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…

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