Thursday, June 16, 2011

Little Red Shinning Moon - An Eclipse Experience

Today was a wonderful experience for me since I was able to observe the first Total Lunar Eclipse of 2011. I was one of the participants in the RED MOON event at the Nido Fortified Science Discovery Center (SDC) in the SM Mall of Asia. The event began with a film showing in the Planetarium at the SDC entitled Passport to the Universe. It was my first time at the SDC and I enjoyed the beautiful planetarium experience. Following the film showing was the lecture discussion by Dr. Armando Lee, the first Philippine produced astronomer and proprietor of the Astrocamp Observatory. Dr. Lee is a contact of mine in Astronomy via the web and it was the first time we met face-to-face. He even recognized me and called me by name which kinda made me feel very fortunate that evening. The lecture discussion covered details of the eclipse, why it happens and what we expect to see. After the lecture we were served pizza and drinks before proceeding to the Astrocamp Observatory in the SM By the Bay (San Miguel Boulevard). The Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP) were already assembling their gear there to do some serious astrophotography. Some of them were contacts and facebook friends who, like Dr. Lee,I was able to meet face-to-face for the very first time. One of them was James Kevin Ty, president of ALP who was also able to recognize me. Also members of the media were there to cover the event; first was Bandila from ABS-CBN, followed by HERO, and then GMA.
I was even given a short interview by HERO, unfortunately I don't have cable to see it. While this was happening in MOA I was also in keeping contact with other observers: Erika Valdueza in Quezon City, and Greg Morales (proffesional photographer) and Nina Abiquibil (BS Physics) in their respective sites in Negros
I was also able to chat with Dr. Lee and his wife about astronomy, observing experiences, astrophotography and the dealings of a observatory such as the Astrocamp. Dr. Lee even allowed me to teach a bit of stargazing tricks to members of the SDC.

Aside from the wonderful RED MOON event, I was also able to purchase Firefly Books' MOONWATCH, a complete starter set for lunar observations. I got it in Booksale for only 40Php right after I got the ticket for the eclipse. Talk about coincidence and good fortune, God is so good! During the night of the REDMOON while waiting for the event to start, my heart's MVP started acting up from the excitement. I'm glad everything turned out alright.

We were able to have good sky conditions of the eclipse except during moonset around 10 degrees from the horizon. It was my first time to observe all the stages including the penumbral stage which is less visible. This isn't my first total lunar eclipse observation but so far this was the best! Like what D. Levy says in his book, don't keep a "been there, done that" attitude in astronomy because each observing experience is unique. Each new observation, especially with a new group, is a new learning experience - Astronomy, I love it!
photo by Greg Morales from Negros

with Dr. Armando Lee, giving my astropainting to him.

Moonwatch set at 40Php

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dr. Dante L. Ambrosio

How often does one's culture reflect in the heavens? How have the stars been witness to the life of those they share their light with?

Dr. Dante L. Ambrosio was one who searched for the answers to such questions by looking into influences of culture in Astronomy here in the Philippines. Dr. Ambrosio was a professor of the Department of History at UP-Diliman. He responded to the appeal of PAGASA to compile local legends about celestial objects for educational purposes during the celebration of the IYA 2009. He presented a study of how the Badjaos in Tawi-tawi used the stars and constellations for daily living. The Badjaos knew the stars by the name Mamahi. They also had different asterisms - informal constellations, named after things they use and see.

It is sad to hear that Dr. Ambrosio passed away last June 4. His work in Ethnoastronomy helps us know how the stars have influenced the different cultures in the Philippines as it has influenced other nations with their myths and legends. I may not have known him personally, but reading about his work in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and having used it in my thesis's review of related literature, has added to my amazement of the night sky.

To Dr. Ambrosio, may you rest in peace and take your place amongst the heavens.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making Your Way to Professional Astronomy in the Philippines

Astronomy is one of the sciences where almost anyone can get fascinated with. There are many who just gaze at the night sky in complete wonder and amazement. Sad to say, astronomy education in the Philippines is not that known. One of the reasons behind this is the disadvantage in the Philippines of the separation of all the islands in the archipelago, which in turn makes it hard for information to go around. As I began taking my steps to professional astronomy I realized that very few people are aware of an astronomy degree here in the Philippines.

Rizal Technological University is a school in Mandaluyong that offers astronomy education. They have three programs - an undergrad degree in BS Astronomy Technology, a grad school Diploma in Astronomy, and a MS Astronomy. They are the first and only school in the Philippines to offer astronomy (I believe I have a post on this which I will check later). I heard about this via the Astronomical League of the Philippines.

Being in an archipelago, you have to keep track of the latest in Astronomy and how to go about it via the internet. Through the web, you can make contact with the different Philippine Astronomy clubs. You can check them or the PAGASA web site for news on what's in the night sky. For those who pursue astronomy outside Luzon, specifically Manila, you may have a hard time getting in touch with these groups, however keep note that you have better sky conditions. Light pollution and pollution for that matter is a hindrance from the big city so don't be down - you can actually see more than we want.