Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stargazing session - Oct 29, 2011

I came up to Baguio yesterday after our professor decided to have a break instead of going all the way through the long weekend. I brought my Travel Scope 70 ("Beta") with me to observe with my cousins. We drove off to Long-long, a dark site in La Trinidad. The weather conditions was good enough to reveal a very beautiful star field.

I also was lucky enough to borrow an SLR for imaging, an Olympus E-510, however I wasn't familiar with the settings of the camera so I just imaged what I can. It turns out I need an T-rings for my TS70 to connect it with the cam, so I just went with the point and shoot approach.

Hyades Star Cluster. ISO 1600.

Jupiter and Galilean Moons. The moons appear to make Jupiter look like Saturn.


Pleiades Star Cluster. ISO 800.

Crescent Moon, Venus and Mercury

Here is an image of a conjunction of the waxing crescent moon, Venus, and Mercury, by Erika Valdueza.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Argument of Ignorance - The UFO

Now that we're experiencing the Orionids and another possible satellite crash, somewhere in the world someone will be saying the word UFO!

When we see something unrecognizable in the sky some individuals think that "it's an alien spacecraft!" The UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object - with strict emphasis on the word UNIDENTIFIED! How can you say it's an alien spacecraft when your not sure what it is? This is the argument of Ignorance.

Most UFO sightings are actually mistaken objects, both man made and naturally present in nature. There is almost always an explanation to a UFO sighting. Here are some of my favorite UFO misconceptions:

  • Chinese lanterns - now it's more common but there are still some who fall for it. Hot air allows these lanterns to fly into the sky and drift with the wind.
  • Weather Balloon - there are many variations to the weather balloon and usually it caries with blinking instruments. 
  • Military and experimental aircraft - (not so common in PH) piloted or remote they can confuse you
  • Satellite transit - to the non-astronomy community you would really be boggled when you see a star suddenly grow bright and fly away then vanish, it's a satellite folks!
  • Flares - seriously? haha

  • Reflection - internal reflection on an airplane window or on camera lenses
  • Swamp gas - natural gas that has all sorts of eerie effects from refraction of light
  • Ball lightning - one of the rare and unexplained forms of lightning. Also known as St. Elmo's fire or santelmo.
  • Elves and sprites - other strange forms of lightning 
  • Lenticular clouds - a cloud form resulting from air currents rising perpendicular to the cloud 
  • Venus and Sirius - yeah, these two are the brightest points of light in the sky that baffles those who are unfamiliar with them
  • Meteors - especially when they blow up in mid-air or break apart into smaller meteor streaks

Most people are usually to lazy to do some research or assume too much. Beware of making the argument of ignorance. The sky is filled with many more eerie effects, it wouldn't hurt to learn more. Besides the more you learn, the more it works to your advantage.  :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Storms from the Sun

The Sun - the source of light, the source of life.

I've recently began to take interest in solar astronomy since it is the easiest object to observe during these period of cloudy nights and rain. The sun is the closest star. It is a source of energy and it defines the seasons of the Earth. This 4.5 billion year old star is not just a static ball of hydrogen gas, but is a very lively and sometimes destructive object.

The sun goes under an 11 year solar cycle discovered in 1843 by the German astronomer Heinrich Schwabe. He noticed the the number of visible sunspots (cooler regions in the sun's surface) varied; lesser and almost absent during the solar minimum, and more visible during solar maximum. Whenever a solar maximum approaches the sun becomes more active and CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections) become more frequent.

My image of the huge Sunspot AR 1302. Image taken via MicroObservatory.
Recently, a large sunspot AR 1302 was observed. It caused several CMEs and X-class solar flares which caused geomagnetic storms in Earth. A Coronal Mass Ejection is the explosion of an enormous ball of electrified gas from the corona (outer solar atmosphere) which sends large amounts of plasma flying out into space at tremendously high speeds (up to 5 million mph). They are caused by the snapping of magnetic loops that were continuously stretched and twisted.

The electric currents that a CME generates produce geomagnetic storms on Earth, visible as auroras. Normally, when energetic particles from the Sun interact with particles from the atmosphere they get excited and form these beautiful lights at the pole regions. However, when huge amounts of energy, as that released in a CME, reacts with the Earth's magnetic field, they get to interact with more particles in the atmosphere and thus these auroras move to lower latitudes.

CMEs can alter the magnetic field in space and on the Earth. It can heat up and expand the atmosphere. It can also set off electrical surges in power lines and oil pipelines and can cause major blackouts, communications problems, and satellite damage.

Geomagnetic Storm. Image by Gordon McLellan. Sep 26, 2011. Pentax K-x with Tamron 10-24 @ 10mm, f5.6 iso 1600, exposure around 40 seconds.

Here are some useful links related to this post:
Daily Sun Images and Movies. SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory)
Solar Images from the Philippines. TV-101 blog page.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stargazers Features the Stargazers: Randylyn Grapa

Stargazers Features the Stargazers!
Young stargazers, astronomy enthusiasts & amateur astronomers

Randylyn during a Moon-Jupiter conjunction
Our next stargazer feature is Randylyn Grapa, a dear friend of mine from Dumaguete City. She is a nursing student in Silliman University and works as an usherette/LACUU (Luce Auditorium Corps of Ushers and Usherettes) of the Silliman University Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium. Despite her busy schedule, she always finds time to look up into the sky. She really has a natural interest for the beauty of the universe. Here is her account:

Lights are now out, darkness slowly crawls in; its stargazing time-- my hobby, my stress-reliever, my favorite time. I find it amazing how all these massive galaxies contain in one universe, how dead stars continue to illuminate the night sky and can be seen lucidly even if they’re long since perished. I don’t really remember when I begun stargazing but all I remember was I used to stare at the big blue dark sky ever since I was still a child. Back when I was in elementary, I often ask my best friend the question, “Have you seen Venus last night?” I think those were the days I started to love more about the night sky. When twilight comes, adrenaline rush fills my veins as I catch the sunset before it sets to the other horizon and whenever I stare at the sunset, I feel breathless. Sunsets are the best and loveliest; they’re one-of-a-kind, amazing and breath-taking. A vast array of emotions ascends unto me every time I find my favorites (Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Orion) stitched in the night sky but often times I get dazzled and hypnotized looking at them. I just love how the moon casts my shadow especially when its full moon and I also love the crescent moon particularly when it is contrasted against the colorful twilight. Venus and Jupiter are majestic; they’re like diamonds floating in the sky and radiating their beauty and power. Orion is the first constellation I have come to know about; it reminds me of my parents and the nearness of Christmas.
Amazingly, never a day will I go to bed or even start studying without looking at the precious night sky. It feels like my day wouldn’t be complete if I couldn’t catch a glimpse of the night sky. It is as if I am totally attached to the night sky and the night sky is definitely a part of me. I know next to nothing but I am hoping to learn more about the newly discovered exoplanets.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stargazers Features the Stargazers: Mark Arzadon

Stargazers Features the Stargazers!
Young stargazers, astronomy enthusiasts & amateur astronomers

Our first stargazer feature is 15 year old Mark Claudel D. Arzadon from San Jacinto Pangasinan. Here is an account of his experiences:

I love astronomy since childhood. When I was 3 years old, my room was filled with luminous stars, planets, moon and galaxies bought by my parents for me and because of that I fell in love with celestial bodies

As I grew older, I became curious about it. I was 9 when I first reported it as a topic in our school (elementary) and I don't know why they were amazed about me because of my knowledge about it and I didn't even know how did made it.

I was 12 when my Dad bought a camera with long exposures and zoom, I just kept on experimenting on my Dad's cam while pointing at the stars, planets and the moon. At this time, I managed to take a picture of  a landscape at night time with a background of stars.

I was 13 when I took a picture of a satellite for the very first time like ISS, Iridium and HST. It is also my first time to observe a solar eclipse but not that much.

I was 14 when I observed a solar eclipse in detail. It was also my first time to take a picture of planets like Jupiter, nebula like Orion Nebula, star clusters like Pleiades.

Now, I'm 15, I observed a lunar eclipse in full detail for the very first time. After Jupiter, I also took a photo of Venus, Saturn and Uranus in this year but it is not in high resolution..

Way back in 2007 I saw the very first fireball in my life. I didn't have any idea about it. It was the event that opened my eyes to gaze upon the skies. I was walking in the streets along with my little brother after buying snacks when I saw that bright fireball and I was stunned by its beauty.

It was on December 14, 2009 when I saw a spectacular fireball (yellowish, and like a bolide and disappeared after 10 seconds) while we were on the way home from the beach during twilight. I was gazing up while listening to ambient music when I saw it. It was sign of the coming Geminids.

December 28, 2009: 3rd Fireball sighting, when me, my dad, and my little brother were stargazing, we saw a silvery-white bright fireball just before Quadrantids, This is when I'm experimenting on Radio Propagation for meteors, I was listening to a blank frequency on the radio when i heard a "Ping" right after it. I learned that technique on spaceweather.

May 17, 2010: 4th fireball and the most spectacular
I will never forget this fireball in my life, I saw it when I was riding in a bicycle during twilight, when I saw it slowly falling down and it is a very bright Bolide and I fell down in the street but I kept on looking at it 'coz i know it is very rare!

I regularly observe meteor showers, especially Quadrantids, Lyrids, Aquarids, Persieds, Orionids, Draconids, Leonids, and Geminids. But the Top 4 best Meteor showers for me are: Geminids, Persieds, Aquarids and Quadrantids.

My favorite Constellations are Orion, Canis Major, Ursa Major, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Pegasus, Andromeda, Taurus, Gemini, Perseus, Auriga...I think that are the most familiar for me. My favorite Nebula/Clusters: Pleiades, Orion Nebula, Nebulas in Sagittarius, Cluster in the heart of C.Major, Andromeda Galaxy.

Mark doesn't just look at the night sky but at the sky as a whole - atmospheric phenomena. He does HDR photography, captures lightning, and does time-lapse photography. His photos have also been featured in the Earth Science Photo of the Day (EPOD).
Iridescent Pileus Cloud. EPOD 25July2010
Circumzenithal Arc. EPOD 1Oct2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stargazers Features the Stargazers!

Stargazing is for everyone!

The beauty of the night sky inspires the mind of the young and old alike. People have looked into the heavens with awe and wonder for many centuries, putting astronomy among the oldest sciences. Inspired by the interest some friends have for the wonders of the universe, I decided to feature the young stargazers, astronomy enthusiasts, and amateur astronomers.

Keep posted for our featured stargazers. Our first feature will introduce Mark Arzadon, a high-school student from San Jacinto, Pangasinan.

Stargazing October 2011

Here are some highlights for October 2011. It's been a while since I posted a calendar of astronomical events in this blog so here I go again.

World Space Week
October 4-10. World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition. The United Nations General Assembly (1999) selected the dates, Oct 4-10, to commemorate the first launch of the first man-made satellite (Sputnik 1; 4 Oct 1957), and the signing of the Treaty of Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (10 Oct 1967). This year's theme is "50 years of Human Space Flight."

Draconids Meteor Shower
October 8. This meteor shower is projected to have a sudden outburst this 2011. The highest rate for the Draconids was 1000/hr recorded on 1933. Since the meteors radiate from Draco, it is best to view this shower at latitudes where Draco is close to your Zenith (point above your head). For the Philippines, Draco doesn't approach our zenith, but will still be visible. However, the moon will be in its gibbous face so light from the moon will conceal the fainter meteor streaks.

La Luna del Cacciatore (Hunter's Moon)
October 12. Anyone who's an avid fan of the first AVP movie will surely recognize the phrase "Hunter's moon." The Hunter's moon is also known as the Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon. It is the first full moon after the Harvest Moon. The name Hunter's moon came from the benefit of moonlight to hunter's in shooting migratory birds. Also, Native American Indians also are said to stalk and hunt prey during this time to prepare for the upcoming winter.

Comet Elenin's closest Approach
October 16. The comet's orbit will bring it within close to 22 million miles of Earth. The comet was discovered by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin in Dec. last year.

Solar Week
October 17-21. More on Solar Week.
Mercury-Venus Conjunction
October 20. Conjunction, in astronomy, happens when two objects are apparently close to each other in the night sky. On October 20 watch the sunset and look for two bright points of light close together.

Orionid Meteor Shower
October 22. Coming from the same meteoroid stream as the Eta Aquarids, the Orionids belong to the debris left by Halley's Comet. It's zenithal hourly rate (rate when the radiant/source is close to the zenith) is 25 per hour. The source will be easy to locate, just look for the iconic Orion's belt. * * *

Jupiter at Opposition
October 29. A planet in opposition is in it's closest approach to Earth. This is when the planet will be exactly opposite to the position of the Sun in the sky, and will be most suitable for observing.