Thursday, July 31, 2014

Free Stargazing Talk - The Summer Triangle


The next public stargazing talk is titled "The Summer Triangle".

Date: Saturday, 2 August 2014
Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

Admission is free. No pre-registration required. Late-comers welcomed!

Three bright stars from three constellations form the asterism known as the Summer Triangle. And our Milky Way galaxy cuts right across it! Some of the most spectacular celestial objects will remain "hidden" in these constellations to those who do not know their of their existence, let alone trying to find them in the sky.

So come attend this info-taining multimedia talk and discover these treasures in the sky. Participants will also be taught how to read a printed sky map which will be distributed during the talk (while stock lasts).

Weather permitting, there will be live stargazing during or after the talk at the open grounds just outside the main entrance of Toa Payoh Public Library. Come see the Moon, Mars, Saturn, star clusters. star clouds up close and personal through our telescopes!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Singapore Science Festival Sidewalk Astronomy


As tweeted a couple of weeks ago, the Singapore Science Festival for this year is from 18 July to 3 August 2014. This festival is jointly organised by the Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR) and the Science Centre Singapore.

Various science related activities have been conducted. The most interesting activity to us amateur astronomers will be their Sidewalk Astronomy sessions at various locations in Singapore on the same evening on Friday 1 August 2014.

These live stargazing sessions are of course *weather dependent* as usual.

From the Science Festival official Facebook page, these are the locations:

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(1) SCOB – Science Centre Observatory
15 Science Centre Rd, Singapore 609081

(2) Yew Tee : Outside Yew Tee MRT (Between Yew Tee Square & Yew Tee Shopping Mall)
Venue provider Yew Tee RC Zone 10
61 Choa Chu Kang Drive

(3) Paya Lebar Methodist School (Basketball court at level 3)
298 Lorong Ah Soo, Singapore 536741
Location Map

(4) Christchurch Secondary School
20 Woodlands Drive 17, Singapore 737924

(5) Toa Payoh Public Library
6 Toa Payoh Central, Singapore 319191

(6) Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 Area between Blk 453A & Blk 449

The official contact person of this Sidewalk Astronomy session is Mr Alfred Lim from Science Centre Singapore. His email is alfred_lim@science.edu.sg.

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Work schedule permitting, I may drop by at Toa Payoh Public Library to participate in the activities on that day. Inside the library, they will be various short talks conducted at 7:45pm, 8:10pm and 8:35pm.

Children can also take part in the sundial making activity in the library's activity room.

This is the poster of the event outside the library's Programme Zone:


Weather permitting, live stargazing through telescopes at open grounds just outside the main entrance of the library from 7:45pm to 10pm. This is the same regular spot where we conduct sidewalk astronomy sessions at Toa Payoh Central.



Do follow my tweets for more updated information about Science Festival activities at Toa Payoh Public Library. Wishing all participants having a good time on that day learning more about the oldest science known to human being!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Free Stargazing Talk - Meteor Showers



The next public stargazing talk is titled "Meteor Showers".

Date: Saturday, 5 July 2014
Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

Admission is free. No pre-registration required. Late-comers welcomed!


Stars do not shoot around in the Universe! :)

Attend this astronomy talk to find out more about Meteor Showers - what they really are, how and when to observe them.

Weather permitting, there will be live stargazing during or after the talk at the open grounds just outside the main entrance of Toa Payoh Public Library. Come see the Moon, Mars, Saturn, star clusters. star clouds up close and personal through our telescopes!

Feel free to join in the fun with your family and friends. And for soccer fans, you may catch free live screenings of World Cup Quarter-finals at Toa Payoh Central Community Club which is just across the street.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Stargazing at Bidadari



There is a big dark field inside Bidadari that is suitable for stargazing and astrophotography.

This is the map of that location (open grounds at right of Upper Serangoon Road):


Since I need to attend an appointment at Potong Pasir in the late afternoon yesterday, decided to recce this site alone for myself for the first time last night. Somehow didn't manage to visit this site earlier even though I stay in Toa Payoh which is relatively near and this site has been mentioned every now and then in singastro astronomy forum over the years.

While checking Potong Pasir map online for my appointment, saw this nearby big green patch. Thought it may be a good location for stargazing without realising/remembering this is the same woodleigh/potong pasir field/bidadari area that was mentioned in this forum and on newspapers. Turns out this may be good thing for me as I could evaluate this place without much bias. More on this later.

Firstly, clear up some potential confusion about the naming (which may have contributed to my not recalling this site). Here are some names used in singastro forum previously by various members, in online maps and newspaper reports:

(1) Cemetery off Upper Serangoon Road
(2) Observation site or open field near Woodleigh MRT
(3) Former Muslim/Christian Cemetery
(4) Field near Potong Pasir
(5) Field near Upper Serangoon Road / Upper Aljunied Road
(6) Bidadari
(7) Bidadari Park
(8) Bidadari New Town

Turns out, they are all referring to the same field/observation site which is the big open field between Potong Pasir MRT and Woodleigh MRT! (5) is probably the most descriptively accurate "name" but is too wordy. To those who stay near that area and nature lovers of Bidadari (especially birders), this may not be confusing. But for the rest of us who are not very familiar with that place, it can be!

So for the sake of common discussion and ease of future forum searching, I suggested we just call this site/field "Bidadari" from this point onward! And if you prefer to shorten it and to call it more affectionately like some birders do, "Bida". :)

By the way, interesting fact I read from Nature Watch (Nature Society Singapore): " "Bidadari" was derived from the Sanskrit word "widyadari"; meaning a nymph or fairy."

Before I begin my brief recce report, some history and credits about Bidadari mentioned in singastro forum.

It was mentioned at least as far back in 2007 by forum members Kay Heem & Hommel in the General Astronomy forum (you won't find this thread if you search for "bidadari" instead of "potong pasir".)

Check out the nice panoraomic photo and annotated google map of Bidadari in Kay Heem's zip attachment.

It was mentioned as recently as last year 2013 by George when he posted about shooting Milky Way and Comet ISON at Bidadari.

In between these posts, several other forum members must have discussed about it too. This is an example which initially started off as a discussion about Dempsey observation site in Coffee Corner.

Those who are interested to find out more about such previous discussions can continue your research by searching "bidadari" in singastro forum.

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Now back to my recce report. Most if not all of these observations may be the same as observed/reported by others who have visited Bidadari earlier:

Big open spaces, no lighting inside the field, low grass level, didn't hear any mosquito or got bitten by any.

Here's a low quality video from my phone:



Nice pavement/track in decent condition for joggers. Occasional pot holes. Should not be a problem for pushing astro gear along it on a trolley. Better than over grass anyway.

Spot where the above video was taken later in the evening.

Saw joggers continue to jog when the sky/field is dark, i.e. 8pm++.

Comparing the google map satellite photos Kay Heem took in 2007 and current ones and from onsite observation, there are fewer trees.

No big glaring lights from the nearby roads and houses especially if you walked closer towards the center of the field.

Facing South. Brighter stars of Centaurus and Crux captured with phone in HDR. Silhouette of jogger in the background. 

The field is like a very gentle hill with the highest point in the center. So if you walked beyond that and further away from the main Upper Serangoon Road, the hill itself can be used to completely shield off some of the distant lights from the street lamps and some far away building lights.

Jupiter (white "star") setting in the west.

Near Potong Pasir MRT and Woodleigh MRT. Overall, the whole field is slightly nearer to Woodleigh MRT. Additional advantage of Woodleigh MRT is you do not have to cross any road if you come out from Exit A. There's a lift and wheelchair friendly slopes near this exit. You may just walk a few meters on grass from there to reach the nearest field track. To the stargazer, this translate to less hassle and time saved to transport your astro gear to the darker areas in the dark field.

Quite a few bus stops near the field. There's one near Woodleigh MRT Exit A.

Woodleigh MRT Exit A

Woodleigh MRT at far left. Bidadari at right.

No temporary shelters. If it rains suddenly, run to nearest MRT/bus stop.

No car parks nearby. According to George, some drivers park their vehicles here temporarily, somewhere between the two MRT stations along Upper Serangoon Road, slightly nearer to Potong Pasir side:



Back to being able to evaluate this place with lesser bias. Since I didn't know it was Bidadari, I did not realise then it was a CEMETERY! For many minutes with no joggers in sight, I was just enjoying the peace, darkness and starry night in the field alone. Every now and then, I will squat down to take some photos with my mobile phone in HDR mode (else all black images as it was too dark and/or phone camera sensor not sensitive enough).

I did not recall seeing or feeling anything unusual or eerie and my photos and videos didn't not capture anything strange too. Just saying how I felt then as a matter of fact, not trying to disprove if eerie things are still present there for those who believe.

So the more "scary" part of this recce to me is to realise now it is *the* Bidadari that will be gone soon! Now I remembered all the news about Bidadari turning into a HDB New Town soon and Nature Society trying to protect as much of it as possible. Also recalled attending this Bidadari New Town exhibition at Toa Payoh Central last year. A quick check with recent news online seems to suggest that the earliest construction work could be as soon as next year 2015.

Here's the official video by HDB regarding the future of Bidadari:



After watching the video, I find it ironic Nature has to be destroyed to build a garden for the community. And destroying the Heritage of the cemetery and important resting place for migratory birds to build a heritage walk to admire the "heritage" of a new concrete jungle? And don't get me started on those three searchlights beaming into the sky! You never know when robbers might parachute into your house at night! :)

Unless we find a super rare one-in-a-billion bird species in Bidadari, this field turning into a New Town is a forgone conclusion.

Growing up as an urban kid, I hear stories from my older friends and relatives about growing up in kampungs (villages) in Singapore. For example, the fun and horror stories of walking back home late night across pitch dark cemeteries after a late night hangout with friends.

Last night, I walked around this field, said hello to joggers and people walking their dogs, stopped every now and then to take a photo and admired the dark starry night sky. For that magical hour or two in the dark and alone, I felt I got a little closer to experiencing what my friends and relatives were always reminiscing about - the good old kampung days where much more stars and Milky Way were still visible in Singapore on a clear night.

So to all stargazers, photographers, joggers, historians and nature lovers, do check out this place at least once before it is all fenced up for construction in a few months!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Stargazing tonight outside Courts Toa Payoh


Weather permitting, I will be stargazing at open grounds outside Courts Toa Payoh tonight.

Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014
Time: From 8:00 PM onwards
Venue: Open grounds outside Courts Toa Payoh  [Google Map] [Street View]

Come see Saturn and stars through telescope(s)! Free and open to public. All are welcomed.

There's a pasar malam going on outside Toa Payoh Public Library. You may enjoy some nice finger food there. :)

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Update 4 July 2014:

This is a brief report and pics of the 18 Jun sidewalk astronomy session at Courts Toa Payoh.

Thanks to all for coming, especially Hong Lian for helping out with his dobsonian telescope. Able to spend more time explaining stuff to a smaller weekday crowd - how to read sky maps, pros and cons of different types of telescopes, ...etc. Good views of Saturn and Jewel Box. Saw Martian ice caps again in the dobs.

Highlight of the evening was encountering 2 police officers on patrol. They had a great time looking through the telescopes and understanding what we are doing. They walked away without even asking us to show any identification.

Thanks to them, some of the residents sitting around there who have been watching us from a short distance couldn't endure their growing curiosity anymore. They came and queued behind the police officers and patiently waited for their turn to take a look through our telescopes. Needless to say, nobody dared to cut the queue!






This is a single shot phone pic of Saturn through my 10-inch dobsonian telescope, slightly enhanced in photoshop. The actual live view at that time was of course way much better than this! One would be able to see very sharp contrasty bands, rings and moons of Saturn nearby!



Friday, June 6, 2014

Free Stargazing Talk - Basic Stargazing Skills


The next public stargazing talk is titled "Basic Stargazing Skills".

Date: Saturday, 7 June 2014
Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

Admission is free. No pre-registration required. Late-comers welcomed!


It's a huge pity the general public is not able to appreciate and enjoy stargazing better due to lack of understanding of basic astronomical concepts and observation techniques. Most of these concepts and techniques can be easily acquired with proper explanation in simple language, presentation slides and live demonstrations.

Weather permitting, there will be live stargazing during or after the talk at the open grounds outside the library. Come see Moon, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, star clusters and nebula (star cloud) through telescopes!

So feel free to join in the fun with your family and friends. It's the June holidays after all!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

New Meteor Shower - Camelopardalids


Update 24 May at 5:20pm : The predicted peak hour is over. But from online feedback, not many meteors seen. So do not have very high hopes of seeing many meteors in Singapore even if the sky is clear.

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Astronomers are predicting that there will be new meteor shower visible today (24 May). Its name is Camelopardalids as the meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis (aka Giraffe constellation).

Can we see it from Singapore? Answer is YES provided *both* of the following conditions are met:

(1) The sky is clear and dark enough.
(2) Observer is patient enough to keep looking at the northern sky from sunset of Saturday 24 May.



The peak of the meteor is expected to be from 2pm - 4pm Singapore time today (UT+8). So the best location to see it is in countries high up above the equator and experiencing night time during this time period - e.g. North America and Canada.

From Singapore, most of Camelopardalis will be *just below* the horizon from sunset to sunrise. You can find it in free planetarium apps like Sky Map (Android) and Planets (iOS). But just because you cannot see the constellation does not necessary means you will not see any meteors!

Meteors "shoot out" from an apparent radiant point. In this case, shooting out in all directions from the north near horizon across the rest of the sky. Parts of this rest of the sky is still dark and visible from Singapore and that's why it is still possible to see some of them here. Not as much and as long as North America but not totally zero either.

The peak of this activity is from 2pm - 4pm Singapore local time. Meteors do not suddenly disappear from potentially hundreds to zero immediately after the peak hour. No doubt the rate will decrease from peak hour making the possibility of seeing them lower but not totally impossible in the few hours before or after peak hour.

Moreover, meteor peak hour predictions may not be 100% accurate. So it may actually peak earlier or later. The fact that this is a brand new meteor seen for the first time adds to the chance of peak hour prediction errors.

So the strategy to view them in Singapore is to observe at the night closest to this peak hour as possible. That would be tonight 24 May. Especially just shortly after sunset when the sky is dark enough.

As for the best location in Singapore, most probably along Changi Beach facing the north. For those who can't go there, find the next best alternatives:

- Go to dark park with open skies, i.e. away from nearby glaring lights especially from the north.
- Go up high to minimise ground level local light pollution. e.g. sky parks and roof top gardens.

If can't leave your house and have a good enough view of the northern sky, try to switch off all the lights in the house and observe! At least your eyes will be able to dark adapt better then being outdoors with bright lights shining into your eyes.

If you are able to stay awake till Moon rise at about 3:53am you may see something that is quite extraordinary through a telescope - meteor shower visible in the unlit side of the thin crescent Moon! You may see them as sudden but tiny flashes.

For those who are into photography, this may be interesting opportunity to shoot star trails with meteors radiating across them.

Always learn how to manage your expectations when it comes to observing meteor showers:

(1) Camelopardalids is & *predicted* to have a rate of hundreds of meteors per hour. Some even say 1000! Meteor rate predictions is not exact science. So set you expectation low so even if you see a couple over a few hours, you can be quite contented.

(2) All astronomical events are totally dependent on the weather. Plan to spend your Saturday evenings in more enjoyable ways in advance in case the weather is not promising.

(3) If portions of the sky is clear enough and you have access to a telescope or binoculars, whey not observe the stars and the planets while hunting for meteors? Mars, Saturn, Jupiter appear early in the evening and Venus and Moon couple of hours before sunrise.

(4) Make use of the time to catch up with your family and friends. You can still talk to them face to face or or on the phone while staring at the northern sky. Or listen to your favourite music, recorded lecture or audio book which you can't seems to find the time to listen to.

Recommended reading about Camelopardalids:

- http://www.space.com/25982-rare-meteor-shower-camelopardalid-comet-unknowns.html
- http://earthsky.org/tonight/best-times-to-watch-friday-nights-meteor-shower

WEATHER PERMITTING, my friends and I *MAY* be going to Bishan Park to observe this meteor and/or conduct a free public stargazing session tonight. This will most probably be a very last minute decision so stay tuned to my blog, twitter or Singapore Sidewalk Astronomy facebook page.

Wishing for clear skies tonight and good luck meteor hunting! We may the first human species to see this meteor shower for the very first time in history!