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

Travel

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 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!


Sunset and the Daylight Crescent Moon – February 7, 2011

While on our ferry boat going back to Cebu last February 7, we were greeted by the majestic colors of the setting Sun. I was too captivated with the beauty of the scene that I almost look directly at the Sun while it was still shining brightly a few degrees above the horizon. 😛 Sunset views truly have never failed to catch my attention.

I’m having problems creating a slideshow here in WordPress so I just used an external application, Slide for my images. This application however made the images appear in lower resolution.

As the Sun sank lower in the horizon, following it was the waning cresent Moon which gradually became visible against an early evening blue sky.

I was a bit difficult task to take these pictures without a tripod while on board  a moving ferryboat. Haha! I have to  zoom in slowly while focusing on the Moon and lean on the wall to get sturdy shots. It’s really fortunate that Canon PowerShot SX20 IS has a good zoom in capacity. 😀

I’m happy that we were gifted with the chance to view these awesome sky delights just before we end our trip.

I will surely miss this place. 🙂

 

Special thanks to Andre Obidos for letting me use his awesome sunset pictures and his camera. 🙂


Sunset by the Beach and Moon at Dusk

While spending our short vacation in the lovely island of Panglao in Bohol, we took the chance to reunite ourselves with the beauty and comforting embrace of nature. This island that is very famous for its pristine beach — clear, turquoise waters and dazzling white-sand — is really a perfect tropical sanctuary of natural beauty. 😀

As we were so excited to watch the sunset, we immediately headed toward the beach after our day-long tour on the other part of the island. Luckily, we got there just in time to witness this magnificent scene.

Notice the anvil-shaped cloud near the setting sun in the close-up photos above. Anvil clouds are the icy upper portions of cumulonimbus thunderstorm clouds that are caused by a rising of air in the lower portions of the atmosphere. They usually indicate a coming rain. Nevertheless, only a slight drizzle came later in the evening.

A few minutes after sunset, the thin crescent moon became visible as it slowly descended towards the western horizon following the Sun.

These sky displays never fail to make me smile and I was truly glad that I was given the chance to witness all of these during our vacation. God is really so great.

Special thanks to Andre Obidos for letting me use his sunset photos.

I will definitely miss this place a lot. 🙂