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

Posts tagged “skygazing

Skywatching Highlights: January 2012

Well-known constellations like the ones in the Winter Hexagon – Gemini, Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Auriga and Taurus – can be easily seen during the longer hours of darkness in the Northern hemisphere this month.

Most of the events listed here can be readily observed with the naked eye, but some objects such as the planets and some star clusters are best seen through binoculars or a small telescope.

All of the times and dates found here are in Philippine Standard Time (PHT) unless otherwise indicated. Note that PHT = UT+8.

Clear skies and happy skygazing! 🙂

# # #

This month’s highlights:

  • The Quadrantid Meteor Shower
  • Planetary conjunctions with the Moon
Jan. 1 First Quarter Moon 2:15 PM
Jan. 2 Moon-Jupiter close pairing (~7° apart)
Jan. 3 Moon at apogee 4:00 AM farthest distance to Earth
Jan. 3-4 Peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower 3:23 AM Quadrantid Shower: ZHR = 120
Jan. 5 Earth at perihelion  (0.9833 AU) 8:00 AM closest distance to the Sun
Jan. 5 Moon near the Pleiades (3.1° N)
Jan. 9 Full Moon 3:30 PM
Jan. 16 Last Quarter Moon 5:08 AM
Jan. 16 Moon near the star Spica (2° N)
Jan. 17 Saturn 6° north of the Moon 3:00 AM
Jan. 18 Moon at perigee 5:00 AM nearest distance to Earth
Jan. 23 New Moon 3:39 PM
Jan. 25 Neptune 6° south of the Moon 8:00 PM
Jan. 27 Moon-Venus close pairing dusk Venus 7° south of the Moon
Jan. 30 First Quarter Moon 3:39 PM
Jan. 30 Moon-Jupiter close pairing
Jan. 31 Moon at apogee  2:00 AM farthest distance to Earth
January 2: Moon-Jupiter Conjunction

Image: Stellarium

An eventful sky year begins with brilliant Jupiter high up on the Aries-Pisces border at nightfall. On January 2, Jupiter will be about 7 degrees away from the 61% full moon in the constellation Pisces.




January 3-4: Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Image: SkyandTelescope.com

This should be a fine year for one of the best, but least observed, annual meteor showers like the  Quadrantids. The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. This meteor shower should be most active in the early morning hours of Wednesday the 4th, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5.  The Moon sets around 3 AM local time then, leaving the sky dark until the first light of dawn around 6 AM. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.


Bye bye, Mr. Teapot

Sagittarius (plus a faint apparition of the Milky Way?) over our local suburb. Click on image to enlarge.

 As summer time has already ended, the constellation Sagittarius, along with the other Summer constellations sets earlier during the month of October.

Sagittarius is believed to have originated with the Babylonians. He was their god of War, and he stands with his bow aimed at the heart of Scorpius, the scorpion. Like Centaurus, he is a half man, half beast creature.

We in modern times may not be able to imagine the stars of Sagittarius as a Centaur. Instead, many stargazers know the stars of Sagittarius as a “Teapot”. This asterism is really easy to recognize.

Sagittarius is an important constellation in that it marks the direction of the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It also contains more Messier objects than any other constellation in the sky.

Earlier this evening, I took the chance to take an image of the “Teapot” before it disappears in the night sky. I was also planning to image Scorpius but it was already too low in the south west. As I looked at the image more closely, I began to noticed something interesting. On the right (just above its lid), there is a faint cloud-like patch that resembles the Milky Way. I got surprised. 🙂

Could it be really possible to see a faint apparition of the Milky Way in this light-polluted suburb?

Perhaps, yes.

Skywatching Highlights: October 2011

As the nights get longer in the northern hemisphere, the skies are filled with good observing opportunities. 

Meteor showers, a comet, and Jupiter at opposition are the highlights for October.




2 Mars in the Beehive Cluster in Cancer
4 First Quarter Moon 11:15 AM
8 Draconid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 6-10, ZHR up to storm levels)
8 International Observe the Moon Night 2011
12 Full Moon (Hunter’s Moon) 10:05 AM
13 Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon is about 5 degrees apart
14 Saturn Conjunction
15 Waxing gibbous moon near the Pleiades
16 Comet Elenin’s closest approach to Earth
20 Last Quarter Moon 11:30 AM
20 Mercury-Venus Conjunction dusk
22 Orionid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 17-25, ZHR=20)
27 New Moon 04:00 AM
28 Mercury-Venus Moon at minimum separation dusk
29 Jupiter Opposition (closest approach to Earth) 08:40 AM

Two meteor showers: Draconids & Orionids 

*DRACONIDS (Giacobinids)
The Draconids peak will this year on the evening of October 8th with a higher than normal meteor count expected. Periodic (6.6 year orbit) comet 21P/Giacobini/Zinner is the source of these meteors, and this year Earth is predicted to cross a dense debris stream from the comet. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass as high as 500 per hour, radiating from the northern constellation Draco, near the Dragon’s head. This is not without precedent as the Draconids stormed briefly to 10,000 meteors per hour in 1933!

The Orionids will peak this year on the evening of October 21/22 . Periodic (76 year orbit) comet 1P/Halley is the source of these meteors. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour, best visible before dawn under dark skies. These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border. The waning crescent Moon this year should not interfere much with your observing of these shooting stars.

Comet Elenin
Newly discovered comet Elenin will make its closest approach to the Earth on October 16. The comet was discovered on December 10, 2010 by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin. It is estimated that the comet will reach 6th magnitude as it makes its closest approach. This will make it just barely visible to the naked eye. With a good pair of binoculars and a little determination, you may be able to get a good look at this new comet during mid October.

Jupiter at Opposition
The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. The giant planet will be a big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.

Full Hunters Moon
This month’s full moon is called Hunter’s Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This will also be the smallest full moon of the year because it will be near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth.

Mercury-Venus & Moon at minimum separation
This is a wonderful conjunction of 2 planets, the waxing crescent Moon and the red giant star Antares about 30 minutes after sunset on the nights of October 28 & 29th. You will need an unobstructed view low to the SW. Use binoculars or a small telescope to locate challenging Mercury.

International Observe the Moon Night 2011

Join people from all over the world to celebrate the second annual International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 8, 2011. InOMN is an annual event celebrated globally to encourage people to go out and observe Earth’s nearest neighbor in space — the Moon.

For more information and resources for planning your own International Observe the Moon Night event, visit: http://observethemoonnight.org/. The website features activities, educational materials, multimedia and much more!


Happy skygazing! 🙂


Orion, Jupiter and the Pleiades

This morning, I went outside again at around 4:30 AM to check the sky condition. I’ve been doing this for about a couple of days now in hopes of  seeing a clear sky despite the continuous rains over the past few weeks.

It’s really creepy out there — wind’s blowing strong & it’s totally dark! But thank God it wasn’t too cloudy and I was able to do some timelapse photography just before the stars start fading away against the blue sky at dawn.

An image of the constellation Orion [The Hunter] as it marched through the zenith at 5:21 AM local time, 2 October 2011 (SJDM, Bulacan)

The planet Jupiter & the star cluster M45 (Pleiades) separated by about 20 degrees in the western sky at 5:02 AM, 2 October 2011  (SJDM, Bulacan)

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the coming weeks. 🙂 Clear skies!

The Longer Nights Are Here!

Hello everyone! 🙂

It’s been ages since I posted my last entry here. I missed this blog so much.

I’ve been really busy doing and organizing a lot of stuff during the last couple of months that I rarely had time to write. Moreover, the observing conditions were very seldom good because of the rainy season — several typhoons hit the country and it’s too cloudy most of the time.

It is not until towards the end of September that the rainy season in the Philippines will start receding.  Its normal termination usually occurs by the end of October.

Anyhow, the coming of October also marks the coming of longer nights in the Philippines. Just last October 1, the Sun rose at 5:46 AM and set at 5:46 PM (Manila time). This day signaled the transition point in nature when the light changes. The days are getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere — everyone can feel the shortening of the days and sense, innately, that the changes in daylight and darkness are sudden and surprising.

During the equinox last September 23, the length of night and day across the world is nearly, but not entirely, equal. This is because the day is slightly longer in places that are further away from the equator, and because the sun takes longer to rise and set in these locations. The axial tilt of the earth affects the day/night duty cycle most strongly at the poles and has no effect at all at the equator. Equal day and night usually occurs a few days after the equinox. For simplicity, we may assume that it has actually occurred on October 1. Take note that there is really no equal day and night at the equator.

For amateur astronomers, longer nights mean extra hours of uninterrupted stargazing! 🙂

The fine meteor showers usually come in by October to December of each year. October 2011 has two meteor showers worth getting outside to see — the Draconid meteor shower on the evenings of October 7 and 8 and the more reliable Orionid meteor shower on the mornings of October 20 and 21.

As the Draconids and Orionids kicks off the meteor shower season, observing the night sky would be more fun and interesting.

 Clear skies to all!

Night Sky Gazing in June

In the Philippines, the rainy season usually starts in the month of June and runs through about November. During this period,  thunderstorms and typhoons which generally affect a wide area (sometimes half of the archipelago) are common. In fact, only this June three typhoons (namely Dodong, Egay and Falcon) have already visited the country along with heavy rains.

Clear skies were seldom visible for most of the month of June was so stormy. Hence, having an opportunity to spot this season’s prominent constellations during clear nights was  really a blessing to an amateur astronomer like me. 🙂

The sky was moonless on the first week of June. So I took this chance to set up the tripod and the Panasonic Lumix digital camera to get nice constellations images. Thanks to Aaron Misayah for loaning his camera to me. 🙂

The  Lumix camera features a ‘starry night’ scene mode — a setting which allows you to capture long exposures, with 15, 30, and 60 second shutter speed options. I selected the 60 sec exposure and point to regions of some of my favorite constellations.

Note that the Lumix didn’t have ISO control when in starry night mode. If I set the camera to manual mode (where I do have access to the ISO settings), I don’t have access to the exposure time.  The longest exposure time I have in manual mode is 1/8 seconds. But after I looked at the pictures in manual mode (ISO 1600, 1/8 seconds exposure), I notice that there are a lot of noise.  I think they’re trying to hide the fact that the Lumix is very noisy in high ISO mode so they made it not selectable when you’re using long exposures.

Anyway, below are some of the photos I took from our residential area in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. I used Photoshop to add the constellation lines.

1 June 2011
camera settings: 6mm, f/2.8, 60 sec. exposure time, ISO-80

Bootes – 12:01 AM 
northwestern sky

Scorpius – 12:30 AM

Zooming into the photo above will reveal vertical streaks (not the star trails). These unnecessary streaks have occurred because I forgot to use the self timer on the camera for this shot. By clicking on the shutter button, even a slight vibration from the finger would create blur on the picture, even when you are using a tripod.

5 June 2011
camera settings: 6mm, f/2.8, 60 sec. exposure time, ISO-80

Leo and Leo Minor – 9:23 PM
Corvus – 9:27 PM
Big Dipper – 9:54 PM

By the way, I am living from a suburban site. The limiting magnitude for such a location is frequently close to 4 . This means that the apparent magnitude of the faintest star that could  be visible to the unaided eye is about magnitude 4.

The original images were a bit darker but I increased the brightness and contrast in the post processing to find out the dimmest star recorded. I found that every star that was visible with the naked eye was in the image, which is good! The results of each shot have actually far exceeded my expectations.  I never thought that a little humble compact camera could go a long way.

I have also tried using this camera in shooting landscape and scenery pictures and it also produced good results. Click here to see my previous post about it.  At about 30-45 minutes after the sunset, the sky is not completely dark yet, but the colour appears to be more intense with traces of natural light still available. It would also be nice to take sky photos during this time.

Perhaps, this could be an interesting camera at a truly dark sky site. I have yet to try that when I still have the opportunity. 🙂

Clear skies!

Skywatching Highlights: June 2011

This month’s skywatching highlights:

  • June Solstice. The Sun reaches its most northerly point in the sky, the June solstice, on June 21 at 17:16 Universal Time (UT).  This marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the south.
  • Partial Solar Eclipse.  Visible from the Arctic, Siberia, and parts of Iceland on June 1.  The eclipse peaks at 21:16 Universal Time.
  • Total Lunar Eclipse.  Completely visible on June 15 from South Africa and western Australia, this long and deep eclipse is the first of 2011.  The eclipse peaks at 21:12 UT.
  • Boötids Meteor Shower. Peaks on or about June 27 near midnight, this unpredictable meteor shower has shown up to 100 meteors an hour.  Or it could be a dud.  The Moon isn’t a factor this year, so take a look and see what happens.  The radiant is just off the peak of Boötes, though you can see meteors anywhere in the northern sky.





Partial Solar Eclipse – This will not be visible in the Philippines. The eclipse will begin at exactly 3:25 a.m. (Philippine Standard Time). It will be visible in Eastern Asia, northern N. America, the N. tip of Scandinavia, Greenland and Iceland.


New Moon 5:05 AM


First Quarter Moon 10:10 AM


Saturn 8° North of the Moon 5:00 AM


Moon at perigee (nearest distance to Earth) 10:00 AM


Mercury in superior conjunction 8:00 AM


Total Lunar Eclipse of the Moon — The eclipse will begin at 1:23 AM Philippine Standard Time (PHT) and will end at 7:02 AM (PHT).


Summer solstice  — Philippine nights are at their shortest and daytimes are at their longest around the Summer solstice.This is the time when the Sun attains its greatest declination of +23.5 degrees and passes directly overhead at noon for all observers at latitude 23.5 degrees North, which is known as the Tropic of Cancer. This event marks the start of the apparent southward movement of the Sun in the ecliptic. 1:16 AM


Pluto occultation 7:15 AM


Uranus 6° South of the Moon 11:00 PM


Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth) 12:00 NN


Peak of the June Bootids (Active from June 22 to July 2 ZHR=0-100+)
— The radiant of the shower will originate from the constellation of Bootes, the Herdsman, which lies nearly overhead when darkness falls.


Pluto Occultation 10:15 PM


Pluto at opposition 1:00 PM


Mars 1.7° south of the Moon (These two objects can be found hanging in-between 2 notable star groups – the Pleiades and Hyades in Taurus) 3:00 AM

* PHT = UT + 8

Read the guide on how to find the 5 visible planets this month — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn from EarthSky.org. If you are looking for star maps for June, you may check them here. You may also download the free planetarium software, Stellarium to see the the positions of the heavenly bodies each day according to your location.
Clear skies!



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.

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. 🙂

Skywatching Highlights: May 2011


The month of May will show up the finest planetary conjunctions of the year. Naked-eye planets line-up in the eastern horizon before sunrise. On May 1, 9, 13, and 30 at 5:00 AM, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Neptune will be found lining-up above the eastern horizon as shown in Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5  respectively. Uranus and Neptune will be needing a star map and a binocular or a modest-sized telescope for its proper viewing. The planets will lie among the background stars of the constellation Pisces, the Fish, except for Neptune, which will be found at the constellation of Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.

Saturn will be visible in the evening sky throughout the month. The Ringed planet will be located among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Virgin.

Date Event Time (PHT)
1 Mars Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
1-2 Mars-Jupiter-Mercury-Venus-Moon conjunction dawn
2 Jupiter 6° south of the Moon 03:00 AM
3 New Moon 04:50 PM
5 The 3% thin crescent Moon will lie in between the star groups Hyades and Pleiades in the constellation Taurus in the west. dusk
7 Jupiter Conjunction  
7 Mercury at greatest western elongation dawn
7 Eta Aquarids : Active from Apr 19 to May 28 —  ZHR 70  
8 Venus Mercury at minimum separation dawn
10-14 Mercury-Venus-Jupiter conjunction dawn
11 First Quarter Moon 04:35 AM
11 Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter Conjunction – The three planets will form a 2-degree long vertical line in the early morning sky. The planet Mars will also be visible nearby. Look to the east near sunrise. dawn
11 Mercury Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
12 Venus Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
14 Saturn 8° north of the Moon 11:00 PM
17 Full Moon (called Full Flower Moon) 07:10 PM
18-26 Mercury Venus Mars conjunction dawn
18 Mercury Venus at minimum separation dawn
22 Jupiter 8° below the Moon dawn
25 Last Quarter Moon 02:50PM
30 Mars-Jupiter-Mercury-Venus-Moon conjunction dawn
31 Mars 4° South of the Moon dawn

Clear skies! 🙂



  • PAGASA Astronomical Diary
  • Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
  • 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org

Luna and the Planets in the Dawn Sky

I stayed up until dawn today (May 1, 2011) to watch the beautiful celestial grouping of the thin crescent Moon (5% illuminated) and the morning planets (Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter). Luckily, the eastern sky was not cloudy when I went outside at 4:40 AM. But only the Moon which looked like a yellow crescent and Venus were only visible. The other planets were too dim and too low to be seen over our suburban place.

I saw these two objects rising behind the roof of our neighbors house. At 5:00 AM, the Moon and Venus were roughly 15 degrees above the horizon and were separated apart by 6 degrees.

All pictures were taken using my Kodak C813 Digital Camera.

Clear skies! 🙂

Skywatching Highlights: April 2011

This month’s highlights:

  • Saturn in the evening sky
  • The 2011 Lyrid Meteor Shower
  • Four Planets and a Crescent Moon in the morning sky
Date Event Time (in PHT, UT+8)
3 New Moon 22:30
5 Saturn at Opposition 

— The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons.

6 Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun 23:00
10 Mercury in inferior conjunction 04:00
11 First Quarter Moon 20:05
17 Moon at perigee (nearest distance to Earth) 14:00
18 Full Moon 10:45
21-22 Lyrid Meteor Shower* 

— The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. This year, the gibbous moon will hide most of the fainter meteors in its glare. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight, and be sure to find a dark viewing location far from city lights.

22 Mercury-Venus-Mars-Jupiter visual alignment 

— Visible from April 25 to May 30

23 Venus at Uranus at minimum separation (0.9 degrees) dusk
25 Last Quarter Moon 10:45
27 Neptune 6 degrees south of the Moon 21:00
29 Four Planets and Crescent Moon in the morning sky 

— On the last two mornings of the month, given a clear low eastern horizon, there will be four planets and a thin crescent Moon visible just above.   You will need binoculars, so cease looking when the Sun has risen.

31 Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth) 02:00

*Check out the following links for more info:

Lyrids Quick Facts:

The red dot shows the "radiant" for the Lyrid meteor shower. The radiant is the spot in the sky that the meteors seem to fan out from. (Image courtesy of NASA)

Lyrid meteor streaks | Image credit: Wally Pacholka

A video guide on finding the constellation Lyra:

HubbleSite – Tonight’s Sky: April 2011


Clear skies to all and happy observing! 🙂




Sharing the Night Sky : UP AstroSoc’s Sidewalk Astronomy

This is a long-overdue post. 😛 I was really busy during the past few weeks so I never found enough time  to write a blog. Anyway…

Last February, the Filipino astronomy community celebrated the 18th National Astronomy Week, the theme for which was “Astronomy Transforming the Culture of Learning Toward Nation Building”.

As part of this major celebration, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) organized two public observation events based on the concept of ‘Sidewalk Astronomy’ last February 25 at the Quezon Memorial Circle and last February 27 at the Rizal Park.

Sidewalk Astronomy refers to the activity of setting up telescopes in an urban setting for a profit or non-profit basis as an entertainment or for public education. With the coming and growth of organized amateur astronomical groups, sidewalk astronomy has become associated with public education about astronomy via free public viewing for anyone who wishes to look through the telescope.

It’s like bringing astronomy to as many people as possible through public observations. 😀

Both events started at 6:00 PM. Even though the sky was a bit cloudy throughout that week and light pollution is a huge concern when observing in urban areas, we were still lucky enough to catch glimpses of the celestial objects like Jupiter, Saturn, bright Sirius, the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula through our telescopes. Unfortunately, the Moon – our favorite viewing target – did not rise until past midnight so we were not able to see it.

During the last public viewing at the Rizal Park, there were a lot of people who came by to peek through the telescopes. Most of them were families spending time together at the park. At first, it was a real challenge keeping the crowd – especially the kids – from bumping the telescopes. Everyone was too excited. 😀 Nonetheless, we soon were able to make the  viewing more organized so that everyone had a chance to peek through the telescopes.

Some of my fellow orgmates also gave short lectures on skygazing using Stellarium and astronomy books to those waiting in line.

It was fun to see people enjoying the view of the night sky. 🙂 I suddenly realized that I so love the job of promoting astronomy with many people especially to the young ones; hearing about how amazed they are while looking up the sky is truly priceless. 🙂

It eventually become cloudier  as the night went on. As it was already late and there was almost nothing that could be seen above except thick grey clouds, we decided to end the activity at around 11:00 PM.

The event was enjoyable! 🙂 To us, it was a really memorable way of capping off the celebration of the National Astronomy Week in the Philippines.

To my fellow amateur astronomers, I suggest that you try sidewalk astronomy, too. I have found it to be a truly rewarding experience. People are very appreciative of the effort that I and my orgmates have given and I also made new friends along the way while having a great time.

UP Astronomical Society together with RTU AstroSoc posing infront of the Rizal Monument

Thank you to everyone who joined us in this event, especially to RTU Astronomical Society and cheers to those organizations who also held their events for this year’s NAW celebration.

May the goal of sharing the night sky to everyone continuously unite us all.


Ad astra per aspera! 🙂



* * * * * *

Photos by Julee Ann Olave and Ana Geronimo of UP AstroSoc

Close Pairing of Venus and the Moon During Early March


Moon and Venus about 10 degrees above th eastern horizon at 4:30 AM PHT (UT+8)

About 2 hours before sunrise on March 1, spot the 12% illuminated Moon close to the bright planet Venus in the eastern sky. These two objects will be roughly 2 degrees apart of each other and could be found near the prominent constellation, Sagittarius.

As a bonus, if the sky is clear at dawn on Tuesday and Wednesday – March 1st and 2nd – you can still see this lovely pairing even in broad daylight. The Moon is often visible during the day amid the blue sky but  is that true of Venus, too? The answer is yes. 🙂

Venus is indeed visible to the unaided eye even in broad daylight especially during mornings, assuming that the air is reasonably free of haze. In fact, it’s startlingly easy to see — but equally hard to find.

The easiest chance to observe Venus during the day is when it happens to be near the Moon which is easier to locate.

For Philippine sky observers, the following is a rough estimate of the angular distance of these two objects from March 1 – 3.


Degree of Separation Percent Illumination of the Moon

March 1

2 12

March 2



March 3 15


The Moon will move to the lower left of Venus as the days progress.

You may also look for Venus near the Moon using a pair of binoculars.

Clear skies!



SkyandTelescope.com — Observing Blog — “See Venus in Broad Daylight!”

Paulsadowski.com — Moon Phases

Eclipses Visible in the Philippines During 2011

I noticed that most of my frequent visitors were searching for the eclipses in the Philippines for 2011. Well then folks, I have listed below the eclipses that could be observed in the Philippines throughout the year. 🙂

Four partial solar and two total lunar eclipses will take place in 2011 but only the  lunar eclipses will be visible in the Philippines. These two are both total lunar eclipses which means that during these events, we can actually see the entire disk of the Moon being covered by the Earth’s umbra — thus we can observe a nice Reddish Moon.

Geometry of a Lunar Eclipse

Photo of the Dec. 20 total lunar eclipse from Cochranville, Pa. taken by Kevin R. Witman, using a Meade LX50 10" Schmidt Cassegrain telescope and a Canon XS DSLR camera.

Total lunar eclipses are pretty rare events  so be sure to plan your observation ahead of time and make the most out of this astronomical experience. (In the Philippines, the last one happened during May 5, 2004)

Enjoy! 🙂

June 15 Total Lunar Eclipse

It will be visible completely over Africa, and Central Asia, visible rising over South America, western Africa, and Europe, and setting over eastern Asia. In western Asia, Australia and the Philippines, the lunar eclipse will be visible just before sunrise on June 16. (View NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

June 15, 2011 Eclipse Chart: The moon passes right to left through the Earth's shadow.

View the eclipse animation

Below are the complete eclipse circumstances as well as predicted times of each eclipse phase (in PHT or UT+8) computed by Fred Espenak of NASA. Altitude and azimuth approximations were provided by the Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP).
Moon Enters Penumbra 01:24:27am 45 deg 212 deg S
Moon Enters Umbra 02:22:57am 37 deg 225 deg S
Moon Enters Totality 03:22:29am 26 deg 234 deg SW
Maximum Totality 04:13:44am 16 deg 240 deg SW
Moon Exits Totality 05:02:42am 06 deg 244 deg SW
Moonset 05:30:00am 00 deg 246 deg SW
Moon Exits Umbra (not visible) 06:02:14am ———- ———–
Moon Exits Penumbra (not visible) 07:00:41am ———- ———–
*The indicated times above are on June 16.
*Sunrise is at 05:26 AM.

According to the ALP, “this eclipse is particularly special because the Moon passes almost exactly in front of the center of the Earth’s shadow during totality phase thus giving us local viewers in the Philippines a long totality time of around 100 minutes” (1 hr 40 mins) .

The Moon will be located in the constellation Ophiuchus during this eclipse. Click to enlarge image.


December 10 Total Lunar Eclipse

This eclipse will be visible from all of Asia and Australia, seen as rising over eastern Europe, and setting over northwest North America. (View NASA Eclipse Information)

December 10, 2011 Eclipse Chart: The moon passes right to left through the Earth's shadow.

Contact Times : (All in PHT= UT +8)

Moon Enters Penumbra 19:33:36 31 deg 72 deg
Moon Enters Umbra 20:45:43 59 deg 72 deg
Moon Enters Totality 22:06:16 64 deg 67 deg
Maximum Totality 22:31:49 69 deg 63 deg
Moon Exits Totality 22:57:24 75 deg 55 deg
Moon Exits Umbra 00:17:58 79 deg 321 deg
Moon Exits Penumbra 01:29:57 65 deg 292 deg
Note: All eclipse stages are visible in the Philippines. 😀

Because I got too excited for this, I created a video simulation of the entire eclipse using Stellarium. The Moon is at the constellation Taurus during this event.

lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes behind the earth so that the earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, there is always a full moon the night of a lunar eclipse.

Unlike observing solar eclipses wherein you need adequate eye protection, lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye. 🙂



Go Beyond the Hour – Earth Hour 2011

At 8.30pm on Saturday 26 March 2011, Earth Hour will celebrate a worldwide commitment to ongoing change for the betterment of the one thing that unites us all – the planet.

Your journey can start here by signing up and adding your voice to the hundreds of millions across the globe who have already spoken with their actions.

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.


In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.

On Saturday 27 March, Earth Hour 2010 became the biggest Earth Hour ever. A record 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action.

This Earth Hour 2011, we are all encouraged to go beyond the hour, so after the lights go back on think about what else you can do to make a difference.

Check out the inspiring Earth Hour 2011 video below to see what the planet’s voice looks like.

For more information, please visit http://earthhour.org/.

Remember, together our actions add up. 😀


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To my fellow Filipinos, let’s join the campaign! Check out Earth Hour Pilipinas.

Waxing Gibbous Moon in the Winter Hexagon


Moon and the Winter Hexagon directly above at 9 PM local time

Tonight’s waxing gibbous moon resides inside the Winter Circle – an incredibly large star configuration made of six brilliant winter stars.  Be sure to notice the variety in the colors of these stars.

The Winter Circle – sometimes called the Winter Hexagon – is not one of the 88 recognized constellations. Rather, it’s an asterism – a pattern of stars that’s fairly easy to recognize. Our sky chart cannot adequately convey the Winter Circle’s humongous size! It dwarfs the constellation Orion the Hunter, which is a rather large constellation, occupying the southwestern part of the Winter Circle pattern.

Clear skies!


reference: EarthSky.org

Moon in the Predawn Sky this Week (Jan. 28 – Feb. 1)

Last Jan. 25, Saturn, Spica and the Moon formed a beautiful triangular celestial grouping. During the following days, early risers can watch the waning crescent Moon pass bright Venus, with Antares and Scorpius looking on. Check southeastern sky a few hours before sunrise.

Location of the Moon in the predawn sky for the next few days:

Jan. 29 — Moon is near the red star Antares in the constellation Scorpius
Jan. 30 — Venus and Crescent Moon are almost 5 degrees apart
Jan. 31 — Moon will be located just above the “Teapot” asterism in Sagittarius
Feb. 1 — Moon and Mercury will be less than 10 degrees from each other

This is a good opportunity to spot these celestial objects because of their proximity with one another and because of their perfect location within the prominent constellations. Clear skies! 🙂


Reference: Stellarium Planetarium Software

Moon and the Winter Constellations

Tonight’s sky (January 17, 2011) —- Find the waxing gibbous Moon (96% illuminated) surrounded by the stars of the bright Winter Constellations (Auriga, Taurus, Orion, Canis Minor, Canis Major, and Gemini). This beautiful celestial view will climb up to the zenith at around 10 PM local time.

Image: Stellarium (You may download this free planetarium software here.)

Clear skies!

Moon and Jupiter – January 10, 2011

9:26 PM (PHT)

9:10 PM

Jupiter and the waxing crescent Moon, separated by just 10 degrees last January 10, 2011.

Despite the thick cloud cover over our place, I was lucky to get these two shots before both objects set:P

Photos taken using my point-and-shoot Kodak C813 8.0 MP Digital Camera.


2011 Skywatching Highlights

2011 promises to be a  great year for astronomy enthusiasts as it was filled with several upcoming spectacular lunar and solar eclipses, beautiful planetary conjunctions, celestial groupings and of course, annual meteor showers.

What excites me most about this year is that all of Asia including the Philippines —  where I live — will be able to see all of the eclipse phases of a Total Lunar Eclipse on December 10, 2011, including a “Reddish Moon” during the peak stage. 🙂 Such is truly a rare event to witness, but how rare is that? Well, according to what I found during my online research, I think the last total lunar eclipse that was visible from the Philippines occurred during the 1980s. I wasn’t even alive then.

Anyway, below is a list of astronomical events for this year (arranged according to date) to serve as a guide on your skygazing and give you a preview on your 2011 cosmic journey.

January 3 – 4 Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on January 3 & 4, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.
January 4 Partial Solar Eclipse The partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of northern Africa, Europe, and Asia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
January 10 Crescent Moon and Jupiter approximately 10 degrees apart.
March 20 Equinox The March Equinox occurs at 23:21 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.
April 3 Saturn at Opposition
April 22 -23 Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. This year, the gibbous moon will hide most of the fainter meteors in its glare. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight, and be sure to find a dark viewing location far from city lights.
May 5 – 6 Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids are a light shower, usually producing about 10 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on May 5 & 6, however viewing should be good on any morning from May 4 – 7. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight.
March 15 Mars-Jupiter Conjunction Like two ships passing in the twilight, Mercury and Jupiter come within 2 degrees of each other this evening. For comparison, your fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of arc in the night sky.Jupiter will be heading toward the sun, while Mercury is moving away from the sun during this time. Immediately after sunset, concentrate on that part of the sky just above and to the left of where the sun has just set. Using binoculars, sweep around this part of the sky to see bright Jupiter sitting just below and to the left of the harder-to-spot Mercury.
May 11 (all month long) Four of the five naked-eye planets will crowd together into what could be described as a Great Celestial Summit Meeting.Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter are contained within a 10-degree span on May 1, shrinking to a minimum of less than 6 degrees on May 12, then opening back up to 10 degrees on May 20.Twice during May, three planets close to within nearly 2 degrees of each other: Mercury-Venus-Jupiter (on May 11-12) and Mercury-Venus-Mars (May 21).  And the crescent moon joins the array on May 1 and again on May 30-31.
June 1 Partial Solar Eclipse The partial eclipse will be visible in most parts eastern Asia, Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
June 15 Total Lunar Eclipse The eclipse will be visible throughout most of South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.(NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
June 21June 23- 27 June SolsticeOccurs at 17:16 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the southern hemisphere.Pluto+Charon+Hydra occultation by 2 bright starsRead more …Link 1Link 2, Link 3
July 1 Partial Solar EclipseThis partial eclipse will only be visible off the coast of Antarctica. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
July 28 -29 Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower The Delta Aquarids can produce about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on July 28 & 29, but some meteors can also be seen from July 18 – August 18. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. This year the thin, crescent moon will be hanging around for the show, but it shouldn’t cause too many problems. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight from a dark location.
August 12 -13 Perseid Meteor Shower The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on August 13 & 14, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 – August 22. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. Look to the northeast after midnight.
August 22 Neptune at Opposition The blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view Neptune, although it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
September 23 Equinox The September equinox occurs at 09:05 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.
September 25 Uranus at Opposition The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view Uranus, although it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
October 8 Draconid Meteor Shower Many meteor experts are predicting a good chance that an outburst of up to many hundreds of Draconid meteors will take place. Unfortunately, like the Perseids, a bright moon could severely hamper visibility.  The peak of the display is due sometime between 16h and 21h UT, meaning that the best chances of seeing any enhanced activity from these very slow-moving meteors would be from Eastern Europe and Asia.
November 10 Mars and bright star A colorful conjunction takes place high in the predawn sky between the yellow-orange Mars and the bluish-white star Regulus in Leo, the Lion.  They are separated by 1.3 degrees, but they’ll be within 2 degrees of each other for five days and within 5 degrees of each other for nearly three weeks, so they will be a rather long-enduring feature of the mid-autumn morning sky.
October 21-22 Orionids Meteor Shower The Orionids is an average shower producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. This shower usually peaks on the 21st, but it is highly irregular. A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 – 24, and some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 – 25. Best viewing will be to the east after midnight.
October 29 Jupiter at Opposition The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons.
November 17 -18 Leonids Meteor Shower The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower itself has a cyclic peak year every 33 years where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17 & 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 – 20. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight.
November 25 Partial Solar Eclipse This partial eclipse will only be visible over Antarctica and parts of South Africa and Tasmania. (NASA Map and Eclipse InformationNASA Eclipse Animation)
December 10 Total Lunar Eclipse The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Europe, eastern Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the North America. ((NASA Eclipse Information)
December 13 – 14 Geminids Meteor Shower Considered by many to be the best meteor shower in the heavens, the Geminids are known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak. The peak of the shower usually occurs around December 13 & 14, although some meteors should be visible from December 6 – 19. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Gemini. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight.
December 21 December Solstice The December solstice occurs 05:30 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the southern hemisphere.

Clear skies and happy skygazing! 🙂



SPACE.com — Solar Eclipse and Meteor Shower to Launch 2011 Skywatching Season

AstronomyOnline.org — Dates for conjunctions, eclipses, meteor showers and transits

Astronomical Almanac Online

Mercury and Venus

Another great opportunity to image the naked-eye planets, Venus and Mercury in the Eastern sky during predawn hours of the next few days. Both will be located close to red star, Antares of Scorpius.

Clear skies! 🙂

Wave at the International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) has been orbiting the Earth over 15 times a day for more than ten years. Although it is about 390 km high, we can still see it from the Earth, thanks to the Sun reflecting off the solar arrays. There are various ways you can work out when it will be possible to see it from where you are, including Heavens AboveTwisstNASAESAand Over Twitter. You might also check your local weather forecast. The ISS is bright, but not bright enough to be seen through the clouds!

ISS Wave is a round-the-world wave to the humans aboard the International Space Station (ISS) by their fellow humans on the Earth to express human solidarity during the holidays. It was choreographed by a grassroots Twitter campaign (@ISSwave).

To learn more about this campaign, you may visit its website.

Last December 22, 2010, I saw the ISS pass close to Jupiter at around 6:00 PM (10:00 UT) over Marikina City. I came from the southwest and was almost as bright as Jupiter. Unfortunately, I was not able to take an image of that stunning event which is sad because as I checked earlier while writing this blog there will be no ISS pass in our area in the Philippines until February.

Anyway, here are some images of the recent ISS flyby taken from the other part of the globe, courtesy of Tavi Greiner. You can also visit her astronomy website, A Sky Full of Stars to see her other nice images.


Thank you again to Tavi for allowing me to use these two beautiful captures of the ISS and for telling me about the ISS wave campaign. 🙂

Clear skies to all!

Moon and Predawn Planets on Dec. 30 – 31

The final mornings of 2010 (during Dec. 30 and 31) will feature the waning crescent moon with the planets Mercury, Venus and Saturn in the eastern sky before sunrise.

4:00 AM PST (UT+8) of Dec. 30, 2010 - Moon, Venus (mag.-4.39) and Saturn (mag. 1.21) | Manila, Philippines | Click image to enlarge.

Depending on where you live worldwide, Venus and the moon will rise above the eastern horizon some 3 to 4 hours before sunrise, to light up the wee morning hours until daybreak. For Philippine observers, the screenshot from Stellarium above shows that the Moon – Venus separation is ~20 degrees on December 30, 2010. During this time, the moon will also be ~20 degrees below Saturn. The bright stars Spica in Virgo and Arcturus in Bootes could also be found within this celestial grouping.

5:30 AM PST (UT+8) of Dec. 31, 2010 - Moon, Venus (mag. -4.39 ) and Mercury (mag. 0.39) | Manila, Philippines

Venus is very bright and easy to find. If you look at Venus with a telescope before dawn, you’ll see this planet shining as a wide waxing crescent.

By December 31, the moon and Venus will shine nearly side by side with only 10 degrees of angular separation. Also on this date, Mercury which was in evening dusk during early December will now be in the predawn sky, closer to the horizon. In the screenshot above, it was ~8 degrees above the horizon and ~25 degrees away from Venus. December 2010 provides you with the unique opportunity to catch Mercury in both the evening and morning sky in a single month. Using binoculars will help you see this tiny planet.

Clear skies to all! 🙂



Note: The general rule amateur astronomers use is that the width of your fist from top to bottom held at arm’s length equals about 10 degrees. Read more about this here.



reference: EarthSky.org

Skygazing – Dec. 15, 2010

In hopes of observing the Geminids again, I stayed over at a friend and fellow U.P. AstroSoc member’s house which has a roof deck in Marikina City.

As soon as we were at the roof deck, we immediately looked for the constellation Gemini. Even though the eastern sky was partly covered by thin, hazy clouds and the waxing gibbous Moon shone bright in the night, we were still able to find the stars of Gemini along with the stars of neighboring constellations. My friend, Bea who had her Canon 400D DSLR with her, began taking images of the night sky. You may click on the images to see a higher resolution.


Auriga and Gemini at 10:17 PM (PST) Yellow lines indicate the radiant of the Geminid Meteor Shower

Auriga and Perseus at 10:38 PM (PST)

In the northwest, our attention was also caught by the stunning Cassiopeia which was in a slanted “M” position above a dormitory building.


Cassiopeia at 11:05 PM (PST)

We scanned the rest of the sky for several more minutes and found not a single meteor. About half an hour later, we noticed that the cloud cover was getting worse and it was getting too cold outside. As we were starting to pack up and go inside the house, a lunar corona formed around the setting Moon.


Lunar Corona - Dec. 15, 2010

According to Atmospheric Optics site, a corona may be seen when thin clouds partially veil the sun or moon. They are produced by the diffraction of light by tiny cloud droplets or sometimes small ice crystals.

The night sky is really full of surprises. 😀

Clear skies, everyone!