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

Personal Notes

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 360,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 7 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.


Goodbye 2012. Hello 2013!

happy new year

Fireworks display after the 2012 UP Lantern Parade in Diliman, Quezon City.

Sparkling, warm and heartfelt new year wishes for you and your loved ones. Happy New Year, folks! 😀

last sunset 2012

Last glimpse of the 2012 Sun featuring 2 sunspot groups – AR 1638 (center) and 1640 (right).

2012 has been a huge year for astronomy observing, with some rare and exciting things that took place including the transit of Venus, occultation of Jupiter, solar and lunar eclipses, planetary conjunctions, and many more.

IMG_7482
This 2013, a new comet is predicted to blaze brilliantly in the skies and is expected to reach naked eye visibility by early November 2013. If Comet ISON lucks out, we could well be raving about the Great Christmas Comet of 2013 by this time next year. Watch out for it!

Comet McNaught Over New Zealand. Credit & Copyright: Minoru Yonet

Comet McNaught Over New Zealand. Credit & Copyright: Minoru Yonet


Seasons greetings!

seasons greetings

 

Seasons greetings to everyone from around the globe!

May all of you have a joyous celebration with your families and friends! Have a safe and happy holiday season! 🙂

* * *
This greeting card was created in Adobe Photoshop with my image of the Beaver Moon taken last November 28, 2012 featured on the right side. Other clip-art images were found through a Google Image search. No copyright infringement intended.


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! 


Why I love Astronomy?

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

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

Don’t you just agree? 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Moon, Mars and Leo – Feb. 8, 2012

Mars in the eastern sky at 9:51 pm | Quezon City, Philippines

We were sitting on one of those weird benches surrounding the trees in the open-air space of UP-Ayala Technohub after having a rewarding dinner when I noticed a red-orange star in the eastern sky infront of us. My brain told me that, based on its brightness and location it had to be Mars.  It was hardly recognizable at first because the waxing gibbous moon was shining close to it. Moreover, we were situated in a very light-polluted area that my eyes were struggling to see those faint celestial objects near the horizon.

The red planet is back in the eastern sky at nightfall on these evenings. It is now in fact, one of the brightest “stars” (around -0.9 mag) in the night sky. It is growing even brighter and more prominent, especially towards the end of the month as it comes close to opposition to the Sun and its nearest pass to Earth.

Moon, Leo and Mars

Mars started to retrograde (move westward) toward the star Regulus in the constellation Leo last January 24. That happens whenever Earth is about to pass between the sun and Mars, which will happen on March 3, 2012. Mars has been brightening ever since retrograde motion began.

By the end of February, Mars will rise only 20 minutes after the Sun sets, so it will be easily seen by the time the sky darkens and will shine all-night long. By then Mars will have brightened to magnitude -1.2, nearly as bright as Sirius.


Meet Algorab, my Panasonic Lumix FH2 Digicam

I just bought my first digital camera that I could use in taking photos of the night sky. 🙂

Algorab, my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2

It was a 14-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera which I named  Algorab. (For astronomy enthusiasts,  the name came from Delta Corvi, the most notable star of Corvus, which simply means ‘The Crow or Raven’ in Arabic. It is is a double star, 3.1 and 8.5 magnitude, pale yellow and purple, on the right wing of Corvus.)

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 is a ultra-compact digital camera with an effective resolution of 14.1 megapixels. The lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 28mm wide angle to a 112mm telephoto and features a true optical image stabilization system with which to fight blur caused by camera shake.

Crepuscular rays | image taken using Algorab

The main reason why I bought this camera is because of its long exposure capability (up to 60 seconds). Long exposure times permit the camera to gather enough light to take a quality photo, even in the darkest of environments like the night sky. If you want to keep the noise levels low and use lower ISO levels in dark environments long exposure times can be very useful. Most people don’t normally need to take very long exposure photos, but they can provide an amazing creative opportunity for amateur astronomers. For example you can take long exposure shots of the night sky to capture the movement of stars across the sky, capture night-time vistas, landscapes at dusk, etc.

Orion over a light-polluted area

I’ve already used a previous model of Panasonic Lumix before and I got amazed when I first learned about its impressive feature. FH2 compared to Lumix FS7, however, has significantly better wide angle (28 mm vs 33mm) meaning it can capture around 20% bigger view. FH2 also has  more than 10% larger sensor and  has a slimmer compact body (0.7″ vs 0.9″).

Moreover, this model can also record 1280 x 720p High Definition (HD) video.

Another feature that I love about this camera is its Intelligent Scene Selector which allows its user to select the best option from Macro, Portrait, Scenery, Night Portrait, Night Scenery and Sunset by detecting the environment.

Overall, this budget product is excellent for its affordable price. It has a well balanced performance for a point and shoot; it’s easy-to-use, has good image quality and  it contains certain features that are typically found on higher end products.

I’m really excited to use it to take images of the upcoming planetary conjunctions. 🙂

Clear skies!


2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 75,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Happy 2012!

Fireworks Galaxy NGC 6946 
Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona

Celebrate the New Year with the Fireworks Galaxy! Also known as NGC 6946, the big, beautiful spiral galaxy is located just 10 million light-years away, behind a veil of foreground dust and stars in the high and far-off constellation of Cepheus.

May God bless you throughout this year and always! Have a prosperous year ahead! 🙂


The Mind Museum…finally!

Great news to my fellow Filipinos!

After much anticipation, The Mind Museum, the Philippines’ first world-class science museum was finally unveiled via a pre-launch reception this month.

It will be then officially open to the public in March 2012.

According to its curator,  the said 12,500-square-meter facility was fully funded by private donations from corporate sponsors and family and individual donors “who share the passion of making science come alive.”

To those who would like to visit the museum, it is located on the 12,500 sqm prime lot of JY Campos Park on 3rd Ave in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

location

The facility has 250 interactive exhibits and is divided into five main galleries, namely the Atom Gallery, Earth Gallery, Life Gallery, Technology Gallery and Universe Gallery (which of course, is my favorite!).

image courtesy of OurAwesomePlanet.com

The Universe Gallery contains a unique planetarium that simulates stargazing from the point of view of literally lying down on a bed beneath the stars.

The Universe Gallery

Last May 2010, I invited some friends to visit The Roving Space Shell – a travelling inflatable dome – in Market! Market! in Global City, Taguig.

The 8-meter diameter Roving Space Shell is from Cosmodome Australia and is the choice of many universities and research institutions around the world, including NASA. This inflatable planetarium can sit up to 50 people comfortably with a 360- degree view of the shows through a high definition projector.

It has provided the public a sneak preview of what The Mind Museum will be offering to the public when it opens.

The Mind Museum is a P1 billion project conceived in 2006 by Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. (BAFI), the group in charge of Bonifacio Global City’s public art program. It is brought to reality by companies, families and individuals who heeded the call to support Science education in the country as a way to help economic growth in the long term. It is envisioned to be the Philippine’s center for the public understanding of Science where facts are presented in clear, exciting, and engaging way.

Learn more about The Mind Museum…

Help Build and be a Donor…


A Triple Celestial Treat: My Image in AAPOD, EarthSky, and InOMN Photo Contest

I was really happy that once again, one of my images was featured in the Amateur Astronomy Picture of the Day (AAPOD) website last December 9, 2011. It’s an image featuring the planets Venus and Mercury along with the thin Moon during a nice celestial grouping at dusk last October 28.

It also got included in an article posted in EarthSky.org. Deborah Byrd, founder and president of EarthSky sent me message through Facebook to ask permission to repost my image.

Moreover, another surprising news came in as I received a notification that the same image has won, along with another image of mine,  in the first round of voting in the 2011 International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) Art Contest. 🙂 Yay!

Here are the links:

It was really inspiring for an amateur like me who doesn’t even own a decent camera fit for sky photography to have my image featured in such astronomy websites. Thank you, AAPOD, EarthSky and InOMN! 

I hope this would encourage more astronomy enthusiasts who are also into sky photography to submit their images and share their interest to many people who might also find a new fondness for the night sky.

Perhaps I should start saving more to have that camera which I’ve been eyeing on for so long. 😉 All things in God’s time.

To the stars!


The Christmas Tree Cluster

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Christmas Tree Cluster, also known as NGC 2264, is a well-studied region in the Monoceros (the Unicorn) constellation. The Christmas Tree Cluster was so named because it looks like a tree in visible light. The nebula is roughly 2,500 light-years away. That is, the nebula emitted the light in the new Spitzer image 2,500 years ago.

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” ~ Charles Dickens

As we experience the joys of Christmas this year, let us not forget that Christ is the reason for the season. The birth of Jesus Christ is a wonderful holiday to celebrate our love for Christ and his atoning sacrifice for all of us.

Happy Holidays, folks! Have a blessed year ahead! 🙂


My Total Lunar Eclipse Montage in Universe Today

Didn’t know that one image of mine got featured in Universe Today last October 12. 😀 Click here to view the article.

Thanks, Universe Today! 


Third in AAPOD!

My image, “Moon-Mars Conjunction Over the Light-Polluted City” was chosen as Amateur Astronomy Picture of the Day (AAPOD) last November 22, 2011. Click on this link to view the image.

Yay! 🙂

 


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


My Article and Images in Practical Astronomy Magazine

An article which I have written, “SHARING THE NIGHT SKY – University of the Philippines AstroSoc Sidewalk Astronomy“, got included in Practical Astronomy Magazine’s July-September 2011 issue.

My image of the Supermoon last March was also in its Readers’ Images and Reports. 🙂

Meanwhile, my first images of the Milky Way Galaxy that I took during the Messier Marathon last Summer was also featured in its latest issue for October-December 2011.

All issues of the Practical Astronomy Magazine can be downloaded for free. Visit its website and check out its Back Issues’ Section. The primary goals of PA is to encourage amateur astronomers worldwide, to share their observations and astronomical experience. So far, contributors from at least ten countries have been published in the magazine.

Everyone can contribute their own images and astronomy-related articles (that are written based on their own experiences) for publication. To do so, just fill up the form from this link and click on the ‘submit button’. You may also send them to Kevin Brown via email: editor@practicalastronomy.com

Go on and share your own astro-stories and images. 🙂 It’s a great way of sharing your knowledge, passion and experience to a lot of people in the astronomy community.

Ad astra!


Eclipsed Moon and Anticrepuscular Rays Image in EPOD

My image ‘Eclipsed Moon and Anticrepuscular Rays‘ that I took during the Total Lunar Eclipse last June 2011 got featured in Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD).

EPOD is a service of NASA’s Earth Science Division and the EOS Project Science Office (at Goddard Space Flight Center) and the Universities Space Research Association. It collects and archives photos, imagery, graphics, and artwork with short explanatory captions and links exemplifying features within the Earth system.

My image could also be found in Astronomy.com’s Online Reader Gallery.


Honorable Mention – 2011 MicroObservatory Photo Contest

Last May, my Lunar Montage received an Honorable Mention in the Astrocreative category of the First MicroObservatory Astrophotography Contest.

My certificate and prizes from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Instead of using my pen name, I used my real name with my entry submission 🙂 

This contest was held in honor of Global Astronomy Month 2011 last April. Participants used the Observing With NASA portal and MicroObservatoryImage software to create RGB Composite images and Astrocreative images.

MicroObservatory is a network of automated telescopes that anyone can control over the Internet.

The telescopes were developed by scientists and educators at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They are located and maintained at observatories affiliated with the Center for Astrophysics, including the Harvard College Observatory in Cambridge, MA and the Whipple Observatory in Amado, AZ.

Using many of the same technologies that NASA uses to capture astronomical images by controlling telescopes in space, amateur astronomers world-wide can control a sophisticated ground-based telescope from the convenience of any computer. The MicroObservatory remote observing network is composed of several 3-foot-tall reflecting telescopes, each of which has a 6-inch mirror to capture the light from distant objects in space. Instead of an eyepiece, the MicroObservatory telescopes focus the collected light onto a CCD detector (an electronic chip like that in a digital camera) that records the image as a picture file with 650 x 500 pixels.

With these robotic telescopes, people can take images of the Moon, Sun, nearby planets and some deep-sky objects even without having a telescope! 🙂 Cool, isn’t it?

I’ve been using MicroObservatory for over a year now and I have already taken and processed several images using it. Below are some of them:

M42, Orion Nebula (August 15, 2010)
M42, Orion Nebula 
Lagoon Nebula, M8 in Sagittarius
Trifid Nebula, M20 in Sagittarius
Waning Gibbous Moon
Sun

Congratulations to all the winners of the contest and thank you, MicroObservatory! 🙂


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 😦
BRAAAAAINS!

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!


The Moon and Stars…on my Hand!

Our student council to which I am a member offered a free “face paint” service during the Alumni Homecoming celebration in our college last month.

Instead of having it on my face, I let the artist paint the Moon and Stars art on my hand. 🙂 It’s really cool.

This was the second time that I had something “astronomical” painted on my hand. Haha!

My Sun Henna Tattoo

 


Sunset, Contrail and the Thin Moon

I and my friend Bea Banzuela were walking around the Academic Oval of our university last May 5 when we noticed the sunset behind the trees at the lawn.

The transition of the bluish sky into crimson during this time of the day is always lovely to look at.

Reeds!
PHOTO OP! That’s me posing in front of the setting sun 🙂 Haha!

I remembered that the 2-day old thin Moon will set just before the Sun that afternoon. I checked Stellarium for its location in the western sky and waited until it became visible.

We soon found it hanging below a contrail a few minutes after the Sun had disappeared from view. It was around 5% illuminated and barely visible to the naked eye.

Luna appears against the crimson-colored sky. Click on the image to see the hi-res version.

As the sky grew darker, the Moon become more apparent, along with the bright stars located around it.

A stunning sight! The Moon with its 'ashen glow' (or earthshine) beside Aldebaran

Staring at the beauty of the night sky

We were grateful that we had along with us a nice point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC camera which works great when used for landscape photography. Using its starry sky mode, we were able to produce the images above even with minimal light. This setting allows for 15, 30 and 60 second exposures that is best for night sky photography. Other cameras often produce very dark images unless there is some amount of light out. (Thanks to Aaron Misayah for lending us his camera.)

I hope the sky would always be this clear. 🙂


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!


Happy Mother’s Day!

Mothers are the sweetest gift from God to us.

There is no way we can ever really thank our mother for all she does for us nevertheless we must make it a habit to keep reminding ourselves of the various sacrifices she made while raising us.

To my Mom and to all the great mothers around the world, Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

Mother…
You filled my days with rainbow lights,
Fairytales and sweet dream nights,
A kiss to wipe away my tears,
Gingerbread to ease my fears.
You gave the gift of life to me
And then in love, you set me free.
I thank you for your tender care,
For deep warm hugs and being there.
I hope that when you think of me
A part of you
You’ll always see.
~Kamakshi

The beautiful Moon and the planets are like the mother and her children in this picture. Credit & Copyright: Michael Wilson

When the sky has fallen
like a blanket on your shoulder
The moon is like a mother,
looking over you forever.