Sunday, December 21, 2014

Solar Image: 22 Dec 2014

I had to image in between brief moments of sunlight through gaps in the clouds. Seeing wasn't that good so I opted to do some 3D isophote rendering of the three largest transit-ARs. The two large sunspot groups receding from the solar disk have been actively flaring; in fact AR (1)2242  produced an intense X1.8-class flare on Dec 20 00:27 UT.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Optics, Atmosphere & Astronomy

Several atmospheric phenomena exist that usually catches our eye. They usually result from optical effects in the atmosphere such as refraction, diffraction, scattering, etc. The most commonly known atmospheric effect is that of rainbows. The presence of water droplets in the atmosphere causes the sun's light to be reflected and refracted into its component colors. Here are some other atmospheric effects:

Cloud Iridescence - this rainbow colored cloud results from diffraction of light by tiny water droplets or tiny ice crystals. Diffraction is the process of bending light around an object.


Corona - Coronas are 'crowns' of light around the Sun or Moon. This process results also from the diffraction of light. Diffraction generates interference patterns that disperses the light outwards and sometimes into its component colors.

Halo - results from refraction of ice crystals in the upper atmosphere (cirrostratus clouds). The ice crystals are usually formed as a result of a LPA (low-pressure area) hence it is usually associated with upcoming rain or cloudy weather.

Silver Lining - another diffraction result that happens in the edges of clouds

Blood Moon - a total lunar eclipse results from atmospheric lensing. The atmosphere of the Earth acts like a lens that bends light. The component of the visible spectrum that is bent the most is that of the red end of the spectrum. So as the Sun-Earth-Moon alignment happens the red light is bent by the Earth's atmosphere and shines on the surface of the Moon. You can actually see the same effect happening as the Moon rises opposite to the Sun. Close to the horizon the Moon appear reddish orange and then turns yellowish as it continues to ascend and finally into the normal hue once it is no longer affected by the lensing.

Some atmospheric optics are more common than you think:

Blue Sky - The blue color of our sky is a result of Rayleigh Scattering or the scattering at certain wavelengths. Molecules of Nitrogen and Oxygen in the air are effective at scattering the blue component of the visible spectrum so light from the Sun is scattered in all directions.

White Clouds -  another scattering phenomena known as Mie Scattering. This results from cloud droplets of sufficient size (approximately 20 micrometers) being able to scatter light at all wavelengths.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blood Moon 2014

We were initially set-up at Trinoma to have a good view of the moonrise. However, the cloudy skies made us want to call it a night. As we were leaving the Moon began to appear. One jeep ride and a short run after we were able to setup the telescope (thank God its a Dobsonian) and image away. Bible study goers at the UCCP-CHR as well as jeepney drivers joined in as we observed. Here are some of the images I took:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Citizen Science - How a Non-Scientist Can Contribute to Science

Astronomers have always had two distinctions - the amateur and the professional. Now, when we say amateur we don't mean a newbie or something. In astronomy, the term amateur means individuals who have no formal education in astronomy (not actual scientists in the field of astronomy). They include a large range of individuals who are either beginners, enthusiasts or even those with large contributions and discoveries. Usually amateurs have more time on their hands to do observations than professionals. Some professionals have close to 0 experience with hands-on observations and focus more on analysis of data, computations, simulations, etc.

So how can a non-scientist make contributions? For one, there is an enormous amount of data and not enough people to look at them. Because of this citizen science projects were introduced to allow any individual to help in improving and filtering down large data sets. Here is a listing of some citizen science projects you can get involved with.

This project allows you to get involved in the identification and classification of galaxies by looking at image sets from the SDSS, HST, and UKIRT. It is an interactive project where classifications can be done individually, in groups, or as a class (which I've personally done with my astrophysics students). Basic information on galaxies, papers, and results are available also to public.

2. Cosmo Quest

This project allows you to map other objects in the Solar system. Currently they allow the mapping of the Moon, the asteroid Vesta, and Mercury.

3. Agent Exoplanet
This project allows you to detect exoplanets (planets orbiting around other stars) by analyzing their light curves (plots showing variations in light levels over time). This is headed by astronomers at the Las Cumbres Observatory.

4. Solar Storm Watch 
This project allows you to monitor for solar storms which may then be used for early warning. This is a project by the Royal Observatory Greenwich and the makers of Zooniverse.

5. Be a Martian
This project allows you to improve Martian maps, and assist in research and analysis in an interactive game-like template.

6. SETI@home

This project allows SETI [Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence] to make use of computers connected to the internet to do analysis of radio telescope data while the computer is idle (this citizen science project allows you to contribute w/o actually doing anything).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Special Observing Session - June 28

During the summer of 2014 I initiated a series of voluntary special astronomical observations at home. I organized it for some students of batch 2018 of the BS Astronomy-Technology course of RTU. Here I taught them how to do star-hopping, locate targets, as well as describe the properties of some of these targets.

Last Saturday I had an opportunity to do another session despite the rainy season. We saw lesser objects than usual but it was still better than nothing. Our targets were mostly in the Scorpius-Sagittarius region and the summer triangle. For most of them it was also their first time to view Mars and Saturn. I had 6 students with me (Kea, Phoebe, Mae, Iela, Jochelle, & Dhann) with only one who has been with me in the other sessions (Kea). Other students wanted to join as well but were not able to secure permission from their guardians due to the last minute planning of the activity. Hopefully, next time I would be able to have another session with them.

Monday, June 23, 2014

International Sun-Day Report

Participants pose beside the telescopes

The Solar Observation Program (SOP) in cooperation with the RTU Astronomical Society had a setup in the quadrangle of Rizal Technological University. We setup two telescopes for the public observation: a Sky-Watcher SkyLiner 200P with a black polymer filter and a Lunt LS60THa Solar Telescope. For most of the participants it was their first time to look through an H-alpha telescope to view the Sun. Several freshmen students were present as well who have never experienced solar observations. Solar glasses from the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project were also distributed by SOP member Margareth Custodio. The sky was generally clear although a few clouds rolled in every once in a while.

Students viewing the Sun through the CBSAP solar glasses
Students taking turns peeking at the Sun

Teaching how an H-alpha telescope works

 After the public observation we proceeded to the astro-auditorium to watch Star, an episode from BBC's Planets. The film Star discussed concepts about our own star and how our understanding of it has developed through the years. It was followed by a Q&A where students opened up their questions regarding the Sun.

Astronomy students pose for a group shot after the film showing.

Afterwards the group proceeded with lunch and some members came along to join forces with another participating partner in Rajah Sulayman park - the Astronomical League of the Philippines.

The setup of ALP at Rajah Sulayman park

-Norman Marigza
Head, Solar Observation Program

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

International Sun-Day

This Sunday, June 22, 2014, the world will celebrate the International Sun-Day. The event is organized by Pamela Shivak (founder) and Stephen Ramsden (Director, CBSAP).

Two groups from the Philippines are official participating partners: the Astronomical League of the Philippines, and Rizal Technological University's Solar Observation Program and Astronomical Society.

The SOP will be setting up their solar observation in the RTU quadrangle at 10:00 AM and will be conducting an infographic campaign on facebook.

ALP will be setting up a free public viewing of our very own star at the Rajah Sulayman Park at 3:00 PM. Feel free to join us if you are in the area.

To learn more and see a listing of all the participating partners throughout the globe, you can visit:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Solar Morphology

Here is another animated gif image of the Sun for the period of April 20 to May 9. 

I've been wanting to do this for quite some time but always get interrupted by days with no data (either due to bad weather or absence from my equipment during trips). This gif sequence allows us to view the daily changes in the structure of each active region as they go about their solar transit. This animation was done on a daily basis and images were mostly taken in the morning before I leave for work. My next goal is to do this with shorter time intervals between shots (perhaps one in the morning and in the afternoon) to better monitor the slight changes in the sunspot group structure. I have already planned the project with two astronomy students from RTU - Mico Enriquez and Margareth Custodio.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Comic Guide to Observing Meteors

Here's a little something to serve as a practical guide to observing meteors. I hope you enjoy it.

1. During a meteor shower be sure to observe in a dark site. The darker the site the better the visibility for meteors. Observing near city lights or during a bright phase of the moon will limit your visibility. However, make sure that the dark site is secure.

2. Know where to look. Meteor showers are named after their apparent source or radiant. Look for meteors within the proximity of the radiant. Using star charts may be helpful.

3. Grab a mat or reclining chair so you can observe the meteors with ease. You may end up with a stiff neck if you don't.

4. Use insect repellents. You want to be counting meteors and not counting bites or swatting at elusive mosquitoes.

5. Check the weather forecast prior to a scheduled observation. The last thing you want is to waste your time waiting for clouds to clear up.

*PS. If you have other things you want me to add, feel free to comment :)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Morphological View of the Sun

Here is a little animation showing the daily changes in the solar surface. I plan to track the transit of AR 2032 across the solar surface. Hopefully I won't have any cloudy days to cause gaps in the data. The following is taken from April 9 - 13, 2014.

Monday, April 7, 2014

3D Sunspot Rendering using ImageJ

Resolution is one problem in scientific image data acquisition. In observation of sunspot groups, we need to have enough resolvable detail to make out the proper features for sunspot counting and McIntosh classification. A lack of resolution may lead to lower estimates to the level of solar activity. As a result, some image processing measures are taken to improve resolution, however this tampers with the data.

A useful technique is to render an isophote of the image in order to make out details. Isophotes use pixel intensity to map out areas with different concentrations. This is usually used in mapping out topological terrain.

The software ImageJ allows users to construct 3D isophote rendering of sunspot groups. This helps make out points which are hard to see visually. Intensities can also be adjusted to make out fainter points.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lunar Observation - 1 April 2014

It has been a while since I have been able to image a thin Waxing Crescent Moon. There was this condominium unit being built beside my old place in Cubao, Quezon City which completely obstructed my Eastern view. Now I have a wider and darker sky here at Proj. 6.

Here are 2 pictures of a roughly 2 day old moon with 3.7% illumination. The first one is taken with a 6" Newtonian reflector, while the second was through a short-tubed 70 mm refractor.

Friday, February 21, 2014

National Astronomy Convention

In line with the National Astronomy Week, the Rizal Technological University held a National Astronomy Convention with the theme "Enticing Filipinos Through Visions of Astronomical Progress"

RTU President, Dr. Jesus Rodrigo F. Torres

Keynote address by Dr. Catherine Castaneda, Director IV - CHED NCR

Plenary Speaker 1: Solar Observation by Dr. Jett Aguilar, Vice President of the Astronomical League of the Philippines

Plenary Speaker 2: Stellar and Planetary Atmosphere by Michael Bala, Weather Specialist 1 RDTD PAGASA

Plenary Speaker 3: Planetary Geology by Erika Valdueza, Msc Geomatics Engineering

Plenary Speaker 4: Solar Observation workshop by Norman Marigza, Head of the RTU-Solar Observation Program

Plenary Speaker 5: Gravitational Microlensing by Dr. Reinabelle Reyes, PhD, KICP Fellow in Princeton University

Plenary Speaker 6: Binary Stars by Dr. Thijs Kouwenhoven, PhD, Research Professor at Kavli Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University

Plenary Speaker 7: Image Acquisition and Processing by Mr. Christopher Go, discoverer of Red Spot Jr

Plenary Speaker 8: Space Weather by Professor Emanuel Sungging, Researcher at Lapan, Pusan Sains Antariksa, Indonesia

Plenary Speaker 9: Active Galactic Nuclei by Dr. Dading Nugroho PhD, Lecturer and Trainer for the Indonesia Astronomy Olympiad National Team