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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scobbers go to Jakarta - Kalbe Junior Science Fair

Last week, from 7th-10th Sept, scobbers Murni and Andrew (i.e. myself) journeyed to Jakarta, Indonesia to conduct our first overseas planetarium shows with our trusty STARLAB inflatable planetarium.
It was all part of the annual Kalbe Junior Science Fair, held at Jakarta Convention Center (JCC). Actually, we were more of a small part, as the fair was huge! Occupying the about two large convention halls, with a mixture of sponsor's booths, activities stations, playgrounds, workshops and stage performances. The atmosphere was an amazing bustle of activity and excitement, more popular than the large IT fairs we get here in Singapore.

Here are some highlights:
Checking in for the flight, just within baggage allowance.

Entrance banners

Setting up the dome

In anticipation of the large crowd, we made a temporary barrier of chairs and rope.

Which was further enhanced by a human barrier.

Here they come! Over 30,000 visitors on day one.

Our large dome of stars was very attractive. Was challenging to manage the crowd sometimes but people were always friendly and patient. We increased the number of sessions from 6 to 13 sessions on the first day.

First time someone brought a dog inside the planetarium.

We were right next to the main stage, sometimes it was so loud we couldn't hear ourselves talk, visitors still enjoyed seeing the stars and constellations though. On the stage, there were performances by Indonesian singers and student dance groups as well as talks by Japanese scientist and astronaut Dr Mamoru Mohri.

We issued out stickers/tickets for each session (30 pax per session) by midday, we were out of tickets, all sessions full.
End of day two, all packed up after 2pm session, to make way for the closing ceremony performances.

Other exhibits and attractions:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Moon Photos

Just a quick post to share some photos which we took last Saturday Night (1st Sept) whilst conducting a stargazing session for a group of students and parents from Pasir Ris Primary School.

It was one day after the Full Moon, therefore hardly any shadow on the surface. Craters stand out best with  some shadow to create an outline and give depth.
Full Moons are good for observing the large dark areas known as seas or "maria" (latin for seas) as well as a few craters with bright rays of dust which spread out across the surface after the original impact.
Crater Tycho - one of the brightest dust ray systems on the Moon

Mare Fecunditatis (Sea of Fecundity) - with crater Langrenus (centre). Also crater Humboldt on the right side edge standing out near the lunar shadow.

Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises) on the top right, along with crater Gauss along the Moon's edge.

Mare Serenitatis (left) and Mare Tranquillitatis (right) - Seas of Serenity and Tranquillity. The far right of Tranquillity is the location of the Apollo 11 landing site, where the late Neil Armstrong took his first steps.

Crater Copernicus (centre) and crater Kepler (bottom centre) - in an area known as Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms)
The sky was clear enough to see a number of other stars and planets. At the end of the evening I asked our guests what was the best object they saw, almost all replied "The Moon".
Its by far the biggest and brightest object in the night sky and with so many interesting features, I guess its hard not like the Moon.

In honour of Neil Armstrong
Landing site of Apollo 11 (Tranquillity Base) - Taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The horizontal tracks from the LM (lunar module) to the crater (Little West) were made by Neil Armstrong as he walked to observe the crater that he narrowly missed when landing the LM for first time back in 1969.

Monday, September 3, 2012

September Sky 2012

September is here and change is abound.

Stars and Constellations of September
For months we've been concentrating on the bright southern constellations like Crux, Centaurus, Scorpius and Sagittarius.
Stars of Sagittarius as seen from Singapore

Scorpius and Sagittarius are still around but now its time for these constellations to gradually move aside for some of the brightest stars in the northern part of the sky like those of Aqulia Cygnus and Lyra, which include the Summer Triangle.

1) Delphinus – a small constellation representing a Dolphin. Visible to the naked eye and binoculars.
2) Coathanger Asterism (Brocchi’s Cluster) – A small group of 10 stars in the shape of a coathanger. Requires binoculars or small telescopes. Located in the faint constellation of Vulpecula.
3) Dumbbell Nebula (M27) – a Planetary Nebula, gas cloud formed from the other layers of a dying star.
Appears as a faint misty ellipse using low magnification.
4) Albireo (Beta Cygni) – a colourful double star, yellow and blue in colour. Requires telescope.
5) Ring Nebula (M57) – A faint planetary nebula in the shape of a ring or halo. Appears misty in small telescopes.
6) Double-Double (Epsilon Lyrae) – Four stars arranged in pairs, very close together. Larger telescopes and high magnifications are need to separate each pair to see all four stars. 600 light-years away.

Some my favourite targets within these constellations are double stars like the colourful Albireo (beta cygni) and the Double Double (epsilon lyrae), as well as a faint collection of stars known as the coathanger asterism (among other names). Visible in binoculars or a finderscope its located near the centre of the Summer Triangle (constellation Vulpecula) and looks like a coathanger.

Double Star "Albireo" - Beta Cygni as seen through the observatory's 16 inch cassegrain reflector telescope
In the unlikely event of extremely clear skies and no moon we may feel ambitious and aim for the faint glows of the Ring Nebula(M57) and Dumbbell Nebula (M27).

This year, September also sees the disappearance of Saturn, but it can still be seen for a few weeks in the early evening around 8pm.
Mars hangs around for a another month or two, although it now appears very tiny in telescopes. Gradually making its way across the constellation Libra, Mars will eventually end up in front of Scorpius, next to the bright red star Antares.
Antares gets its name from Mars, as "Ares" is Greek for Mars, therefore Antares literally means "Anti-Mars" as they both appear similar in colour (red/orange).

Neptune and Uranus are at their closest position to Earth right now. Neptune was at opposition (in direct alignment with Earth) on 24th Aug and Uranus will reach opposition on 29th Sept.

This means that they'll be visible during the later part of the evening but even at their closest they are still billions of kilometres away so in a telescope they kinda look like this:

The Moon

The best time to view the Moon during our Friday Night Stargazing session will be 21st Sept (Crescent Moon) and 28th Sept (Gibbous Moon).
A good time for moon watching, at home will be on the evenings 19th & 20th Sept, when the crescent Moon moves past the red planet Mars and then between Mars and the red star Antares:

Finally 30th September is Mid Autumn Festival  中 秋 節 - Full Moon/15th day of 8th lunar month (Chinese Lunar Calendar), a time for family celebrations, lanterns and mooncakes.

What's special about this Full Moon is that it's the closest Full Moon to the Autumnal Equinox (22nd Sept, where night and day are equal length).
A common assumption about mid-autumn is that the Full Moon is at its biggest or brightest, which is not the case. Lunar festivals usually have some seasonal significance. For mid-autumn, its harvest time in the northern hemisphere.
The orientation of the Earth during Equinox causes the Moon to rise at a smaller angle and stay in the sky slightly longer (roughly12-13hours) than in previous months. Therefore, warm autumnal temperatures and long moonlight hours make this full moon the ideal time for night harvesting, before the cold winter weather arrives. In Europe, the autumnal Full Moons are called Harvest Moon and Hunter Moon for similar reasons.

Of course, here in Singapore, near the equator, its warm all year round and there is little or no change in the Full Moon's timing in the sky but we still in get to enjoy the festivities.