Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sidewalk Stargazing featured in Weekender Issue #7

There is a stargazing article featured in the latest issue #7 of Weekender. It is under the Hobbies section on Page 9. You can download and read this free weekly publication here:

Big thanks to writer Miss Lee Li Ying for the article and Weekender's Editorial Director/Co-Founder Mr Frank Young for the invitation to have stargazing featured as a hobby in Weekender.

Weekender is a weekly *free* publication by a social enterprise with the mission statement "Be Happier". This is totally in-sync with Sidewalk Astronomy - spreading the joy of stargazing to the public for free. All issues of Weekender can be downloaded at their Facebook page. It is also printed and sent to local homes with a circulation of about 230,000.

To find out more about this refreshingly positive publication, go visit and like them at: While you are there, download and read their previous 6 issues too. You may be inspired to start a new hobby or have a deeper appreciation of people who are passionate about their dreams and their craft.

Due to space constraint, it is not possible to include as much content as the writers would like to. As such, I just want my unlimited blog space to share some perspective after seeing the final stargazing article. Hope this will let readers have a deeper understanding of the published article and photos.

(1) Crazy dude pointing at sky at a beach. 

That's Changi Beach in Singapore. Taken shortly before astronomical twilight  It was the end of an amazing overnight stargazing session with Yuan Huan. The asterism in the sky is the famous Big Dipper which it looks like an upside down wheel barrow. 

Click on it for bigger image.

This is long exposure photography from a point-and-shoot camera on a mini flexible tripod. I had to set the timer, dash to the spot and point at the sky and hold still for a few seconds - like a crazy dude. :) The telescope to my right in the picture is my 8-inch Celestron C8 telescope mounted on a Vixen PORTA manual non-computerised mount.

Due to the text overlay in the publication, the last 2 stars at the "handle" of the inverted wheelbarrow were less prominent. Thus, reducing the visual impact of the wheelbarrow shape and its apparent size across the sky. But for me, from a design/layout point of view, the upper right-hand corner location is the only suitable location to show the text. Any other location in the photo will make the overall look aesthetically unpleasant.

(2) Sidewalk astronomy at Toa Payoh Central

This is our favourite sidewalk astronomy location which is just outside the main entrance of Toa Payoh Public Library. This is the same photo that was featured in Straits Times's "Seeing Stars" cover story in Digital Life as a much smaller photo.

Click on it for bigger image.

There are 2 white telescope there. The bigger white telescope at the back belongs to and manned by James. It is a 10 inch Takahashi Mewlon (premium Japanese telescope) mounted on a fully computerised tracking system.

The smaller 8-inch telescope towards the right margin of the photo was my Meade 8-inch telescope (which I had since sold) manned by my Clifford, freeing myself to take this photo. Mounted on the same manual mount as in the Changi Beach photo.

The queues were longer than the photo can fit in. And I was too lazy and tired then to do a panoramic shot.

(3) Observing with binocular

Over the years, taking photos of myself observing is the last thing on my mind as there are more interesting and enjoyable things to do during observation and sidewalk astronomy sessions.

Thus, this published photo is a last-minute wayang (pretend) shot taken on Deepavali a few days ago for this publication as the writer requested for them after I had already submitted the rest of the photos earlier.

Big thanks to my buddy Hazrie for taking this shot with his DSLR. The bench was very wet after the rain (see the reflection of my feet on the it). But after seeing and laughing at the wayang-ness of it now, definitely worth the "sacrifice" then of getting my track pants and t-shirt wet. :)

Most important thing to note, the location is at Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park. A great location for private and sidewalk astronomy made popular by Dave and friends ( The reclining benches there are excellent for comfortable binocular astronomy and meteor shower hunting.

The better but super unglamorous posture for binocular astronomy on the bench is this: - back lying down on the sitting area, legs propped against the back-support area and using a binocular to look straight up at zenith which is potentially the clearest portion of the sky. Which was what I actually did during my last solo overnight session there where I shot Orion with my camera phone and twittered it.

(4) Photos of Saturn and Jupiter

One my earliest if the not the first serious attempts at planetary photography under average sky conditions with my Celestron C8. Jupiter was shot in northern Johor, Saturn in Toa Payoh. Not sure how much details will be lost in the printed version of Weekender. 

But important thing is that they are very poor representations of the Astrophotography standard of local amateur astronomers. For more jaw-dropping professional astrophotography, please look at the astrophotography section of Singastro, especially those submitted by forum member "Cataclysm". Or just come for my upcoming free public stargazing talks. :)

But ironically, because of its poor quality, it simulates quite realistically how they look like live through a telescope with decent quality optics under good sky conditions. 

(5) Photo of Moon

This is a single non-stacked photo taken with my camera phone handheld over the eyepiece of Dave's Celestron C6 telescope on a manual tripod and mount - no complicated astrophotography setup required. Taken during a good run of clear skies in September this year.

You can see more details in this bigger size version:

Click on it for bigger image.

(6) Photo of Orion 

This is a photo not selected for the final publication. Orion captured one day after Christmas at the public sky garden at 12th storey at Block 79 - the tallest buildings in Toa Payoh. Fifteen seconds long-exposure single shot taken with my point-and-shoot camera and basic post-editing in Photoshop.

Observe the iconic 3 bright-stars-in-a-line belt of Orion.

Again, this is not representative of the current high standard of astrophotography by local amateur astronomers.

Click on it for bigger image.

This article will not be possible without the unwavering support from my friends. Especially those from the SINGASTRO forum. You know who you are. 

So a big THANK YOU to you all. You guys and gals are the unspoken heroes who have been supporting this hobby in Singapore over the decades despite the ever-increasing light pollution and general lack of interest from the mainstream media and the formal education system.

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