Sunday, December 5, 2010

Geminids Again! :)

This is the first meteor shower I observed and I'm lucky that it was the best. The Geminids meteor shower has always been very promising. The Junior Philippine Physics society will be organizing a public observation for that event. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. We will be open on the 13th and the 14th.

The annual Geminids meteor shower will reach its peak in the night of the 14th. The meteor shower will radiate (or appear to come from) the constellation Gemini. Normally, you would be able to see around 60 per hour during good sky conditions when Gemini is low, however when it is at the zenith (point directly above you) you will get to see (+=)100 meteors per hour.

Record the beginning and end times of each of your observing periods to the minute. For those enthusiast meteor observer, you can report your observation using the methods and report forms at the International Meteor Organization site,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Astrophotography Online

Orion Nebula
If you want to try astrophotography but have no access to equipment then this post will help you.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics developed a MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network. This allows users online to log on to the use of the telescopes to take an image of a selected celestial body. The MicroObservatory is a network of 5 automated telescopes that can be accessed on-line.

The MicroObservatory is designed to allow students and teachers nationwide to investigate the wonders of the deep sky from their classrooms. The project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (RED 9454767), with additional in-kind contributions from Eastman Kodak Company and Apple Computer.

Those who log on are responsible for taking their own images. This means focusing the telescope, selecting exposure times, filters, and other parameter. This helps the users get a feel of familiarity with the use of the telescopes. MicroObservatory has a wide range of targets including solar system objects, stars and nebulae, and also galaxies and deep-sky objects.

Images then can be edited by the user using a program that can be downloaded from the sight, or via other photo editing software.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Last night, on my way home from the midweek service, a power line popped taking out all the lights in the area. It was relatively dark and I looked up to see the stars. I looked at Pastor Ditz recalling that I owe a stargazing session with her dormers at the Davao cottage. I told her "walang ilaw, sakto pang stargazing." She agreed excitedly telling her dormers that we will have a stargazing session at our house. At home I clamored blindly for my telescope in the dark. I rushed to set-up my scope outside with only a candle to light up my set-up. Eventually I was able to put it up and set it directly to Jupiter. I gave them a brief introduction of the telescope and Galileo's first look at Jupiter. They were naturally curious of what they saw.

The lights came back on and clouds started to cover the fainter stars, I wasn't able to show them more also because of the obstruction of trees in the area. Anyways, I promised them that I would take them to the department's astrodeck during the coming meteor shower.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Share the Stars

One of the good Christian traits is sharing. In science, "the process of discovery is not complete until results can be shared with others" (Keck Observatory).

Last October 14-16, I attended a youth retreat of our church. As part of the organizers, I decided to add stargazing to our list of activities. I brought my telescope along since most of the youth have already expressed an enthusiasm for stargazing. Some have even made it a point to text me whenever a bright star appears in the night sky. I was able to show them the moon, Jupiter, the Pleiades (seven sisters). I wasn't able to show more due to obstructing clouds and a fever.

I have shared my love for astronomy to my church friends and they have shared the enthusiasm with others. I recall even in one of the stargazing sessions of the physics department that one of them came back 3 times, each time bringing someone new.

Sharing astronomy to the world is fun. You get to make people wonder what else is out there. When people wonder then they become more interested. It's a wonderful way to promote astronomy. I recall, before, during the IYA that there were even those who were 'dinumog ng street children' during one of their side walk telescoping events. The science of astronomy is loved by all, not only the academically inclined but also by common folk. You'll be amazed at the individuals who get caught up in the sharing of astronomy.

The other night, I was at Mabinay attending a Church workers assembly, I was reading a fully illustrated book entitled Smithsonian's Intimate Guide to the Cosmos. A pastor who was sitting beside me wanted to take a look. I've only began to read that book but he was already asking questions about all the pictures. We discussed Mars rovers, landscape of Venus, black holes, the giant impactor theory, solar sails, etc.

Astronomy is fascinating!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


It's good to finally sit down and write here again :)

Well, this post is about a telescope I call Alpha. I'm surprised I wasn't able to write anything about it yet. I purchased the scope from Allen Yu using my prize money from the IYA 2009 National Olympiad.

My scope is a Skywatcher Explorer 150PL telescope (Black Diamond). Although I don't have the equatorial mount, I still have the mount built by Allen.

I have used this scope in the physics department's stargazing, and am very pleased with the results. I'm beginning to favor this scope over the departments C8 that I usually operate.

Over the past two months, I wasn't able to use it. I was only able to use it on Tuesday, and was I lucky.. I was able to use it on Jupiter (for the first time) and also on the elusive comet 103P/Hartley.

A lunar image taken via the Explorer 150PL via afocal method

First Look - astronomy enthusiast Princess Rabino gets her first look at Alpha

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Brightest Comet of 2010 Coming Our Way

Comet 103P or most commonly known as Comet Hartley will make its nearest approach  this October. It will be the brightest comet of the year 2010. Comet 103P/Hartley was discovered by Australian astronomer Malcolm Hartley in 1986. The comet has a period of 6.5 years, traveling just outside the orbit of Jupiter to nearly Earth's distance (1 AU) from the Sun. The year 2010 marks its 4th return since it was discovered, and this year is said to be its best so far.

The comet will be visible to the naked eye under a dark sky (around mag 5) as it treks a path along the constellation Cassiopea moving southeast to the constellation Gemini. Use of a binoculars will give a good view of the comet, and telescopes would be able to reveal details. Here is an image of Comet Hartley's trajectory from
The comet can actually be spotted now (Sept) in Cassiopea. On October 9 it will appear in the foreground of the double cluster in Perseus. On October 20 it will be in its closest distance to the Earth and will appear in its maximum brightness, unfortunately the full moon is on Oct 23 meaning the almost full moon will make the comet less conspicuous.

In November, NASA's EPOXI [Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization and the Deep Impact Extended Investigation] mission will fly past the comet and return stunning images of the comet nucleus. NASA approved the retargeting of the EPOXI for a flyby on Oct. 11., after the initial target (Comet Boethin) could not be found.

For more information on the Comet, you can visit:
sky and telescope
national geographic

Comet Hartley 2 on September 6th
Observer Rolando Ligustri remotely photographed 103P/Comet Hartley 2 on September 6th (Universal Time) using a 10-inch f/3.4 Takahashi Epsilon 250 astrographic telescope.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Tomorrow, Saturday will be the International Observe the Moon Night. It is a global event dedicated to honor our efforts in studying and observing the moon. It is inspired by people like us, ordinary people who takes a keen interest in the observance of the night sky.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Building a career path in astronomy

Working with the telescopes of the physics department, I have been able to build up the interest of students to astronomy. Some students even say, “Let’s shift to physics” after seeing what we do with the scopes. Although it is very much interesting, a lot of students are still intimidated by the science and math side of such a course. Most of the time people just don’t really know how to go about in astronomy.

For the Philippines, astronomy is not well known – unfortunately. Also, being in an archipelago affects the flow of information so people outside Manila have lesser chances of knowing about astronomy.

I’ve been interested in astronomy since elementary school that I’ve decided to take astronomy when I get to college. Since there was no BS Astronomy course offered anywhere that I knew I took the next big thing – Physics. In astronomy (professional) you have to have a good background in physics, also you should be good in math or in database programming, so taking physics was a logical step.

Fortunately my professors at Silliman University were enthusiastic about my interest in astronomy (I was even called ‘astroboy’). It took some time though before I decided to have a serious path in astronomy. I began making contacts with people in Manila: Dr. Cynthia Celebre of PAGASA, James Kevin TY of Astronomical League of the Philippines; Erika Valdueza of UP Astrosoc. I also contributed to the Philippine Journal of Astronomy. I took my OJT at PAGASA Dumaguete. It was not till my 3rd year in college that I heard of RTU and its BS Astronomy technology and MS Astronomy programs. Having heard that, I was glad since I wouldn’t have to worry about which school abroad should I look for in going into astronomy.

Later, I joined the IYA 2009 Astronomy Olympiad just to test myself on how far I’ve gotten with astronomy. With no teacher to advice me, I turned to books. Luckily, Silliman has the biggest library so I had a good number of books to assist me. I joined the competition and was surprised that I actually won (books rule! ).

Currently I am working on finishing my undergraduate studies then I plan to go to Mandaluyong and take up MS Astronomy. I continue to keep myself connected with people who are linked to Philippine Astronomy.

I plan to take a career path in research astronomy (hopefully in the Keck observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Annual Meteor Showers

Here's a little something for the meteor watchers:

There are meteor showers that regularly occur in every year. How we know when and where this meteor showers occur is simple. There are streams of debris from comets that pass along the Earth's orbit. This debris are called meteoroids. Now, the Earth ends up almost at the exact position after one revolution. And because the Earth ends up in exactly the same place it reaches the meteoroid stream in almost exactly the same time and the same place in its orbit. When this stream of debris come in contact with the Earth's atmosphere, a meteor shower is produced.

To help you locate meteor showers, they are usually named after their radiant (i.e., Leonids meteor shower can be found in Leo; Delta Aquarids radiate from the delta star of Aquarius).
 Here is a list of the prominent meteor showers (visible to the Philippines). There are other showers aside from this but they have very low ZHRs.

Quadrantids Meteor Shower 
Quadrantids, as you may have noticed, does not resemble any of the 88 constellations. This is because the Quadrans Muralis, in which it is named from, is an obsolete constellation. This is located somewhere along Hercules, Bootes and Draco.
Peak: January 3/4
Active Period: January 1 - 6
ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate, the amount of meteors per hour during the peak): 90

Lyrids Meteor Shower
Originating from the debris of comet Thatcher. This meteor shower originates from the constellation Lyra which rises up in the east at around 11:30.
Peak: April 22
Active Period: April 19 - 24
ZHR: 12

Eta-Aquarids Meteor Shower
This meteor shower radiates from the Eta star of the constellation Aquarius. It's parent comet is the famous Halley's comet.
Peak: May 5/6
Active Period: May 1 - 8
ZHR: 45

Lyrids Meteor Shower (June Lyrids)
Another meteor shower originating from Lyra.
Peak: June 15/16
Active Period: June 10 -21
ZHR: 9 - 10

Delta Aquarids
Radiating from Aquarius' Delta star. It's parent comet is unknown. This shower produces bright yellow meteors.
Peak: July 28/29
Active Period: July 15 - Aug 15
ZHR: 19

This meteor shower produces bright yellowish fire balls. They strike the atmosphere slowly at an average of 15 miles per second.
Active Period: July 29 - 30
ZHR: 15

Perseids Meteor Shower
Originating from the comet Swift-Tuttle
Peak: Aug 12/13
Active Period: Jul 25 - Aug 18
ZHR: 80

Orionids Meteor Shower
Coming from the same meteoroid stream as Eta Aquarids, the Orionids belong to the debris of Halley's comet. Radiating from Orion, the hunter.
Peak: October 21
Active Period: Oct 16 - 26
ZHR: 25

Taurids Meteor Shower (and Leonids)
A fascinating meteor shower that appears as two showers in one. It is a combination of Taurids and Leonids. Comet Encke is the source of this shower and Comet Temple-Tuttle.
Peak: Nov 5 and 17/18
Active Period: Nov 4 - 7 and Nov 15 - 19
ZHR: 8 and 10

Geminids Meteor Shower
The most prominent and the most reliable of the annual meteor showers. This meteor shower comes from debris of the asteroid 3200 Phaeton. This shower creates a multi-colored display of meteors, most bright white, and then yellow, and then blue, red and green.
Peak: Dec 13/14
Active Period: Dec 17 - 15
ZHR: 80

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Last Thursday, April 22, me and some of my friends in the church gathered to witness the Lyrids meteor shower. While waiting for the peak time, we set our eyes on the moon. Luckily we had a decent camera with us. I tinkered about with the settings until I was able to get a clear image of the moon and its craters. :)

here is a picture of my first successful astrophotography shot. I used a Canon Powershot S3 IS.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Night at the Mountain Tops of Valencia

Last night, Mar 29, me and some friends of kuya Moe went up to the mountaintops of Valencia to have a stargazing session. They've been doing it for quite some time, but never really knew how to maximize their stargazing - that's why they hauled me in.

The place had a perfect view of the eastern horizon, overlooking Dumaguete city and the sea. The skies were cloudy though for that night, but that didn't stop us. They had two refracting telescopes that haven't been used effectively. Some of the adjustment screws were missing and the tripod wasn't stable. I brought my binoculars along only to find out it was damaged and my eyepiece fell off.

Anyways, I managed to set up both scopes and targeted the most visible object at that time - the moon. The moon was almost full so the brightness was kinda a pain in the eye. We were able to view the craters of the moon and observe the mares. I also showed them Sirius, Procyon and Mars in the sky, forming like a giant Orion's belt. Later, Saturn came to view and I worked on getting the telescope to focus on it. When I was able to focus on Saturn using a 10mm eyepiece, we were able to see Saturn and its bright rings, as well as two of its moons.

The event would have been better with clear skies, but I'm happy to have pleased and amazed others with the Wonders of the Night Sky! :)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Armed and Ready :)

Last Thursday, me and my 1st year research assistants were preparing for doing my thesis. We had nothing to do for the mean time so we sat down and ate Mr.Chips. Suddenly, we saw Jupiter clear out from the clouds, so we immediately rushed to assemble the department's Celestron 8 (which we call Big Bertha).

When we focused on Jupiter, we were able to notice the Great Red Spot (Whoa!). After Jupiter, we looked around and trailed on to the Orion nebula. I recalled the view of the Trapezium from UP, and wanted to share it to them. Our telescope wasn't able to resolve the image well enough, but still we could distinguish the four baby stars surrounded by a cloud of interstellar gas.

Later that evening, Saturn came out and we all enjoyed looking at its rings (We even forgot about the thesis). Unfortunately, clouds began to cover up our view. So we began doing nothing.

I decided to check on the old telescopes that were in the cabinet (talk about dusty). I looked around for their mounts and found three equatorial mounts, I don't know which mount was for which telescope. Later, I was able to figure out which telescope belonged to which mount. Unfortunately, they were quite rusty and dusty. We set up one of the old telescopes and I thought my assistants how to do tracking.

We were all excited about having all 5 department telescopes functional that my assistants gave the old ones names after big bertha. One was given Berting, the other was called Bertot (i actually called it Milk shake).

Now that all 5 telescopes are ready, we are excited for our next stargazing session! :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

IYA 2009 National Astronomy Olympiad

Last February 18-20, I traveled to Manila to participate in IYA 2009 National Astronomy Olympiad, held at UP NISMED. I represented region seven in the nationals, since I was blessed to win the Regional level in Cebu, last Feb 21. I was blessed further by becoming champion of the olympiad in the national level.

The IYA 2009 National Astronomy Olympiad  was held at the UP NISMED auditorium in UP Diliman, last Feb 19. The categories for the competition were: multiple choice, open ended1 and open ended 2 , and practical/hands-on.

Here are some pics I took from my cellphone since I wasn't able to bring a camera with me:

UP observatory at UP NISMED which housed a 16inch  reflector given by the Japanese.

A picture of me receiving the first-prize.

UP NISMED Auditorium

IYA 2009 National Olympiad banner

Sir Jun giving a lecture on the equatorial mount

sir Bamm and sir Jun

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How Did You Know?

The other night we had a stargazing session where the highlights of the night was the Moon, Jupiter and Mars. When pointing out the planets, a common question that arises from the students is "How did you know?"

Fair enough, there have been those who make wild guesses as to what planet they are actually looking at, so it is just right that a critical thinker might be skeptical.

So how do we KNOW?

It is part of the astronomer's (or amateur astronomer's) job to be familiar with the night sky. Knowing where the planets are during a night comes with the territory. While explaining to the Physics 25 students, I pointed out the line in which the Sun, the Moon and the planets pass. This line is the ecliptic. Along these line extends a band we commonly know as the zodiac.

Now, the stars and the constellations in the zodiac have already been identified, along with their magnitudes. Now if a star is found in this path that doesn't belong to the constellation - that is usually a planet. When the planets are closest to the Earth, they usually shine with bright magnitudes (such as Mars and Jupiter on that night). When this happens, they become easy to identify.

Now, a little something on the planets: You can never see Mercury and Venus during midnight. You usually see Mercury in transit with the Sun, and Venus usually appears as a morning or evening star (during sunrise or during sunset). Now, only three more planets are visible with the naked eye, those are: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The unique red-orange glow of Mars can distinguish it from the other two. Saturn on the other hand, due to distance, does not shine as bright as Jupiter and Mars. The remaining planets, Uranus and Neptune, are telescope object. It means they can only be observed via telescopes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Astro Olympiad Experience

Last Thursday was the schedule for the regional eliminations of region 7 for the IYA 2009 Astronomy Olympiad. I was really excited to join, it was a test of my knowledge.
I left Dumaguete at 3:49 am and got the boaat in Sibulan. UP NISMED announced that I have to be there by 8 for the registration. It was 9 plus already and I'm still stuck in Cebu's traffic. I texted Ms. Jocelyn Canto, the DepEd rep, and she said it's ok, we will wait. I was worried since I didn't know where to find the venue. I arrived and lo and behold, only high-school contestants were there. I was the only college participant.

Anyways, we waited until 10:30 but still no college participants arrived, just the HS. I still took the written exam though.

The funny thing is, there was no categories given, so I ended up jumping from one astronomy textbook to another. I focused on things I didn't know much about, like eclipsing binaries, variable stars, theories of formation of the universe, gravitational micro-lensing an all that just to find out one thing - FOCUS ON THE BASICS.

It's funny because I'm supposed to know these things but because I was too focused on other astronomy topics, I failed to study them. Maybe I was too confident. Anyways, I didn't do too good, learned my lesson. I'm just lucky I'm blessed by God with an opportunity to do better. This time I'll do better!

Monday, January 18, 2010

AstroArt by Norman

Two of my passions are Astronomy and Art. Here are some of my paintings where I merged both astronomy and art: