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


#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)


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.


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! 🙂

# # #


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.

# # #

Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP)


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

# # #

 Philippine Astronomical Society (PAS)

NAW 2013

20th National Astronomy Week 2013

Schedule of Activities NAW 2013
NAW special guests:

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

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

pas activities1

pas activities2

The image below shows the contest event floor plan.


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


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

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

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

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

# # #

UP Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc)

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


BIG BANG!: The Astronomical Quiz Show

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

TAKE OFF!: A Rocket-Making Competition

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

TEACHERS’ SEMINAR: Astronomy Education

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

For inquiries, you may contact us at:

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

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

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


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

# # #

UPLB Astronomical Society (UPLB AstroSoc)

uplb astrosoc naw poster

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

# # #

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.


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.


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


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

# # #


* 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

# # #

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.


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.