Saturday, December 22, 2012

Astronomy versus Astrology

Over the past few weeks, we have been busy debunking the doomsday hoax by providing a scientific explanation of the various scenarios.  In this endeavor however,  we came across a local TV network that consistently referred to astrologers for their broadcasts. Aside from that, when the network finally invited an astronomer to explain, their questions were focused more on social behavior rather than understanding the situation. As one of the major networks in the country it was sending the wrong stuff and providing a dependence in society on superstition.

Astrology is NOT A SCIENCE!  It is a belief system that connects the positions of heavenly bodies to predict human behavior. This has no scientific basis at all. Although astrology employs the use of observation of the heavenly bodies, the conclusions they form have no significant connection to their data.

Astronomy however is A SCIENCE.  It is a detailed and accurate study of the heavenly bodies and the physical laws that govern them. It is tested and proven through the years with detailed study and observations. Astronomy makes scientific predictions based on facts - predictions on various physical occurrence and phenomena in the universe.

We can easily disprove the credibility of astrological predictions in various ways.  In astrology they believe that each zodiac sign has an attributed behavior.  Imagine gathering a small group of the same sign.  They are sure to have certain similarities. However, as individuals we are bound to have more differences. Now imagine a thousand people with the same sign. The likelihood that they are to all have the same behavior becomes very much lesser (likely 0%).

Another way to do it would be to compare the horoscopes for a specific day. Horoscope predictions are generic in nature and can apply to any individual. If compared against each other their inconsistencies become evident. You can also shuffle the horoscopes and try to get them to match with the occurrence in life of any individual sign.

If the information we base our decisions on are inaccurate and inconsistent, then our judgment will have no bearing.  Do not insult your ability to think critically.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 19 Solar Image

Low solar activity in the past few days. The triangle formation of two active regions AR 1633 and AR 1634 plus a new sunspot AR 1635. The low activity means minimal flares and almost a 0% chance for a coronal mass ejection. This contradicts any December 21 doomsday scenario associated with the sun.

Image in white light (color edited) through a glass filter attached to a Sky-watcher Explorer 200 with Nikon D3100 at prime focus.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Debunking 2012 Doomsday at Pinoy Scientist

16Dec2012 - Astronomy talk at Radyo Agila's Pinoy Scientist Program. For this episode we talked about the truth behind the 2012 doomsday scenarios. I was there as a guest with Norman Mascarinas of the UP Astrosoc (left) and Frederick 'Bamm' Gabriana (2nd from right). The hosts of the program was Dr. Custer Deocaris and Rochelle Derilo.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Philippine Space Initiative

14 December 2012
From left: Frederick Gabriana, Dr. Jose Aban, Dr. Jesus Torres, Dr. Merle Tan

A press conference was held at Annabel's in Tomas Morato to Debunk the December 21 Doomsday event as well as to present the launching of the Philippine Space Initiative. Different media representatives were there to listen to the panel of astronomers and planetary scientists including:
  • Dr. Jesus Rodrigo Torres (RTU, President; member of the International Astronomical Union),
  • Dr. Jose Edgardo Aban (University of Brunei Darussalam/ Former Head of the DOST's Committee on Space Technology Applications)
  • Dr. Merle C. Tan (Former Head of UP-NISMED) and
  • Mr. Frederick Gabriana (DOST-ASTI/mathematician and expert in positional astronomy).
The event was hosted by Dr. Custer Deocaris (DOST Balik Scientist/Professor of Astrobiology).

A discussion was held to provide the media with credible scientific information with regards to the cataclysmic scenarios associated with the Mayan apocalypse.

The Philippine Space Initiative was also presented to celebrate the country's long-awaited entry into the "Space Age." This move is a continuation of the efforts in the country to create a Philippine Space Agency (PSA). The project is led by Rizal Technological University's Office for Space Science Innovation and Cooperation (OSSIC). A bill for the Philippine Space Act was drafted by Dr. Deocaris and presented to Congressman Palmones of the Agham party-list.

RTU Astro-Soc setting up their telescopes for a solar observation

RTU Astro-soc president John Lequiron being interviewed by ABS-CBN
"Astronomer ako, tuloy ang Pasko" Christmas will go on and the world won't end.

See more from:
Manila Bulletin
The Philippine Star

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Penumbral Eclipse and Apogee Moon

 A comparative scale of the super moon and the smallest full moon of the year.

  Maximum eclipse

Prior to eclipse

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sky-Watcher Skyliner 300P - Review

Rizal Technological University's Department of Earth and Space Sciences is home to three dobsonians from the Sky-Watcher Skyliner series.

I chose to do a review of the largest aperture of course, the 12-inch Sky-Watcher Skyliner 300P. I got to use this scope for an imaging session and was able to get pretty good results.

The Skyliner 300P has a focal length of 1500, giving it an f-number of f/5 which makes it ideal for deep-sky viewing. The eyepiece holder is a dual-fit for the standard 1.25" and also the 2". The scope also comes with T-threads for direct SLR connection via a T-ring. The finderscope attached is a 9x50. The dobsonian mount on the Skyliner series is a wooden mount that comes with an accessory tray at the front. The main OTA is connected to the mount by two tension-knobs which also serve as the telescope's lock and handle. The entire scope is also pretty heavy because of its size.

I attached my Nikon D3100 two ways: via prime focus and with a variable T-adapter. The added weight on the OTA did not cause problems in centering on a particular target. The large aperture provided good light gathering ability for observation.

Here are some sample images taken with the Skyliner 300P:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31Oct2012 Lunar Imaging Session

Last night, I attempted to do some photo-stitching with the lunar images I got using eyepiece projection. This is the process wherein you put together detailed images of particular areas with a smaller field of view to form one big image.

I also labeled some of the lunar features in some of the shots

Friday, October 26, 2012

Astroart - Chibi Astronomers

Just for fun. I doodled some chibi version of me and my batchmates in the MS Astronomy degree program. Here we are carrying our respective telescopes. From the left, you have Lieza with a Meade ETX90, Pamela with an Astromaster70, Vanessa with an Astromaster130, and me with a Sky-Watcher Explorer 150PL. :)

October 26, 2012 Moon

Last night's sky was pretty cloudy but the brightness of the Waxing Gibbous Moon was able to peer out a couple of times from its clouded veil.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Orionids and Telescopes

Last Monday (22 Oct 2012) the RTU Astronomical Society held an overnight observation setting to train the 1st year students in the use of the telescopes as well as to catch a glimpse of the Orionids activity. For me it was an opportunity to observe the sky from RTU using the department's different telescopes.

While the lectures were being conducted upstairs, I stayed in the quadrangle with some students to observe the moon and several deep-sky targets that were visible despite the urban skylight. Among the deep-sky targets we observed were: M57(Ring Nebula); M31(Andromeda Galaxy); M29(Open Cluster) and Albireio(Double Star); NGC 884 & 869(Double Cluster); M45(Pleiades Open Cluster); M41(Open Cluster); the famous M42(Orion Nebula); as well as several other open clusters.

As soon as the lectures were over, the students came down with the rest of the telescopes to practice assembly and alignment. This gave the first year students a chance to operate the telescopes on their own. After they were graded, they were left with some time to observe which also provided me some time to do some imaging with the 12-inch Sky-Watcher SkyLiner Dobsonian telescope, as well as via piggy-back on a refracting telescope.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Celestron Omni XLT 150 R - Review

Last Saturday, the MS Astronomy students from RTU took the Celestron Omni XLT 150 R to Timberland Heights (15 mins away from Quezon City) for some stargazing in the mountains.

The telescope is a 6 inch (150mm) achromatic refractor mounted, via dove-tail, on a CG-4 German equatorial mount. It has good reviews for viewing deep-sky objects. It has a focal ratio of f/5 (focal length 750mm). The telescope makes use of the StarBright XLT coating which allows maximum light transmission. The finderscope attached is a 6x30 straight through achromat with a 7 degree field of view.

When viewing the Orion Nebula, the Trapezium stars are very well resolved and there is good contrast to the surrounding cloud layer. The stars of the Pleiades were also finely resolved.

In observing Jupiter, there is a violet halo resulting from chromatic aberration.

We also tried to do some prime focus imaging since the eyepiece holder has built-in T-threads, however the telescope requires a focal extender in order to put the image to focus. Neither planetary or deep sky targets can be focused by attaching the camera with the T-ring to the eyepiece holder's T-threads.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Open Cluster Formation Analogy

Among the attractive celestial targets in the night sky are the star clusters. Star clusters are said to be formed in interstellar clouds when clumps of these material begin to undergo gravitational collapse. The collapsing material in turn form stars and other celestial bodies until it is consumed or blown away by stellar winds (a small amount can be retained and can be seen as nebulosity). The stars that form from a single cloud emerge as a cluster of stars. These stars either stay together in one group, or slowly drift apart from one another. This is why some clusters are very loose, while others are tightly distributed. Open clusters are important in studying stellar evolution. The stars that emerge in the cluster are typically of the same age, distance and chemical properties. In the Milky Way alone, there are roughly 1600 confirmed open clusters out of the 50-100,000 suspected. Some of the famous open clusters are the Beehive Cluster [M44], the Jewel Box,and the Pleiades cluster [M45].

A nice analogy for open clusters is the use of bubbles. Bubbles allow us to imagine the formation of stars in an open cluster. As the bubbles for in a chain of loops held together by surface tension, they resemble areas of clumped up matter - kinda like the famous "pillars of creation" image in the Eagle Nebula.
The chain eventually breaks apart and forms into individual bubble structures which we can use as an analogy for the stars. The stars/bubbles are originally confined together into a small area (tight clusters) and later spread out in space (loose cluster). Some bubbles that appear to stick together can be compared to stars that form binary pairs as a result of gravitational interaction.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

World Space Week 2012

October 4-10 is the World Space Week. This year's theme is "Space for Human Safety and Security."

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.

In line with this event here are some of the events:

The RTU Astronomical Society is organizing Star Burst - a star party. This will be held at the Rizal Technological University quadrangle on October 8, 2012 from 6:00-9:00PM. This event is open to all.

The Philippine Astronomical Society will have a Space Navigation Lecture on Oct. 4 at Mahatma Gandhi International School, Manila; and on Oct. 5 a public telescope viewing and lecture at UST Grandstand from 6-9PM.

Likewise, the UPLB Astrosoc will also be holding activities from October 8-10 at the UPLB Campus.

And on the last day, there will be a Grand Star Party at the UP Sunken Garden (Oct. 10) from 8pm onwards. [Pre-registration required].

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

RTU Moon Observation

Last night, after finishing my class, I joined in with the RTU students who were having their observation of the moon. They had setup 3 telescopes (10" dobsonian, 8" dobsonian and 8" newtonian). I took a shot of the moon using the afocal method, wherein you align the camera lens to the telescope eyepiece.

Waxing Gibbous. Afocal Image taken with a BlackBerry Playbook and a Skywatcher Explorer 200 with a 25mm plossl eyepiece

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Latest Lunar Pics

Here are some of my latest Lunar images. The sky here in the QC, Philippines has not been very cooperative over the few months, so I'm happy whenever I get a chance to observe.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong
(1930 - 2012)
"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"

Rest in peace!
Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon (Apollo 11 Mission, 1969). 
He died at the age of 82 after complications in cardiovascular procedures from a heart by-pass surgery.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Father and Son Astro Team

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

Our next stargazer feature highlights a unique father-and-son tandem of amateur astronomers. Meet Gary and Steinar Andreassen, members of the Astronomical League of the Philippines. These two joined the ALP only recently, but have become very active since. They both share a wonderful passion for astronomy and astroimaging.
setting up their scopes at Caliraya

Here is Gary's recollection of how he and Steinar got started in astronomy:
One of my earliest childhood memories was actually seeing the moon landing on TV. I was three years old then and the image stuck in my head. I think that’s when my fascination about all things astronomical and cosmological started.

About three years ago, I was at National Bookstore and lo and behold I saw a telescope being sold all for the princely sum of Php 800. I bought it and later that night when I got home immediately used it to look at the moon. To say that I was dumbstruck is an understatement. I immediately called Steinar and showed him the moon on the scope.
The Andreassens during the BWB: Hello Mars event

In doing so, I wasn’t aiming to get him obsessed with astronomy as I was. I just really wanted to show him the moon close up for educational reasons. Apparently, its effect on him was more than I intended, and he got bit by the astronomy bug as bad as I was.

Jupiter occultation by the Andreassens

It is a wonderful site to see when the family shares a common passion. Keep it up Team Andreassen! :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where to Live in the Solar System

If you were to establish a settlement in another planet/moon in our solar system, where would you decide to live?

Well, we had a discussion once in class and we had three choices: the Moon, Mars, and Europa (one of Jupiter's moons). We ended up choosing the sub-surface ocean of Europa in a nuclear submarine-like settlement for the following reasons:
  • All three do not have enough mass to hold a sufficient amount of atmosphere. The solution would to have an atmosphere generating environment within the structure of the settlement itself. However, without an external atmosphere you have to deal with the lack of pressure and meteors that don't burn up upon entry. Submerging to a particular depth in Europa can compensate for the lack of pressure. The ice crust (10-30km thick) would also stop meteors so no need for maintenance from micro-meteor damage, or sand storms for that matter.
  • Mars and the Moon have no magnetic field to protect it from the solar wind. Europa on the other hand is influenced by the vast magnetic field of Jupiter, and also has an induced magnetic field suggesting that the sub-surface ocean is salt-water.
  • The Moon is said to contain some amount of water, however it is not enough to provide for a settlement. Mars has its frozen ice caps and Europa its mineral rich ocean.
  • It may be possible to breed aquatic life for food in Europa. In the Moon and in Mars, you can only breed animals or grow plants within the settlement.
  • Mars and the Moon have no source of heat while Europa has tidal heating. This can also be tapped as a source of energy.

As always, the biggest problem for this scenario is getting there. But, you never know what advancement in space exploration might pop up in the years to come.
So how about you, where would you like to live in the solar system? :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mars Curiosity

Watch the live webcast of the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars today :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Checking the Weather

There's a storm again in the Philippines and stargazers are stuck indoors once more.
Now, astronomers are not meteorologists, but it pays to know the weather conditions of your area. Determining the weather in your observing site can help you plan ahead on your stargazing activities so you won't end up aiming your scopes at clouds, or spending fuel on a trip to a dark site.

Here are some sites you can use to check the weather condition:
[Note: Weather forecasting cannot produce a weather prediction that is 100%, it isn't possible.] 

 WeatherSpark is a new type of weather website, with interactive weather graphs that allow you to pan and zoom through the entire history of any weather station on earth. You can get multiple forecasts for the current location, overlaid on records and averages to put it all in context. WeatherSpark is currently making use of 4,000 weather stations.

I personally prefer this site because it is updated and fairly accurate.

Typhoon2000 is a website that provides tropical cyclone information over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and Northwest Pacific Basin. The website is updated every 6 hours during times of tropical cyclones.

And of course we have
PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Moon-Venus-Aldebaran-Jupiter Conjunction

The night sky continues to be cloudy this past few weeks. It seems the only visibility lately happens during daybreak, where bright targets such as the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, and the Sun can remain visible through the thin veil of clouds. I haven't been able to wake-up early to observe, however I did manage to wake up last Monday to see the conjunction of the waxing crescent moon, and the planets Venus and Jupiter, as well as the eye of the bull (Taurus) - Aldebaran.

I rushed to setup Alpha, my 6-inch newtonian, and made use of a Meade T-Adapter which I borrowed from Ma'am Ruby Dela Cruz of RTU. The mount of Alpha had no locks so I had some difficulty at pointing the scope because of the added weight from the camera and adapter.