Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Hour Public Stargazing Sessions

Public Stargazing sessions during Earth Hour tonight:

(1) Woodlands Waterfront organised by Woodlands YEC Astronomy and AGASTRO (till 10 pm)

(2) East Coast Park carpark C4 area overnight session by Marine Parade Astronomy Club (MPASTRO)

(3) Wisma Atria roof top garden (free, open to public, from 7.30pm till 10pm)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Maksutov Showdown at Toa Payoh Town Park

"Oh na na, What's my name? Oh na na, What's my name?" Got to get this wicked Rihanna song out of my head.

Irritated by my limited vocabulary to describe that circular observation spot in Toa Payoh Town Park in my previous visit, I decided to find out its official name.

This is part of the layout map displayed at the main entrance.

Wisteria Trellis!!

If only I can collect 10 cents from every Toa Payoh residents who does not know the official name of that spot, I can raise enough money to build an observatory there in no time. And 10 cents for every Singaporean who thinks the name sounds like a condominium, I can hire a full time research team to man the observatory. Ok. I can't beat this dead horse any harder.

To be fair, the words describe the spot accurately. Trellis is a lattice framework to support vines or plants and wisteria is kind of climbing scrub.

After days of completely hazy and cloudy skies, some patches of blue skies finally appeared at sunset on 18th January 2011. So I decided to take a chance to observe at Wisteria Trellis for the very first time with a telescope.

Some interesting cloud formation during sunset.

This is my new grab-and-go portable setup - 5 inch maksutov telescope on a SLIK camera tripod with a slow-motion adapter.

Started observing Jupiter the very moment it was visible against the bluish sky. Nice contrasty cloud bands seen as usual but was immediately reminded how much more wonderful it looked in my 8-inch reflector telescope (Celestron C8). Absence does makes the heart grow fonder. Any type of live view of Jupiter through a small telescope is way better than starring at clouds for a week.

Moon was bright and beautiful as usual.

While looking at the moon through the eyepiece, an F-15 fighter jet flew right across it! Woohoo! It look something like the following video I found on youtube but imagine a sleek F-15 silhouette instead of a commercial jet.

Manage to observe M41 star cluster in the Canis Major constellation and M42 nebula in Orion when the sky condition improved temporarily.

There was gentleman doing some chinese taji-like exercise in the same area. He was curious to look at the moon and liked what he saw. His native Chinese accent is a bit hard to comprehend but I tried to pay more attention to pick up the words in his sentences and did manage to strike a casual conversation with him. He told me he exercise at the area in the evening everday without fail. Sure enough, a couple of months later when I visited the place with my third (!) telescope, he was exercising there again. I really admire his discipline and perserverance.

Later in the evening, my astrobuddy ZY brought his telescope along. It is exactly the same telescope as my Skywatch Mak 127. But it is mounted a more steady and heavier duty Manfrotto camera tripod and mount. Out of curiosity, we pointed our telescopes at M41 cluster using the same 32mm focal length and different brand eyepieces and compared views. The field of view in his telescope is slightly bigger. So do not trust the official specifications of your astronomy gear blindly. It is always fun to verify them yourselves in the field.

We brought our portable stools along and have a nice chat inbetween observing sessions.

My setup is more shaky and take more seconds for the view to settle down because I am the pushing the tripod and mount a little beyond its comfort zone. But I still love the overall portability of the whole setup for nights like this when I think I have a 50% chance of clear enough skies as compared to my C8 plus porta mount setup which needs more encouraging sky conditions to motivate me to bring them out. Moreover, there isn't any nearby shelter at this area. If it suddenly rains, I can definitely grab this whole setup and dash to the nearest shelter provided by the overhead bridge leading to the Toa Payoh bus interchange.

In conclusion, a fruitful trip testing my portable set up at Wisteria Trellis. The fighter jet fly-by telescopic view really made my day. Hope to catch it on video someday. Sugoi !!!!  :)