Sunday, December 1, 2013

Andromeda Mobile Planetarium

A new planetarium service has opened in the Philippines, and it opened up in my home town - Baguio City.

Welcome the Andromeda Mobile Planetarium, a private business in partnership with Rizal Technological University's Department of Earth and Space Sciences that caters to students all over the Cordillera region. The planetarium features a 6 meter dome, and various exhibits such as a meteorite collection and images taken from John Nassr's Stardust Observatory in Baguio City.

The Andromeda Planetarium is temporarily set-up at the Porta Vaga mall to allow the public to come and visit. The dome will be circulating in the different schools in the region to promote awareness and interest in the science of astronomy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Space Science and Technology Applications Scoping-Consultation Workshop

The Manila Observatory and DOST-PCIEERD held a Space Science and Technology Applications (SSTA) scoping-consultation workshop at the SEAMEO Innotech from November 4-6. This two day workshop is participated by various sectors of the government, academe, as well as private and international  groups.

The workshop is designed to get information with regards to space science in the country and how it could progress. The Manila observatory hopes to design a 10-year plan on the progress and development of SSTA in which all the sectors are involved.

This particular project is interesting for astronomy and space science enthusiasts since it is another step to the realization of a Philippine Space Agency.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Sextant (Escape Plan)

The movie Escape Plan (starring Stallone and Schwarzenegger) is about a man who's been testing federal prisons for their capacity to prevent an escape from their maximum security. He is then recruited by the CIA to test a certain underground prison facility.

In the movie, Breslin (Stallone) ends up creating a sextant to figure out where the prison was located. A sextant is an old astronomical tool used commonly in nautical navigation (celestial navigation). It is a tool used to measure the angular height/ altitude of a star with respect to the horizon. Seafarers had to be familiar with the night sky in order to put the sextant to use. First of all one must locate Polaris, the north star. A common misconception is that Polaris is a really bright star; this however is not true. Being familiar with the patterns of the constellations and knowing which is next to which can help. Of course it helps also if one has a compass to point you in the general direction.

The measured angular height of Polaris will give you the angle of your latitude. As an example, if we were to say that we measure Polaris to be ~13 degrees from the horizon in Manila then we can say that Manila is located at a latitude of 13 degrees.

Monday, September 16, 2013

35th International School for Young Astronomers

From August 25 - September 14, 2013, I was given a chance to become a delegate at the 35th International School for Young Astronomers (ISYA 2013) held in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. The activity is organized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in cooperation with the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) as well as the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). The activity is in line with commemorating the 50th anniversary of LAPAN.
The ISYA 2013 is a program of the IAU Commission 46 on Astronomy Education and Development. The program seeks to broaden the participants' perspective on astronomy through international lectures, seminars, practical exercises and observations, and exchange of experiences. The topics discussed in the ISYA include space weather, space science, astrophysics, cosmology, galaxies, observation and instrumentation. The participants belong to a dynamic range from undergraduate to PhD students, including students from different disciplines and cultures.
The ISYA 2013 was a worthwhile learning experience. New things were learned, new friends were made, and new visions for the future of astronomy were instilled in our minds. We all go back to our respective countries carrying with us new insight that will help us educate and develop our local astronomy communities.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Magnetic Flip

Recent news have been mentioning the upcoming flip of the Sun's magnetic poles.
What is a magnetic flip and how exactly does it happen?

Our sun transfers energy from the core to the radiative zone, and then to the convective zone, and out to the photosphere (the visible disc of the sun). The vertical motion of the plasma in the convective layer causes the magnetic field lines to twist into flux tubes. When the flux tube increases its energy it then rises as an active region. The magnetic field lines arch from these areas from one polarity (+) to the other (-). The magnetic polarities of each active region is similar but reversed in each hemisphere.

Now, the Sun has a solar cycle described as a period of very few magnetic activity followed by increasing activity over a time of 11 years. The year 2013 is the solar maxima which signifies the end of the current solar cycle. After the 11-year cycle, the magnetic polarities of the active regions suddenly reverse and will remain as such for another 11-year cycle. So a period of 22-years make up one magnetic cycle of the Sun.

The Sun's northern hemisphere has already reversed its polarity as you can notice in a period of almost 0 activity for the month of July (see absence of AR regions in the Northern part for the month of July in these solar images). The southern hemisphere is following suit.

So what does a magnetic flip do?
Well, the Sun has a region of influence called the heliosphere which reaches out to the ends of the solar system. We monitor this sphere as what we call space weather. Charged particles (cosmic rays, plasma, etc.) in space travel with respect to the magnetic field lines of the Sun and of the planets. When the magnetic orientation of the Sun flips then so does the orientation of these charged particles. The sudden switch causes a storm in the space weather.

Solar Observation Program
Department of Earth and Space Sciences
Rizal Technological University

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Starburst Initiative

Today,  we are currently traveling to Camarines Sur for another Starburst activity. What began as a program for a star party evolved into a nationwide astronomy outreach program. The Rizal Technological University's Department of Earth and Space Sciences is currently engaged in conducting astronomy lectures and stargazing activities in different high-schools and colleges throughout the Philippines. We create linkages with the different schools in order to promote astronomy education and research, as well as  astronomy in general, to the Filipinos. The program also seeks to increase the experiences and technical skills of the BS Astronomy-Technology students involved by allowing them to deliver lectures and share their views of the night sky through RTU's telescopes. This program has allowed us an avenue for communicating astronomy to the public and inspiring others to take an interest for the wonders of the universe.

Astronomy for all :)

Starburst at Camarines Sur

Starburst at RTU, Mandaluyong

Starburst at Laguna

Starburst at Negros Occidental

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Reach for the Stars - Astronomy for All

The universe is vast and wide, a thing we all can share
It's yours, it's mine, it's everyone's; we all just have to care
The universe is quite a place for us to all explore
It holds more stars than all the grains within a sandy shore

We scan the skies with telescopes, and also satellites
Learning 'bout the properties of these distant points of light
We turn our eyes to outer space and see the past unfold
And from these clues we might decide just what the future holds

To every child, to every man, look up, spend time to gaze
To the heavens lying up above filled with wonder to amaze
Look up above and share the skies, the universe is for free
And learn the science of the stars through your curiosity

-Reach for the Stars by Norman Marigza

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

5 June 2013 - Solar Observation

This morning I setup the 8" Sky-Watcher SkyLiner with our intern from the University of Michigan and some BS Astro-Tech students for a solar observing session. Two sunspot groups were very prominent AR 1762 and AR 1764. Other sunspot groups were noticed later through imaging.

From our observations, the computed sunspot number R is 82.83 with 3 sunspot groups in the Northern Hemisphere (a 3rd with no AR designation as of 11 AM), and 3 sunspot groups in the Southern Hemisphere.

Friday, May 31, 2013

30 - 31 May Lunar Observations

I woke up much later than usual on the morning of May 30. The sky was already of a blue hue and hardly any stars were visible. I was only able to squeeze in a few shots before having to prepare for work.

 The sky was clear on the morning of May 31. I had to setup outside since the Moon was low enough for it to be obstructed by the neighboring houses. I was able to capture a several good close ups of the lunar surface.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

29 May 2013 Lunar Observation

The sky was partly cloudy this morning so I wasn't able to get close ups of the lunar surface. I only had a few minutes in a cloud gap.


28 May 2013 Lunar Observation

The Moon will be rising much later during the waning phases. Some people are not able to observe the waning phases since you either have to stay up late or rise up early. As an observer, I personally have not been able to complete one straight lunar cycle due to this factor and of course, cloudy weather. This were taken during the early morning of May 28. I suddenly had a drive to image the waning phases of this month's perigee Moon for a project.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 26, 2013 Lunar Observation

Last night's Moon, a day after the full flower Moon. I used eyepiece projection to get a magnified image of the lunar craters. The Moon this month is in its perigee position, making it closer than it is before.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A State of Philippine Astronomy

It is a sad fact that astronomy in the Philippines is subject to a power play between institutions, societies, and individuals - a thing we can do without in order for progress to happen.

I've been interested in astronomy since childhood and upon entering college took the nearest thing - physics. I maintained my passion for astronomy while enrolled in physics, and have enjoyed sharing it with my classmates and other students. I got in contact with astronomy enthusiasts and amateur astronomers via the internet who were also enthusiastic to share their insights and experiences. I eventually learned about the first astronomy program in the country in the Philippines for undergraduate and graduate studies. Because of my passion for astronomy I decided to take it. Later I got oriented with the astronomy societies in the Philippines, and later the rivalries between them. I affiliated with one group but still hold a stand to remain neutral since I was more into it for the science and involvement. Several individuals also hold a neutral stand, but sadly some individuals refuse to affiliate themselves with the other parties.

Eventually I worked for RTU as an instructor for the Department of Earth and Space Sciences. However, there came a time when other institutions looked down on our department also due to its new nature. Other individuals eventually came into the picture who appear to be too competitive that they assume positions of leadership and coordination for astronomy but fail to include or reach out to others. Even government institutions themselves appear to have a conflict of interest when it comes to astronomy. There came instances when PAGASA, the government's arm for astronomy, was side tracked by other branches of the DOST.

All these power plays result to misrepresentation in the international scientific community, lack of opportunities for students and astronomy enthusiasts (neutral or not), and lack of direction for progress and development in the country.

Now, complaining like this would surely get some eyebrows raised or hit some individuals; even put my career at risk by getting on some individuals' radar. However, if anyone contests, then PLEASE DO PROVE ME WRONG by showing that cooperation can happen. That ASTRONOMY IS FOR ALL and does not belong to a single individual, society, or institution. That competition is alright as long as it is FAIR and HEALTHY. If you are more qualified than others, help rather than pull down. Leave the politics to politicians, and focus on the science. After all, most of the programs we implement are geared to reach out.

Lastly, I wish to end my idealistic ranting with a quote from the Keck Observatory, "The process of science is not complete until it is shared with others."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Unboxing the Meade LX850

We just unboxed RTU's newest telescope (and now also RTU's largest), the 14" Meade LX850. This telescope is designed as a sophisticated automated astro-imaging system. I've been given instruction to have it field tested soon and I can't wait to try it out.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Congratulations: 2nd batch BS Astronomy Technology

Congratulations to the second batch of BS Astronomy Technology students of RTU. The faculty of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences are proud of you!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

21 April 2013 - Solar Observation

It has been currently very hot here in Manila, Philippines with temperatures exceeding that of the previous years. Makes me want to wonder more about its relation to the current solar maxima. Anyways, I decided to take my telescope out to observe the Sun.

Here you can see two of the rapidly emerging sunspot groups - active regions 1726 and 1727 - in the Sun's Northern Hemisphere.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

International Dark Sky Week

April 5-11 is the International Dark Sky Week. It is part of the Global Astronomy Month celebration, and a program of the International Dark-Sky Association, that seeks to share the beauty of the night sky and at the same time raise awareness on the issue of light pollution.

Light pollution is not just a problem for astronomers, but it is also a problem that affects the environment, the energy sector, as well as our health.

Part of the efforts to make others aware of dark-sky preservation is the measurement of light pollution levels as well as sharing wonderful images of the night sky in a vantage point of a dark site. I decided to upload some of my astrophotos of various starfields in the Philippines to aid in dark-sky awareness.

Dark-skies from Tuding, Baguio City
Late night sky from RTU, Mandaluyong. Sky is still sufficiently bright due to urban lighting.
Ursa Major region taken from Taytay, Rizal

Dark skies from Laguna
PAGASA observatory, Quezon City
Night sky from Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental