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

Posts tagged “skywatching

The Perigee Moon or Supermoon of 2012

We were about to go to the hospital a while ago when I caught a glimpse of the rising waning gibbous moon (almost full) across the road. Luckily I always have my point-and-shoot camera with me and I was able to take an image. It’s quite a challenge because a lot of vehicles were running on the road. Haha!

Anyway, I hope it won’t rain tomorrow night so that everyone of us could witness this year’s perigee moon or Supermoon 🙂 It’s the biggest and closest full moon of the year.

According to NASA, “it will be as much as 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons of 2012”.

Moon closest: May 6 at 11:29 am PHT
Full moon: May 6 at 11:35 am PHT

Clear skies!

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.

May 2011’s Milk Moon

It was cloudy throughout the week of the full moon last month. But that didn’t stop me and my friend Bea Banzuela, from taking images of our nearest neighbor in space during its full phase.

The following were taken last May 16 and 17, 2011 using Panasonic Lumix Digital Camera.

A view of the rising Moon from the roof deck of Bea's house in Marikina City

Blobs of Light 🙂

Luna against the cloudy sky. Image taken at UP Diliman

This June, the Rose Moon will timingly transform into a deep red-colored full moon (just like a rose!)  during totality of the Total Lunar Eclipse on the 15th (or 16th depending on what part of the globe you live in). It will definitely be an exceptional sight so be sure that you won’t miss it. 🙂

Ad Luna!

Observing the Largest Full Moon of 2011 with UP AstroSoc

Come and join UP Astronomical Society (UP Astrosoc) in witnessing this year’s Supermoon 🙂

poster by Francis Bugaoan, Observation and Instrumentation Cluster member (UP AstroSoc)

In the Philippines, Full Moon will occur at 2:10 AM (PHT) on March 20, 2011.

From www.popsci.com

On March 19th, the moon will be closer to Earth than it’s been since 1992. This day marks this year’s lunar perigee, the point in the moon’s orbit at which it is closest to Earth. The full moon that night will appear about 14 percent larger and significantly brighter than usual, but despite the brightness, the supermoon has a dark side. Supermoons have been linked to massive natural disasters in the past, from earthquakes to floods–but that connection is typically touted by astrologists. Astronomers and scientists, with typical drollness, say a catastrophe is unlikely.

It’s the moon’s elliptical orbit that’s responsible for the differences in distance between the moon and Earth (the opposite, the point at which the moon is farthest from the Earth, is called the lunar apogee).

Apogee/Perigee Credit: Anthony Ayiomamitis

Clear skies to all! 🙂

On March 19th, the moon will be closer to Earth than it’s been since 1992. The full moon that night will appear about 14 percent larger and significantly brighter than usual, but despite the brightness, the supermoon has a dark side. Supermoons have been linked to massive natural disasters in the past, from earthquakes to floods–but that connection is typically touted by astrologists. Astronomers and scientists, with typical drollness, say a catastrophe is unlikely.

Skywatching Highlights: March 2011

March is filled with several exciting conjunctions, lunar occultations, planetary displays and other celestial events which will take place alongside with some big astronomy-related projects geared toward promoting the appreciation of the night sky to many people globally.

March Event Time Notes
5 New Moon 04:45 AM
6 Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth) 04:00 PM
7 Final close pairing of Jupiter and the moon for 2011
10 Moon shines near the Pleiades star cluster
11 Moon near star Aldebaran
12 Moon in between Capella and Betelgeuse
12 Juno at Opposition 6:00 PM
13 Moon shines in front of Winter Hexagon
13-18 Close pairing of Mercury and Jupiter dusk These appear low in western horizon
13 First Quarter Moon 07:45 AM
15 Gamma Normids Active from Feb 25 – Mar 22. ZHR 6
16 Minimum separation Mercury Jupiter dusk Mercury 2° to the left of Jupiter
16 Mercury 2° North of the Moon 01:00 AM
17 Lunar occultation of omicron Leonis Start: 6:20 PM End: 07:10 PM
17 Moon and Regulus are less than 10 degrees apart
19 Sun-Earth Day
20 Full Moon 02:10 AM This will also be the largest full moon of the year because it will be near perigee, its closest point to the Earth.
21 Vernal Equinox 07:20 AM

6th worldwide GLOBE at Night 2011 campaign

March 22 -April 4 for the Northern Hemisphere

23 Moon near red star Antares before dawn
23 Mercury greatest elongation East(19°) 09:00 AM
26 Last Quarter Moon 08:10 PM
26 Earth Hour 2011 8:30 PM
31 Venus 6° South of the Moon 09:00 PM

Note: Dates and sky displays are based on Philippine settings. Philippine Standard Time (PST) = UT + 8


Astronomy Terms:

Occultation – An event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer.

Opposition – When two celestial bodies are on opposite sides of the sky when viewed from a particular place (usually the Earth).

  • it is visible almost all night, rising around sunset, culminating around midnight and setting around sunrise;
  • at this point of its orbit it is roughly[1] closest to the Earth, making it appear bigger and brighter.
  • the half of the planet visible from Earth is then completely illuminated (“full planet”)
  • the opposition effect increases the reflected light from bodies with unobscured rough surfaces
Greatest  (Eastern) Elongation When an inferior planet is visible after sunset, it is near its greatest eastern elongation. A planet’s elongation is the angle between the Sun and the planet, as viewed from Earth
Vernal Equinox 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




  1. EarthSky.org
  2. PAGASA Astronomical Diary — March 2011
  3. Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 (by PAS)
  4. SeaSky.org
  5. Wikipedia Encyclopedia

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

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 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

My Galileoscope, At Last!

Yey! 😀

After several months of waiting, I finallly got my IYA 2009 Galileoscope which I ordered from the Galileoscope website. I’m soo happy!

The parcel with its contents

There were some shipping problems, and it took longer than expected (they arrived about a month ago but I’ve been too busy to write up this post). Before anything else, I would like to thank the following for their  enormous help.

Mr. Rick Fienberg, Galileoscope team member, for being kind enough to send me regular updates regarding the status of my order;

Ms. Amy Pekar, for taking charge of resending my order 😛 (They had to resend it 3x because the first 2 got lost somewhere and didn’t reach me.)

Nicole Obidos, for driving us to the Marikina Post Office  🙂  *clap clap*

The Marikina Post Office, for giving me 50% discount on the tax i have to pay for the parcel;

and to Andre Obidos, for serving as another recipient and helping me assemble the Galileoscope 🙂

The Galileoscope is a ‘cornerstone project’ of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA). It is a high-quality, inexpensive telescope kit designed by a team of folks who wanted to make the night sky available to as wide an audience as possible, especially young people.

Peeking through a Galileoscope is like seeing the celestial wonders that Galileo first glimpsed 400 years ago, which still delight stargazers today, including lunar mountains and craters, Jupiter’s moons, the phases of Venus, Saturn’s rings and countless stars and deep-sky objects invisible to the naked eye. It incorporates features such as achromatic optics, stray-light rejection and a 1.25-inch focuser normally found only on more expensive telescopes.

It comes packed pretty well, and all the pieces were there. The 50-mm f/10 objective lens is an achromat made from two types of glass, and the 20-mm (25x) eyepiece employs two achromats — a total of four lenses — made from two types of plastic (this four-element configuration is similar to that of the popular Plössl eyepiece, a high-quality design rarely seen on any telescope eyepiece). The plastic in the tube is solid and fits together pretty well. However, I will say that the instructions are not terribly clear; I had to download the additional pictorial instructions from the website in order to better understand the whole assembly procedure.

Assembly took about twenty minutes. When it was done, I mounted it on a sturdy camera tripod that was available then.

Andre tried to focus the Galileoscope on a nearby light post

I first looked on the bright planet Venus which I saw in its crescent phase.

An hour later after sunset, we point it on the waning gibbous moon and then to Jupiter. Through low power the planet is easily resolved as a disk, with its four largest moons. I could even just barely make out two or three of the cloud stripes on Jupiter.


My first lunar image through a Galileoscope! Wish I could learn how to attach a Philips ToUCam to it soon, without buying an expensive camera adapter. 😀 Haha!

(Photo details: Kodak EasyShare C813 6mm focal length F/2.7 lens aperture at ISO 80. Taken using afocal method. Second image was processed in Registax)

The higher-power eyepiece was almost impossible to use, which I actually expected — it’s hard enough in much more expensive telescopes. Higher power means smaller field of view, so finding objects is tough. Focusing is hard as well, since the target is hard to keep centered given that telescope has no adjustment knobs for easier navigation. Perhaps it would be better to find the best focus with both eyepieces and then mark the slider tubes with a white or silver marker that you can be seen in the dark. That way, one can pre-focus.

Another friend pointed the Galileoscope into Jupiter

All in all the Galileoscope is a good piece of equipment. It’s not that hard to assemble, and if you have a tripod and some measure of patience it will allow you view large bright objects. You won’t go galaxy hopping with it, and the inverted view makes bird-spotting hard too. But it serves the purpose it was designed to do: get astronomy in the hands of people everywhere for a very low price. 😀

* * * *

View full optical specification here.

Telescope Review

First lunar image through a GalileoscopeKodak EasyShare C813 6mm focal length, F/2.7 lens aperture, ISO 80
Taken using afocal method

Second image was processed in Registax v.5.1