact, the name Antares means “Rival of Mars” in Greek.

All photos were taken using Canon Powershot SX40 HS. Some if the images were blurry. My camera got out of focus and i didn’t notice till it was too late! 😦

Click on the images to see larger versions.

The sky was extra clear that night. Amazed by the beauty of the starry night sky, I took my camera out again and snapped this photo while walking home:


Lunar Occultation of Jupiter – August 12, 2012

During the early morning hours of August 12, Philippine sky observers had a great chance of witnessing a relatively rare occultation of Jupiter (and some of its largest satellites) by our Moon. In astronomy, an occultation is an event that occurs when an apparently larger body passes in front of an apparently smaller one. In this case, the moon passed in front of the planet Jupiter; the pair being visible in the morning sky in the Philippines about 5 hours and 53 minutes before the Sun. At the moment of closest approach, the Moon was at mag -11.3, and Jupiter at mag -2.2, both in the constellation Taurus.

Despite the presence of hazy skies and thin clouds, we were lucky to have been able to observed the occultation event. Once I located the moon with my naked eye, I immediately pointed my superzoom camera  to it and took an image. I found Jupiter close to the moon but it was covered with haze. A few minutes later, Jupiter slipped behind the bright lunar limb and was visible no longer. Half an hour later, I tried to capture a video of the reappearance of  Jupiter, but the clouds had thickened to the point where I could no longer find the moon. When the clouds  had finally gone out of sight, Jupiter was already emerging from behind the dark limb.

Still, considering the less-than-ideal conditions, it was quite a successful observation. 🙂

Sky condition: 70-80% cloudy
Camera used: Canon Powershot SX40 HS

I observed this event from Marikina City.

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Skywatching Highlights: August 2012

This month, weather conditions permitting, skywatchers will be treated to the Perseid meteor shower, several planet conjunctions, a “blue moon” and a relatively rare lunar occultation of Jupiter (visible for some parts of the globe).

August 7-14: Spica, Saturn and Mars at Dusk 

The planets Saturn and Mars and the star Spica are close together in the first half of the month, low above the western horizon at dusk. They will form a triangle on the 7th an hour after sunset. Saturn will be the top of the triangle, while Mars will be on the lower right corner. Each side of the triangle is about 5 degrees. On the 14th, they will form an almost straight line: Saturn topmost with Mars lying between Saturn and Spica.

View of the western horizon at dusk on August 7 and 14, 2012 as seen from Manila Philippines. Images were screenshots from Stellarium.

August 12: Occultation of Jupiter by the Moon

For Philippine observers,  the waning crescent Moon will pass in front of Jupiter and its moons during a relatively rare event called occultation on the morning of August 12. In astronomy, an occultation occurs when one object is hidden by another larger object that passes between it and the observer. Prospects and timings for the event vary with location.

The event takes place while Jupiter and the Moon are low in the sky during the wee hours of the morning.

Local circumstances:

2012 Aug 12 02:43 Occultation disappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)
2012 Aug 12 03:16 Occultation reappearance of Io (Mag 5.5)
2012 Aug 12 03:17 Occultation reappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)
2012 Aug 12 03:18 Occultation reappearance of Europa (Mag 5.7)
2012 Aug 12 03:20 Occultation reappearance of Callisto (Mag 6.1)
2012 Aug 12 03:32 Occultation reappearance of Ganymede (Mag 5.0)

source: Pyxis Astronomy Educational Services

Jupiter and its largest satellites passing behind Earth’s moon.Image: Stellarium 

August 11, 12: Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseids is one of the best annual meteor showers.

The best time to watch for Perseids is between midnight and dawn. This is when the shower’s radiant located between the constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus, lies highest in the northeast sky.

By the 12th, the moon will only be 25% illuminated and not nearly as intense as when near its full phase. This will allow fainter meteors to be seen as long as the moon lies outside your field of view.

Tip: Find a safe dark location with clear skies in the early morning hours in order to see the shower. This year, the shower peaks on a weekend so it’s more convenient to stay up late.

August 14: A line of planets along with a thin, waning, crescent Moon before dawn

Before dawn on the morning of the 14th August the planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter and the Moon will line up in the eastern sky.  Look for A very thin crescent Moon to the upper right of Mercury an hour before sunrise in the northeast. Venus is to the upper right of the Moon, and a few degrees above them is Jupiter.

August 22: Waxing Crescent Moon joins Saturn, Mars and Spica

On the evening of the 22nd, a waxing crescent Moon, Mars, and Saturn will all lie within a circle just 6° in diameter.

August 31: Blue Moon (second full moon of August)

On the 31st, we will be able to witness a Blue Moon, the term given to the second full Moon in a calendar month.  But don’t expect it to be blue — the term has nothing to do with the color of the moon. [Origin of the term blue moon]

A composite image showing a lunar corona appearing around the full moon last last August 2, 2012

Clear skies!

 


Crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter at Predawn on July 15th

Eastern sky at 4:00 am local time. Manila, Philippines. Image: Stellarium

Philippine sky observers will have a great chance to see all of the three  brightest objects of the night sky in close proximity to each other this weekend (weather permitting). On the morning of July 15th, the waning crescent moon will join the very bright “stars” Jupiter (upper) and Venus (lower) to form a nice celestial grouping, along with two prominent open star clusters — the Pleiades and the V-shaped Hyades —  in the constellation Taurus.

Venus has reached its greatest illuminated extent in Earth’s sky last July 12. Thus, it appears so dazzling now as a “morning star”  in our predawn sky, near Jupiter.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the globe, this celestial grouping event will be viewed as an occultation of Jupiter by the moon. An occultation is an event in which a celestial body covers another, farther away object, such as when the moon covers a star or a planet or when a planet or an asteroid covers a far away star. For this event, the moon will cover Jupiter for about an hour (the exact time and durtaion of the occultation is  dependent on the observer’s location). View the visibility map and timings of this event from IOTA.

Seeing Jupiter’s occultation is possible with the naked eye, but the look through a telescope, even using a small magnification, is marvelous. At first, two of Jupiter’s large moons (Io and Europa) will disappear behind the moon, then Jupiter will disappear and then the other two moons (Ganymede and Callisto).

Places close to the southeast will witness a ‘grazing occulation’ when Jupiter and its moons will skim the edge of the Moon. This will be well worth seeing through a telescope and Jupiter’s moons may be seen blinking in and out of view as they pass behind the lunar mountains. Further north and west a very close conjunction will be seen.

Don’t worry because even though we won’t be seeing this event in the Philippines this weekend, we are still lucky enough to see a very rare version of such an event next month, during the morning of August 12, 2012. That will be surely worth getting up to see!

jupiter-occultation-jul-201

Moon occulting Jupiter with its moons. Image: Stellarium

Observing occultations can also contribute to science. During the 80’s, Uranus occulated a distant star. Photos of the events showed that just before and after the occultation the star blinked several times. The theory then was developed that Uranus has a set of rings (like Saturn). When Voyager 2 reached Uranus it detected and photographed the predicted rings.

Don’t miss this event. Clear skies!

Related link: List of Notable Celestial Events in 2012


Gienah’s First Light

Here is an image of the waning gibbous moon (80% illuminated) last July 8, 2012 — first light taken with my newly acquired Canon Powershot SX40 HS. With its superb reach  (35X zoom lens with focal range of 24 – 840 mm), and enhanced low-light performance great for night sky photography, getting decent photos of the moon was possible even without a telescope.

Image details: 150 mm, f/8, 1/160 sec. exposure, ISO-200.

I’ve been eyeing this camera for quite a while already and I was really happy that I was finally able to have it. It’s way cheaper than a DSLR, but it’s definitely worth the money.

It’s bridge-type camera (camera that “bridge the gap” between compact point-and-shoot and DSLR). I think it’s ideal for budding photographers like me who want the flexibility and control of a DSLR, but who don’t want to spend lots of money, or carry the heavy load required when you get a DSLR. But this type isn’t just more affordable; it’s also a much, much more portable choice and it offers a lot of nice features. Shoot wide or at the extremes of the camera’s telephoto (maximum zoom) setting – and toggle between them in a matter of seconds – the choice is yours; no need for extra lenses. It  has the versatility of a huge focal range packed into a lightweight compact body.

Another thing that I like about this camera is that it uses CMOS that incorporates advanced light reception technology to enhance sensitivity. Most bridge cameras like its predecessors use CCD sensor and have generally bad low light settings. Its new DIGIC 5 Image Processor, however, provides a major boost in noise reduction, expanding the usable ISO range to an amazing high of ISO 3200. Hence, the Canon HS SYSTEM lets you use higher shutter speeds to capture clearer images with reduced noise and blur. In addition, the combination of the advanced CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 Image Processor in the PowerShot SX40 HS makes it possible to shoot crisp, clear high definition video.

And to top it all off, it also has a 2.7″ vari-angle LCD — great feature that is not very common with most bridge cameras.

By the way, I named her Gienah, after the brightest star in the constellation Corvus. Together with another star of Corvus called Algorab (name I’ve given to my other camera), its name derives from the Arabic phrase meaning “the raven’s wing.” ( “Gienah” from the word for “wing,” “Algorab” from that for “raven.”)True enough, these cameras are like wings to me for they seem to take me to places that further inspire my journey in astronomy and allow me to explore this hobby more with a great sense of joy. 😉

I’m very much excited to use it to take photos of the upcoming sky events. Thank God for this huge blessing! 🙂 Patience paid off! 


Waxing Crescent Moon (June 22-23, 2012)

A thin crescent moon is always captivating sight, so I took the awesome opportunity of having a relatively fair weather last week to photograph the beautiful waxing crescent moon in the western sky using my trusty digital camera.

Finding Luna. (Hint: Look closely below the feather-like clouds.)

A sight of Luna hanging over the University Ave. in UP Diliman.

 

Luna peeking out from behind the purple-colored building.

 

A closer look.

 

Clear skies!


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!

* * *
Update:

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.


The Perigee Moon or Supermoon of 2012

We were about to go to the hospital a while ago when I caught a glimpse of the rising waning gibbous moon (almost full) across the road. Luckily I always have my point-and-shoot camera with me and I was able to take an image. It’s quite a challenge because a lot of vehicles were running on the road. Haha!

Anyway, I hope it won’t rain tomorrow night so that everyone of us could witness this year’s perigee moon or Supermoon 🙂 It’s the biggest and closest full moon of the year.

According to NASA, “it will be as much as 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons of 2012”.

Moon closest: May 6 at 11:29 am PHT
Full moon: May 6 at 11:35 am PHT

Clear skies!


First Quarter Moon – April 30, 2012

When I look into the night sky on a clear evening I am always completely in awe of the immense beauty of it all. That is why before leaving the house last night, I thought of getting an image of the first quarter moon that seemed to smile at me in the western sky. 🙂

Image taken via afocal method (Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera on Galileoscope).


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.


Cosmic Trio: Saturn, Spica and the Moon

The planet Saturn formed a cosmic triangle with the star Spica in Virgo and the Waning Gibbous Moon last night, 7 April 2012.

This image is composed of two images that have been overlapped to create a composite: one underexposed image of the moon to show the lunar features, and one overexposed to make Saturn and Spica more visible. (Sorry for the bad editing. I still lack skills in using Adobe Photoshop).


Paschal Full Moon and the Astronomy of Easter

The image shown above was last night’s Full Moon called the Paschal Full Moon.

In Christianity, the first astronomical full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox is usually designated as the Paschal Full Moon or the Paschal Term. Traditionally, Easter is observed on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.

Image taken via afocal method (Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 on my Galileoscope)

Related links:


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.