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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Viewing the sun from Science Centre Observatory

One certain sweltering sunny day in December, Scobbers hosted a group of students very interested in Astronomy. We brought the kids and teachers up to our big 16-inch (40cm) Cassegrain Reflector telescope, where we viewed the sun through a sun filter. FYI: The sun filter looks like a mirror and covers the whole front end of the telescope for safe viewing of the sun by reducing glare.

Sky was clear, there were no clouds blocking our view of the sun, and the resulting image is an orangey sun against a black background. Andrew pointed out some sunspots to the kids, and we caught it on the 2 photos below. Can you see the sunspots at the top right hand corner in the picture?

Viewing the sun in the Observatory dome is a very sweaty affair, and dangerous too. The sun's rays when focused through the telescope, could so easily burn a hole in the dome's carpet, that we better not talk about your eyes. So necessary precautions had to be taken as mentioned above. But it was very different from the usual night sky viewing, and I think you should try it too.

15 January 2009
, we are going to view the sun again at SCOB. Time is 2.30PM to 5.30PM at where the Observatory dome is. Why a Friday afternoon!? Because there will be a solar eclipse! Although just a partial one, but a spectacular event to be sure, IF the sky is not too cloudy. Expect the sun to look like a "half-eaten cookie".

As the date draws nearer, we'll post more details on the scob blog.

Hope to see you on the 15th! Meanwhile, Happy 2010!

An Amazing Visual Treat

Thanks for the recommendation, Terence! This video achieved 8766 five-star ratings on Youtube, and when watching it, I found myself holding my breath, 'cause it was simply awesome.

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010. For more information visit

Monday, December 21, 2009

Before we close for the year,

Hohoho, Merry Christmas to all of you, our dear Bleaders (Blog readers)!

Thanks to all of you for your constant support ever since we started blogging this year. It's been an amazing journey so far, we enjoyed writing, researching, linking webbies and photographing for you, but most of all we loved your comments and responses. It kept us going, trust me.

We'll catch up with you again after Jan 1st, and meanwhile, Orion, Canis major the Big Dog, and The Seven Sisters are a delight to spot.

Enjoy Christmas shopping, see you in 2010. *Blowing kisses*

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Star Map

Sometimes I wonder, is it really worth bothering with astronomy in Singapore? Looking at the night sky over the past few months, I asked myself: WHERE ARE THE STARS?????????????

Every time, I sat down to put together our monthly star map I had to think hard about how many stars to include on the map. Last month, it would have been quite accurate just to include ONE dot on that circular map, i.e. the planet Jupiter, which was one of the few objects who's brightness could break through the bright urban lights and mostly overcast sky.

However, there is no need to despair. The brightest lights of the heavens are fast approaching.It just so happens that October and November were pretty barren months in terms of the number of bright stars available for viewing.

December "should" be a particularly good month for urban stargazing, several of the brightest constellations in the sky are about the appear, for example Taurus, Orion Cassiopeia, Perseus. Cause for celebration indeed but before I get too optimistic, I should point out that we are still in the rainy season here in Singapore and so the likelihood of a cloudy sky is in fact quite......likely. So despite some really interesting objects on view this month we may not get to fully enjoy them.

Having said that, here is December's Star Map, just in case ;)

If we do get a clear sky here's a list of some of the treats on view in my stars of the months:

1)M45 – The Pleiades (Seven Sisters)
A large and bright cluster of young white-blue stars. Try and spot the 7 brightest members using only your eyes. Use binoculars to experience its full glory!
2)The Hyades
A loose grouping of stars next to the bright star of Aldebaran. One of the closest star clusters to the Sun (150 light years away). Requires binoculars.
3)Perseus Double Cluster (NGC 869 & NGC 884)
Two large clusters lying close together in our Galaxy. Must use binoculars but can be tricky to find in our urban sky.
4)Alpha Persei/Melotte 20 Cluster
This large, loose cluster surrounds and includes the supergiant star of Alpha Persei (Mirfak), the brightest star in Perseus. Find it with binoculars or telescopes at low power.
5,6,7. – M38, M37, M36 respectively
Three star clusters located a short distance from each other in Auriga. M37 (no. 6) is the brightest of the three. Containing hundreds of stars they can appear very faint in bright skies

Let's hope for a dry January!

Some recent Fisheye Lomo B&W Pics of the Science Centre OBservatory - Day time

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Morning's Sky

It was 5.45am. I could see something real bright outside my window the minute I opened my eyes. It looked like a star, or a planet. But it couldn't be, I would usually need my specs.

And so, this morning, I woke up without difficulty for a change. In fact, I jumped up from bed wide awake, and spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out the whole beautiful clear dawn sky. Note: I can see a partially obscured view of the Southern sky from my window.

It turned out Canopus was shining through my window. It is the second brightest star in the sky, and is 65 times bigger than our sun, 15,000 times brighter. Thus from my window, this star was easily the brightest one of all, despite being approx 300 lightyears away. It had got to be really bright for me to spot it even without specs.

To the Chinese and the Japanese, this star is also known as 南极老人星, or 老人星 (Star of the Old Man) for short. It signifies happiness and longevity.

To see this in the evening, we have to wait till April 2010. Do drop by SCOB, and we can tell you all about Canopus, and Sirius, the brightest star of all.

Other objects in the sky this morning include our beloved planets Mars and Saturn. Mars was gleaming away above my head looking all reddish and sparkling. Try and catch it tomorrow morning if the sky is clear.

With that, time to go to work.

Good Morning Folks!