Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Geminid Meteor Shower 14/15 December 2011

Geminid Meteor Shower is here again! The best time to catch it at its peak is during the nights or early mornings of 14 - 15 December 2011 for Asia.

Meteors can streak across any part of the sky during those nights but one should have a higher chance of seeing them if you look at the part of the sky where the constellation Gemini is located. Unfortunately, there is bright Moon near Gemini which will make the fainter streaks hard if not impossible to see.

But the good news is that Geminds brighter fireballs may still be spotted as proven in this video created by John Chumack from the United States just yesterday!

One way to avoid Moon's light is to start observing once the sky is dark and before the Moon rises at about 10pm Singapore time for those 2 nights. Try to stay in a dark spot and let your eyes dark adapt as much as possible during this period. Looking at your brightly lit handphone display will spoil your dark eye adaptation. So try to lower your handphone screen brightness as much as possible or better still wrap a red piece of cellophane around it. :)

The best time to observe is around 2.00 am in the early morning when Gemini will be high up in the sky.

Location wise, choose a dark place with a good unobstructed view of the North East portion of the sky. Changi Beach is such one good location. Try to position yourself inside the shadow of a big tree while facing towards the sea.

It will be good idea to bring along some reclining chairs or sleeping bags as you may be looking up at the sky for long periods of time. You may want to put on long pants, a sweater and wear socks as the temperature may drop as the night progresses and the cold sea wind blowing towards you. This attire will also minimise any potential mosquito bites.

Of course the sky must be relatively clear too to see any meteor showers. You do not need to wait for the whole sky to be completely clear before you can see meteors. If you are lucky, the fireballs may just streak pass a certain clear patch of the sky.

Here is one beautiful video of last year's Geminids created by YouTuber Mockmoon. Do check out his other stunning time-lapse videos too at his youtube channel.

Once you have made a decision to go to a beach and observe, do manage your expectations about the possibility catching the meteor shower. There is always a possibility you will not see any. So do not get too worked up if you don't. Astronomy as a hobby is suppose to relieve stress, not increase it. :)

Here are some ideas to make your trip enjoyable even if you don't see any meteors or while waiting for the clouds to clear:

(1) Go observe with a friend or a group of friends. It is a great time to catch up with them while enjoying the sea breeze and the cool weather.

(2) Listen to music or audio books while you look up at the sky.

(3) Bring a small binocular and scan the the clear patches of the sky for stars. If you are lucky, a bright meteor might just flash past in the binocular view! The binocular can be use for plane watching as Changi Beach is near the airport.

(4) If you can bring a small telescope along and intend to stay overnight, try to observe Venus which is visible in the west just after sunset, Jupiter high up in the east and Mars and Saturn rising up from the east after midnight!

(5) Have some nice supper like the lasi lemak at the 24 hr hawker center near the bus interchange.

December is one of the wettest month here so it most people may not feel too optimistic about seeing the Geminds. But even if you miss this peak meteor shower period due to bad weather, it is still possible to see them the next few days at at less rate. So keep checking the weather for the next few days and get ready to go out and catch some meteors if the night sky turns clear.

Last December, my friends and I were lucky in catching a few meteors on a very clear night at Changi Beach. I brought my telescope along and was more interested taking advantage of the rare clear skies to see the star clusters then actually observing the meteors! A group of family and friends join us shortly after midnight and I was glad they manage to catch some meteors before they left.

Me and my astro buddy stayed up all the way till sunrise. Here are some of the single-shot non-stacked photos I took that night using a cheapo compact camera on a mini tripod. Apologies for my lousy post-processing skills. May try to touch them up for my future talks and presentations if I have the time.

Orion Constellation ( 12 Dec 2010 23:24:17). Those astronomy newcomers who have attended the total lunar eclipse event last Saturday at Toa Payoh Central should have no problem identifying this constellation in this photo. The ghostly red patch is a cloud.

Venus and Saturn ( 13 Dec 2010 06:12:35 ). Venus is so bright and that's why it is also known as the Morning Star.

Human Lightning Rod ( 13 Dec 2010 06:15:26 ). The Big Dipper! Making use of the camera timer, I have to make a 10 second dash to the telescope and freeze in that pose for another 15 seconds.

So good luck guys! Hope you can catch some meteors and make a wish for the world not to end in 2012! LOL :P

Friday, December 9, 2011

Total Lunar Eclipse @ Toa Payoh Central CC

Greetings fellow Earthlings!

There is a Total Lunar Eclipse happening on 10th December 2011 Saturday evening  from about 7.33pm to 1.30am Singapore Time (+8 UT).


In Singapore time:

Penumbral Eclipse Begins:   7.33 pm (saturday)
Partial Eclipse Begins:     8.45 pm
Total Eclipse Begins:       10.06 pm
Greatest Eclipse:            10.31 pm
Total Eclipse Ends:        10.57 pm
Partial Eclipse Ends:      12.17am (sunday)
Penumbral Eclipse Ends:     1.30 am
(source:  NASA Eclipse Website )

The most exciting part of the Eclipse to observe is when the partial eclipse turns total and the Moon turns coppery red!


To observe this eclipse, just looks towards East for the rising Moon. You do not need to go a very dark place or very high to observe the eclipse. But such environment can enhance the mood of enjoying the eclipse and other stars and planets visible on the same night.

It is safe to observe with just our naked eyes alone, i.e. no special visual equipment is required. But with a telescope or binocular or high-zoom camera/camcorder lens, you can also enjoy the close up look of the eclipse and the surface features of the Moon during the eclipse.

The eclipse may be fully or partially visible in other countries. Please refer to this image to find out: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Visibility_Lunar_Eclipse_2011-12-10.png


This lunar eclipse is special because:

(1) It is a total lunar eclipse, not partial which happens more frequently. The next total lunar eclipse is in 2014.

(2) A lunar eclipse does not always occur at a suitable observing-friendly time like a weekend evening.

(3) During a lunar eclipse, not all locations in the world can view it from start to finish. Singapore is one such location for this upcoming eclipse.


(1) Toa Payoh Central Coummunity Club
organise by members of Singastro forum

(2) One Fullerton
organise by members of Singastro forum:

(3) Labrador Park (at the Berlayer Beacon facing Sentosa):
organise by The Astronomical Society of Singapore (TASOS)

I am personally involved in the team helping out at Toa Payoh Central CC. If you have queries for the other 2 events, you may approach the respective organisers as provided in the links above.



Date: 10th December 2011, Saturday.
Time: 8 pm -- 11 pm
Admission: Free. Open to Public.
Venue: Toa Payoh Central Community Club
(opposite library, a few minutes walk from Toa Payoh MRT station)
Google Map --> http://goo.gl/AyV2U

This event is strictly non-profit and organised purely out of goodwill to let the public enjoy astronomical wonders at no charge. There will be no commercial activities involved, no touting of any commerical services or astronomical products, no compulsory forms to fill up.

Our volunteers are not paid and the telescopes and related equipment depolyed are from their own private collection. As such, we would like to advise visitors not to touch the telescopes without their permission. We would also like to advise visitors not to consume any food and beverage in the vicinity of such equipment to prevent potential accidental damage to them.

These are 2 videos of the observation area at the sheltered roof terrace at level 3:

The lights there will be switched off to minimise stray lights intefering with the telescope observation session and also for big screen/LCD projections during the public talks and live eclipse streaming sessions.

Depending on the length of the telescope queues, you may use your phone camera to take a photo of the eclipse through the telescope or we may assign a queue specifically for that.

There is free wireless@sg wifi reception at the observation area which you can also make use of to update your social media accounts or upload photos during the eclipse.

Feel free to bring your family and friends along and enjoy a casual and cozy eclipse observation session at the CC!

For the latest updates, you may visit or follow us at http://www.twitter.com/astrosg .