Saturday, December 6, 2008

Astronomy Degree Offered in the Philippines

The first Astronomy program is offered in the Philippines.

Before, Rizal Technological University - Dept. of Astronomy only offered Astronomy as a subject, but now with the development of Astronomy in the Philippines RTU now offers a graduate degree. This is a first in the Philippines.

The degrees available in RTU is a degree leading to the Master of Science in Astronomy and the Bachelor of Science in Astronomy Technology.

The BS Astronomy Technology is a five-year program that covers topics of Astronomy and Engineering. The MS Astronomy was created to prepare future research astronomers and leaders in astronomy education in the country.

Aside from that, as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebration in the Philippines, they are planning to create a "Certificate in Astronomy" via Distance Learning Education (DLE).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Astro-Journal 2

When Heaven Smiles

At the start of of the month of December, many people were surprised at the beautiful display of the night sky. My cellphone started showing messages from my friend saying, "look, the moon and the stars are smiling." I stepped out the house, grabbed the camera and looked for the moon on the western horizon. From what I could remember, I began to assume that the stars were not stars but the planet Jupiter and Venus which have been coloring the early night sky of November. When I finally saw the moon, I was surprised! It really displayed a smiling face.

Looking closely, I was sure that one of the eyes was Jupiter, the other I wasn't sure. I began snapping pictures and was disappointed that I couldn't get a good picture ( how i wished i had a CCD camera ). I went home, and told my friends that they were planets and not stars. After eating dinner, I heard from GMA 7's 24-horas that my assumptions were correct, the eyes of that smiling face was Jupiter and Venus.

A smile from the heavens to welcome the month of December, the season of Christmas. Merry Christmas and clear skies to all!

Image by Greg Morales

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Astro-Journal 01

Physics – Astrophysics – Astronomy

Let’s start by defining these three terms:

Physics – science concerned with the laws that govern the structure of the universe, and the forms of matter and energy.

Astronomy – astronomy is primarily an observational science concerned with the motions, positions, distances, distributions, and physical conditions of celestial objects

Astrophysics – the study of physical properties and composition of celestial objects using the known laws of physics. In the simplest sense, astrophysics is physics + astronomy.
It began with the development of spectroscopy in the 19th century, which allowed astronomers to analyze composition of stars from their light. Astrophysics view the universe as a vast natural laboratory in which they can study matter under conditions of temperature, pressure, and density that are not unattainable on Earth.

I wanted to take astronomy as a major when I get to college, but since astronomy wasn’t offered in schools I knew, I took the closest thing – Physics. I could remember swiftly passing through astronomy topics in our general science in high-school, and not reaching astro topics in our high-school physics. This made me crave for more knowledge on astronomy since I was really interested. I could even remember taking my fourth year classmates to the physics department and encouraging them to take the course with me.

Taking physics as a major, I get introduced to various concepts and topics covered by physics. Most of the topics or fields we cover are actually used in astrophysics and astronomy. Like physics, astronomy covers essentially the same thing, only with focus outside our planet. If you were not really interested, you wouldn’t see the strong connection between physics and astronomy: how optics and radiation are the strongest tools in measuring and observing the celestial, how matter and gravity affect everything, how temperature and luminosity describe to us the nature of stars, how nuclear energy give power to the stars and galaxies, how relativity makes us understand black holes, how particle physics tells us where all the matter in the universe comes from, how practically most of the knowledge we have on astronomy is defined by the laws of physics
As of now, I am an amateur astronomer who is still getting in the hang of knowing the wonders of the night sky. I wasn’t a first-section student in high-school and I’m not that fast with math. But, being a physics major does help me understand the concepts I encounter in my further readings.
How the science of physics and astronomy is intertwined really fascinates me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Philippines Officially Participates in the International Year of Astronomy

On September 29, 2008, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Proclamation 1630 declaring that the Philippines will officially take part in the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

A copy of the declaration can be found here:

The official copy of the proclamation can be retrieved here:

According to the proclamation, the following are in charge of the Philippine celebration:
*UP College of Science
*UP Training Center for Applied Geodesy and Photogrammetry
*Rizal Technological University

Other scientific organizations and astronomical societies are encouraged to participate by organizing activities, such as lectures and telescope viewing, for the year-long event.

Monday, October 6, 2008

World Space Week

October 4 to 10 is the celebration of the World Space Week. The World Space Week is an annual global space celebration coordinated by the Spaceweek International Association.
The World Space Week was declared in 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly. The event celebrates the contribution of space science and technology to improve our lives. It also marks the anniversary of two milestones in space exploration: Sputnik I(1st artificial Satellite) and the entry into force of the Treaty Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

NASA goes 50

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is celebrating their 50 years of discovery and innovation. NASA officialy goes 50 year on October 1 but they began their grand celebrations on Sep 24 at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Interactive features to celebrate NASA's 50 years are in the NASA website, such as virtual tours, galleries and exhibits.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In memory of Pluto

We all now that Pluto has recently been demoted from being a planet to being a dwarf planet. So now we have Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. For the dwarf planets however, we have the 2003UB313(later renamed Erin), Ceres(the asteroid), Pluto and some recently discovered bodies.

Pluto however was given recognition by giving dwarf planets from Pluto and onwards, a classification called PLUTOID. So all the dwarf planets excluding Ceres is now called a PLUTOID.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Partial Lunar Eclipse

2008's Last Eclipse would be visible to the Philippines on August 17.
The eclipse will begin at 2:23 AM and end on 11:57 AM, Philippine Standard Time. The eclipse would be face to watch without any protective eye filters. Binoculars and telescopes will come in handy. Clear skies and goodluck!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Choosing a Telescope

If you are off to buy your first telescope, here are some reminders as to your choice of telescopes:

1. Always take a look at the power, image brightness and portability against the cost.

2. A common misconception is with magnification. This is not the most important specification, so do not use this as basis.
Interchangeable eyepieces are a solution to variety in magnification.

3. The most important specification of telescopes is the aperture (the diameter of the main lens/mirror).
The aperture is usually written in mm (the larger the aperture, the brighter and sharper the images).

4. For beginners, look for a telescope with an altazimuth mount.
A variation to this is the Dobsonian mount which is easy to use.
But if you plan to buy a motorized telescope, these telescopes use the equatorial mount.

5. Plastic is a negative thing. It’s preferable to have metal or wooden construction.

6. Look at the quality of the finder aid. A finder aid is helpful in looking for variety of objects in the sky.
Poor finder aids make it hard to point at objects.
There are new finders called reflex finder which uses a red LED at your target.

7. Think of your storage area and where you plan to use your telescope. Large and bulky telescopes would most likely be kept in one are alone. Lighter and smaller telescopes are easier to bring around.

8. Check the mount for sturdiness. It helps to check this before making a purchase.

9. Try out other telescopes. It is best to be familiar with the different kinds of telescopes and how to use them so that you would find out what is best for you. Joining amateur astronomy groups during stargazing events can allow you to get a look at other telescopes.

No matter how big your telescope is, you won't be able to see nebulae and galaxies in full color as depicted in long-exposure and computer-enhanced photographs.
Although a telescope will show you more, the eye is not sensitive enough to see the colors.
Also, you cannot see flags and footprints on the moon.
No Earth based telescope is powerful enough to do such.

Beginner's Choice: 6 inch (150mm) - 8 inch (200mm) reflector with Dobsonian mount.

For a variety of telescope choices visit:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stargazer Tricks

Here are some neat stargazing tricks that you can try out:

1. Use RED light. -> red light has lesser strain on your eyes so it is the best color of light you can use to preserve your night vision. Also, most sky maps are designed to be easilly viewed under a red light.

2. Know where you are by finding the north star. -> The north star, polaris can tell you how many degrees you are from the equator. How? Look for Polaris (tail of the little dipper), then determine its angular distance (vertical distance from horizon measured in degrees). The angular distance is the same with your distance in the globe.

3. Recycle to make a quadrant. -> To measure angular distance, an easy tool to use and make is a quadrant. if you buy plastic protractors they usually get broken. Take the broken protractor and take a quarter circle. You can attach this to a piece of cardboard also cut to a quarter circle. Punch a hole in the focus and suspend a weight from the hole. When you view the horizon, look along the 90 deg. line, the weight will fall on the 0 deg. mark giving the 0 deg. angular distance. as you look up the weight slides down giving you the rising angular measurement.

4. Reach for the skies. -> astronomers use arc length to estimate the length of a celestial object. Extend your fist to the sky at arms length. At this distance, your fist length is equal to 10 degrees arc.

Want to share your tricks? email or comment in this blog.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

International Year of Astronomy

This coming 2009 is the international year of astronomy. It was declared by the IAU (International Astronomical Union) for this year since it marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's observation of the sky with a telescope.

If you could recall, the telescope was invented by a dutch lens maker. It was developed by Galileo and used to observe the sky. This is the first time a telescope was used for astronomy; and now is considered one of the most important tools of astronomy.

Official site for the Philippines:
Pandaigdigang Taon ng Astronomiya
Philippine National Node

Astronomy Groups

Here are some astronomy groups in the Philippines recognized by Astronomy magazine:
(click the link to go to for more info on these groups)

Astronomical League of the Philippines
Frequency: Monthly
Categories: Clubs/Astronomical societies
Astronomical Organization of the Philippines, Inc.
Location: Philippines
Categories: Clubs/Astronomical societies, National/International organizations
MSU-IIT Astronomical Society
Frequency: Weekly
Categories: Clubs/Astronomical societies, National/International organizations
Philippine Astronomical Society
Frequency: Monthly
Categories: National/International organizations
Philippine Astronomy
Frequency: Monthly
Categories: National/International organizations
Pyxis Astronomy Educational Services
Frequency: Monthly
Categories: Clubs/Astronomical societies
University of the Philippines Astronomical Society
Frequency: Weekly
Categories: Clubs/Astronomical societies
UP Astronomical Society
Categories: Clubs/Astronomical societies

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Black Holes Bring Filipina An Award

"Astronomy and Astrophysics are rich and exciting fields that offer plenty of opportunities for young scientists to contribute. Master the basics, keep up with the latest discoveries, don't stop asking questions and finding the answers,"
-Reinabelle Reyes

Reinabelle Reyes, a 24-year-old astrophysicist, was given the "Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award" at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January. She was given the award in line with her major role in the discovery of the largest number of "super massive" black holes in the center of galaxies, hidden by obscured quasars.

Reyes is a DOST scholar who graduated valedictorian from the Philippine Science High School in 2001, and 4 years later graduated in Ateneo de Manila, as summa cum laude with a Physics degree. She then took her masterals in Particle physics at the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. Reyes is now a candidate for Ph.D in astrophysics, at the Princeton University in New Jersey.

Her 1st task at Princeton was to "figure out" how rare these black holes were. This is quite a difficult task since blackholes are considered invisible. She, in fact, described the project as looking for a needle in a haystack.

She was assigned to a group headed by Nadia Zakamska, a long-term postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, and under the supervision of "quasar hunter" professor Michael Strauss. The group found 900 black holes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


There is a new way to access NASA pages and keep track of what you wish to view. NASA has a personal user account called mynasa. You can access the page by typing

MYNASA allows you different features to make your research of space related articles easier. And, the links from the home page are credible, so you don't have to go checking around in all the different sites to check if the posted information is wrong.

Your default account would contain a NASA calendar (with current events), a panel where you can save NASA videos, a panel where you can view bookmarked news, and panels that update you with different news such as the solar system, planet earth, and technology.

The mynasa account is simple and it does not require any personal info since you wouldn't be allowed to post items. I've been using it for researching articles from NASA. Try it. ^_^

Stargazers blog

Welcome to the Stargazers blog. Here we can have more interactive communication and discussions with regards to astronomy. I hope that you would be able to contribute to the blog. Thanks guys and happy star gazing.