Sunday, October 8, 2017

Philippine Astronomy Portal?

As astronomy in the Philippines is slowly gaining popularity, the bulk of activities still revolves around outreach and telescope viewing activities. I was in college when I first organized these kind of events, and I've been doing this ever since. From an organizers perspective, it isn't uncommon to hear questions like:

“I only knew about this now”
Ba't ngayon lang nagkaganito?
“Can I know when your next event is?”
Open po ba sa public?”

We've all had to deal with them one way or another and we can only do so much to market these events. Because of this some members of the astronomy community have tried to establish a single access portal to learn about these kind of activities.

Philippine astronomy was the first web portal of all astronomy related activities and events for the Philippines. It was maintained by Raymund Ang who was a member of the Astronomical League of the Philippines at that time. Unfortunately, Raymund didn't get much support for the project as not much content was shared from the community. He was also based in Bacolod so most content was gathered from social media.

Philippine Astronomy Directory was a single-page directory for links to various groups and institutions. There is not much information about this site and it hasn't been updated in years.

Philippine Astronomy Forum was originally a yahoo forum group that eventually turned into a Facebook group. It was initiated by James Kevin Ty of the Astronomical League of the Philippines. The forum talks about anything astronomy, and there are lots of content on astrophotography.

Dark Sky Network
Dark Sky Network was a Facebook group designed to share astronomy events to the community for collaborative participation. This was an open-access initiative by Anthony Urbano that allowed members who were available to take part in these setups. The group was eventually removed in Facebook years later when the objectives were not met and the content was filled with members' astro photos rather than events.

Many of us astro-bloggers promote events from different groups. On my part, my postings and listings of Philippine astronomy content was eventually shifted to a tab on this blog as a directory which I maintain to the best of my knowledge.

Filipino Astronomy Community is another Facebook group that discusses astronomy content from the Philippines. It was initiated by Jerome de Leon and contains more of an academic content, as well as opportunities here and abroad.

Astronomy PH is a quarterly e-zine that promotes science communication and collaboration between members of the local astronomy community. This is a project of the GAIA-Open Research and Collaborative Learning Experience. The content is crowd-sourced from the different groups, and news and announcement of past and future events can be found in the finder section. It's most recent initiative is it's twitteraccount where the community can tweet their news/events.

While some of these have been discontinued either due to lack of time or support from the community, content not matching objective, or the over-loading of astro-photos, they are worth mentioning to provide us with insight as to future efforts. Currently there is a discussion between different astronomy groups being initiated by Kashogi Astapan of creating a new web portal for Philippine Astronomy content. I have high hopes for this initiative and wish that past examples can guide this project into a truly collaborative direction where everyone can benefit.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Astronomy PH

Astronomy PH is the very first collaborative e-zine in astronomy for the Philippines. It is a community-based magazine that allows readers, organizations, and institutions to communicate their activities and insights to the rest of the astronomy community and the general public. The e-zine is open-source, non-profit and is non-discriminatory, thus allowing free access to participation and information irregardless of affiliation.

Astronomy PH is a project initiated by the GAIA-Open Research And Collaborative Learning Experiences (ORACLE), and is published quarterly. Submissions can be made at the GAIA-ORACLE Facebook Page or through Deadline of submissions are during the last weeks of February, May, August, and November.

Issues can be downloaded for free at the GAIA Resource Page, or through Facebook.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Are You Doing Now?

There is a question that I have been avoiding recently. Every so often, I find myself being asked “So what are you doing now?” (or any variation thereof like: ‘where are you working?’; ‘are you still teaching?’; ‘what astronomy projects are you doing?’). I’ve been avoiding this question not because of its difficulty nor because I find it embarrassing. I have been avoiding this question because I cannot simply put it in a few words. The thing is, I’m doing all sorts of stuff right now that I usually pause and think which to mention, or in which context I am asked before giving a response.

My Past Work
I studied physics and astronomy in college and graduate school because I used to dream of becoming a research astronomer. Heck, I still do. My first job was as a college instructor at the Department of Earth and Space Sciences of Rizal Technological University. Simultaneously, I also held a contractual position in the department as their Scientific Coordinator and Laboratory/Multimedia Assistant. I also spearheaded the formation of the department’s solar research program. I was also very active in the Astronomical League of the Philippines – being a constant lecturer and present in multiple events. I also worked in the Andromeda Mobile Planetarium which went around the Cordilleras for weeks at a time – limiting my time to take up a teaching load for my college classes. These were the few tasks in which (to borrow the university president’s words) I started to ‘create a name’ for myself in the local astronomy community.

Fast Forward Now
As my work with Andromeda was almost over I had a lot of time in my hands that I decided to focus on a number of my close astronomy students to create an environment for them to continue their training and exposure to different astronomy and astro-related tasks. Professional astronomy work is relatively new in the Philippines so there are limited options for growth. This environment for my students became the Guild for Astronomy Innovation and Advancement which focused areas of their development such as: publication, observation, outreach, instrumentation, and research. GAIA also extends its reach to the public by providing citizen science and collaborative opportunities through its Open Research and Collaborative Learning Experience program (ORACLE). I also devoted my time to the Manila Street Astronomers, as one of its co-founders, and created a linkage for GAIA in MSA for their Observation. The MSA is a non-profit collaborative sidewalk astronomy group who goes around different areas to provide free telescope viewing events. Alongside GAIA and MSA, I am currently the adviser for the Philippine Union of Student Organizations for Astronomy (PUSO for Astronomy; puso is the Filipino word for heart), and just recently the National Coordinator for the Philippines of the Astronomers Without Borders.

These collaborative astronomy work is where I spend most of my free time on. All of these are non-profit – and hence enters the paying job. Outside the astronomy scene I am working in Specializing in Modern Interactive Learning Experience (SMILE Group PH). Smile is a STEM/STEAM education company who provides the STEM methodology of teaching through their different programs and classes. They also hold the franchise for international STEM programs such as Engineering for Kids and Challenge Island. My work in Smile involves teaching and curriculum development – especially in robotics where I am currently the lead faculty of. Of course, my love for astronomy and physics won’t drift away as STEM provides for learning across disciplines. We have different astronomy and physics related concepts from space-based robotics to aerospace engineering. I allocate roughly 80-95% of my earning working as a STEM educator to provide for my astronomy work. And because my paid-job is full-time, I squeeze my astronomy work in during coffee breaks, weekends, rest days, and during the night.

Don’t get me wrong, I also take my STEM work seriously. I know I can opt to further my career path by focusing on my professional development like achieving that elusive Ph.D., but the work I’m doing is of equal importance. I believe that in order to develop the local astronomy community we need to provide opportunities and develop our learning culture. We need to inspire learning and thinking beyond traditional means to create solutions and innovations. I believe we need a culture that provides opportunities for everyone regardless of age, status, background, etc. When we develop the learning culture we empower the community. We create learners who create solutions and seek to develop themselves. It may be idealistic to some, and some people in my field may look down on me, but every journey begins with a simple step.

So… to answer the questions vaguely, “I am currently working to make tomorrow better than yesterday. Would you like to join me?”

Monday, December 26, 2016

Twas the Dawn Before Christmas

Our family was traveling North for this Christmas to visit our relatives and our first stop was in Agoo, La Union - our grandparents' place. The house there was renovated a few years back and my grandmother put into consideration that I was an astronomer and added an astrodeck for my use. As we arrived at around 2 AM I looked up right away, as most astronomy inclined person does, and I saw that the sky was just perfect. Typhoon Niña (Nock-Ten) was underway and I had to take advantage of the sky condition. I immediately rushed up and set my camera to image the sky while the rest of the family went to bed.

I have always enjoyed the night sky from this area. The night sky is dark in this area with a low population density and the West Philippine Sea bordering on the West. The municipality I was in only accounts for 8% of the population in the province. Unfortunately, some unshielded lights have been recently installed in the North-Eastern side (hence my source of illumination in the picture above). Nevertheless, they are still within manageable observing conditions.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Astronomy Publications in the Philippines

This is a listing of digital and print media publications for astronomy in the Philippines.

The Second Coming: 1986 Marks Comet Halley's Second Return This Century
Creator: Edwin Aguirre & Imelda Joson
A 355-page reference book on Halley's comet published by the National Research Council of the Philippines.
Format: printAccess: sale

Astronomy PH
Creator: GAIA - Open Research And Collaborative Learning Experience
A digital media designed to promote scientific communication and collaboration within the local astronomy community and the rest of the general public. It features news/articles from different astronomy and astronomy related groups, institutions and individuals.
Format: digital
Access: open

Creator: Philippine Astronomical Society
Official newsletter of PAS
Format: digital

Philippine Journal of Astronomy
Creator: Astronomical League of the Philippines
Contains manuscripts, general astronomy articles, image submissions, reviews from professional and amateur astronomers, as well as news from the organization.
Format: digital
Access: members only (occasional open access)

Creator: Astronomical League of the Phillipines
Official newsletter of ALP
Format: digital
Access: members only

Balatik: Etnoastronomiya Kalangitan sa kabihasnang Pilipino
Creator: Dr. Dante Ambrosio, PhD., UP Press
A compilation of ethnoastronomy research in the Philippines
Format: print
Access: Sale

A Catalogue of Astronomical Objects as reference for Campus Astronomy
Creator: Dr. Jesus Rodrigo Torres, PhD., RTU Academic Journal
An observing catalogue designed for student use with binoculars or small telescopes.
Format: print
Access: RTU DESS

Creator: RTU Department of Earth and Space Sciences
A compilation of digital media from students, faculty and staff of RTU-DESS.
Format: digital
Access: open

The Armillary
Creator: Armillary, RTU Astronomy Society
Official student publication of RTU AstroSoc.
Format: digital

Astronomical Diary
Creator: PAGASA
Monthly digital diary listing down observing events for the month
Format: digital, webpage only
Access: open

Stars and Galaxies
Creator: Norman Marigza
Astronomy textbook for the college course Astro4: Stars and Galaxies
Format: digital (in full-color and in printer friendly version)
Access: open via RTU BS Astro-Tech batch 2018 students

The Myths
Creator: Damiana L. Eugenio
Philippine Folk Literature Series. A compilation of Philippine lore on Philippine astronomy.
Format: print
Access: UP Press

Abstract Jupiter: An Anthology for the Cause of Aedan Pio
Creator: Literature V.S. Cancer
Astronomy artwork by cancer warrior Aedan Pio Malvar
Format: print
Access: Literature V.S. Cancer or at Prism Gallery

Friday, May 6, 2016

Manila Street Astronomers Schedule

The Manila Street Astronomers is a non-profit outreach astronomy group.
Part of our aim is to foster cooperation and collaboration among the local astronomy community. That is why our members comprise of volunteers from different astronomy organizations and the general public. Be part of our growing group - professional astronomers, amateur astronomers, astronomy and space enthusiasts, stargazers, everyone can take part. No membership fee/monthly dues of any kind required, just a passion to share and promote astronomy and other STEM areas.

Join us in our upcoming events [I shall try to update this post every time we have a new event]:

or learn more about us at our:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Space Robots

It's summer once again and while some kids are going places during their vacation, some are joining summer camps. This summer I was tasked to create a robotics camp for SMILE (Specializing in Modern Interactive Learning Experiences) Group. The Space Race camp, which is a cross between robotics and space sciences, runs for 8 sessions. Here they get to use Lego Mindstorm's EV3 and design and program it as a space rover. They get to understand how robots are used in space exploration as well as understand the features of different space landscapes and phenomena.

In reality robots dominate the space exploration scene. One fundamental reason for this is that space is a harsh environment. It actually costs more for human space exploration than for robotic missions. Humans require life support systems - supply of air, water and food; radiation shielding; temperature control, etc. Also, humans are subject to physical and psychological problems during long periods of space flight and isolation.

Robots in space exist in many forms such as landers, rovers, orbiters, and utility bots. They are designed for specific environments and for specific functions. Here are some of them:

Curiosity Rover
Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover. The task of Curiosity is to study the Martian geology in order to find out whether Mars could have supported Microbial life

Robonaut2 (R2)
A humanoid robot designed to be a helper for astronauts.

Shuttle Remote Manipuator System (SRMS). This robotic arm captures, repairs, and deploys satellite's out into space.

Valkyrie (R5)

NASA's Robonaut 5. This humanoid robot is designed to operate in extreme space environments.