Sunday, December 15, 2013

Free Public Stargazing Talk - Winter Constellations

The next public stargazing talk is titled "Winter Constellations".

Date: Monday, 16 December 2013
Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

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

Learn about the interesting constellations and celestial objects that will be gracing our night skies for the next few weeks! There will also be updates on recent astronomical events, e.g. Comet ISON, Geminid Meteor Shower, China's lunar rover ...etc.

*Weather permitting*, during/after the talk, there will be an impromptu live stargazing session at open ground just outside the library. You can observe Stars, Jupiter, Venus and Moon through our telescopes!

This will be the last Monday stargazing talk this year. Starting from 2014, these stargazing talks will be conducted on the first Saturday of each month (unless it's a public holiday). Big thanks to National Library Board and Toa Payoh Public Library for allocating us these prime-time weekend slots!

So do continue to bring your family and friends along and acquire skills that will enable you to enjoy stargazing for the rest of your life!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Geminid Meteor Shower - 13/14 December 2013

UPDATE: (14 Dec 4:52pm): Geminid meteors and fireball captured in Singapore this morning by Mr YK Chia! Check out his photos and report here:


Weather permitting, you may see "shooting stars" (meteors) tonight, 13 December 2013 and the next couple of nights and early mornings before dawn.

These meteors apparently seem to radiate from the constellation Gemini and that's why it is named Geminid Meteor Shower.

Due to the appearance of bright Moon, the best time to catch them is after midnight and especially the couple of hours just before dawn. But if the meteors are bright enough and the sky clear enough, you may still see them when the bright Moon is in the sky. So don't give up too easily. A friend of mine already spotted a couple of meteors during our sidewalk astronomy session on Monday (9 Dec) outside Toa Payoh Public Library.

Go to a dark location away from city lights if possible - e.g. Changi Beach, Marina Barrage, nearby parks. Else, try roof top sky gardens to get away from glaring lights at ground level so you can dark adapt your eyes better and potentially see more meteors, especially the dimmer ones.

Which part of the sky to look at to increase your chances of seeing the meteors? If you have the patience, best is to lie flat on the ground, look up and take in as much of the sky as possible. Else, try to face North East from sunset till midnight. Look straight up from midnight till 3am. And finally North West from 3am till dawn.

Since Jupiter is in Gemini now, if you can identify this planet (it looks like a bright star), you can look in the general direction of this planet as it move across the sky throughout the night and early morning.

Do bring a binocular or telescope along and enjoy observing the stars, nebula and planets in the sky while hunting for meteors! Saturn is visible shortly before dawn rising in the east!

Install free planetarium apps like "Sky Map" for Android phones/tablets or "Planets" for iPhone/iPad to assist you in locating the constellations, stars and planets.

Most meteors travel very fast across the sky - less than 2 seconds. You can observe this speed from the following video by Mr YK Chia who captured some meteors in Singapore.

The probability of meteors appearing for this Geminids is about 1 to 1.5 meteors per minute. So be patient and keep your eyes on the sky.

Do tweet #meteorsg if you spotted any meteors in Singapore!

Good luck and happy meteor hunting!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mercury and Saturn Very Close Conjunction - 26 Nov 2013

Mercury and Saturn will get very close to each other as seen from Earth in the early morning of 26 Nov 2013.

The bad news first - it will be extremely challenging to see them from Singapore.

Even if you do manage to see them through a telescope, chances are you will not see a very clear sharp view of Saturn and Mercury. This is because they will appear very low in the horizon where the atmosphere is thickest (thus creating more distortion to light) and they appear very briefly before the brightness of twilight overwhelms them. The higher probability of clouds near the horizon and the ugly sky glow in light-polluted Singapore is not helping too.

Now, the slightly better news - it is not impossible to see them through a binocular or telescope *IF* the sky is just clear enough and you know exactly where to look for them in the sky.

Mercury and Saturn so close their text label overlap each other!

Only 5 degrees above horizon just before the twilight sky turns bright

For those who are up for a challenge, here's how to find them:

- Find a location with an unobstructed view of the East.
- Use an accurate compass to locate 105 degrees East-Southeast (ESE).
- Locate the portion of the sky roughly 5 degrees above the horizon facing 105 degrees ESE. This is about half the height of your fist on an extended arm.
- Point your binocular/telescope at that spot in the sky and observe patiently from 5:45am till about 6:05am tomorrow early morning before sunrise (Tuesday 26 Nov 2013).
- If you have a computerised telescope system, then just let it search and track Saturn or Mercury during this period.

If you are successful, you should see 2 very dim "stars" very close to each other through a binocular. And maybe even the rings and moons of Saturn very dimly through a telescope. The idea is to see 2 planets in the same field-of-view magnified through an optical instrument which is a relatively rare view.

Typical view through a wide-field telescope in low/medium magnification.

The above image shows how close they are - less than half an arc degree apart. The red circle indicates the apparent size of the Moon (which is half an arc degree). This means just like the Moon, you can cover both planets in the sky with the width of your pinky fingertip (about one arc degree) on an extended arm!

The fact they are so close also implies one may use more magnification on a long focal length telescope and still fit both of them in the same view and see slightly more details of Saturn (e.g. the rings and moons of Saturn).

Once again, as mentioned earlier, this is a very challenging sight in Singapore. So do manage your expectation. If you manage to see them, congrats! If you don't and the sky at higher altitude is clear enough, enjoy observing Jupiter, Orion Nebula and the stars! Else, you can enjoy an early breakfast and going to work/school comfortably during non-peak hours! :)

Clear skies and good luck hunting!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

National Geographic Comet of the Century documentary

Finally, a documentary about Comet ISON that will be seen by the public in Singapore!

You can watch a 3-minute preview clip here:

National Geographic will be screening the documentary "Comet of the Century" via Singapore's StarHub TV and Singtel mio TV.

Here are the showtimes:


StarHub TV National Geographic Channels 457 & 411:

Channel 411 
- 24 Nov (Sun) 22:00
- 25 Nov (Mon) 02:40, 07:00, 23:00
- 26 Nov (Tue) 02:40, 05:10, 07:55, 16:10
- 28 Nov (Thu) 20:00
- 30 Nov (Sat) 18:00

Channel 457 (HD)
-  24 Nov (Sun)  22:00
-  25 Nov (Mon) 23:00

SingTel mio TV National Geographic Channels 201, 203, 207

Channel 201 
- 24 Nov (Sun) 22:00
- 25 Nov (Mon) 02:40, 07:00, 23:00
- 26 Nov (Tue) 02:40, 05:10, 07:55, 16:10
- 28 Nov (Thu) 20:00
- 30 Nov (Sat) 18:00

Channel 203 (HD)
- 24 Nov (Sun) 20:00

Channel 207 (HD)
- no telecast

Also glad to hear from Justin a few days ago that his photos of Comet ISON will be featured in the BBC documentary Comet of the Century: A Horizon Special a couple of days ago (not viewable online in Singapore). I believe he is the only Singaporean photographer credited in that programme.


Speaking of comets (and meteoroid, asteroid), one of the most frequently asked question is "will it hit Earth?".

So here's an informative National Geographic documentary which will complement the "Comet of the Century". It is the episode two of the Space Mysteries series titled "Comets: Target Earth?". And here are the showtimes for the upcoming week:


StarHub TV National Geographic Channels 457 & 411:

Channel 411 
- 24 Nov (Sun) 21:00
- 25 Nov (Mon) 01:50, 06:00
- 26 Nov (Tue) 15:15
- 30 Nov (Sat) 17:05

Channel 457 (HD)
- no telecast

SingTel mio TV National Geographic Channels 201, 203, 207

Channel 201 
- 24 Nov (Sun) 21:00
- 25 Nov (Mon) 01:50, 06:00
- 26 Nov (Tue) 15:15

Channel 203 (HD)
- no telecast

Channel 207 (HD)
- no telecast

Looking forward to comet living up to its expectation and visible with naked eyes in December! And more comet photographs from local photographers!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Free Public Stargazing Talk - Comets & Meteors

The next public stargazing talk I will be conducting is titled "Comets & Meteors".

Date: Monday, 18 November 2013
Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

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

Learn about the difference between comets and meteors and the upcoming meteor shower periods. The main focus for this talk will be the *potential* Comet of the Century comet ISON! Acquire some basic stargazing skills to locate this comet in the sky. You may then be able to observe it through binoculars or telescopes and even take a photo of it!

*Weather permitting*, during/after the talk, there will be an impromptu live stargazing session at open space just outside the library. You can observe stars, Venus and Moon through our telescopes!

So bring your family and friends along and acquire skills that will enable you to enjoy stargazing for the rest of your life!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Comet ISON visible in Singapore

First confirmed visual report of Comet ISON seen in Singapore early this morning (16 Nov) by veteran local amateur astronomer Gavin!

This is his report together with a photo of the comet shot through his 8-inch telescope:


*WEATHER PERMITTING*, this is how to find the comet early morning tomorrow before sunrise (17 Nov) from Singapore.

(1) Face east. Locate Spica before 6am. Take a mental note of ISON's location from Spica.

(2) Find L-shape star pattern through a binocular or telescope at upper left of Spica at about 3.5° arc degrees away.

If you see a fuzzy circular patch (and maybe even a tail!) at the location indicated in the above image, congrats!!!

If time permits, I will be updating similar ISON finder charts for the next few days.

My friends and I *MAY* be hunting this comet early morning tomorrow through our telescopes and binoculars. Check my twitter for the latest updates if you are keen to join us -

Clear skies and good luck comet hunting!


The topic for this coming Monday's free public stargazing talk at Toa Payoh Public Library is "Comets & Meteors". Will elaborate more in a separate blog post. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Space Month on StarHub Discovery Science Channel 423

Kudos to StarHub and Discovery Science for promoting this month of November as Space Month!

These are some of the space-related programmes that will be broadcasted on StarHub Discovery Science Channel 423:

- How the Universe Works *
- When We Left Earth: The NASA Mission *
- Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman *
- Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking *
- Fire in the Sky: A Daily Planet Special
- How Did They Do it?: Space (Episode 1)
- Sci-Trek: Mining the Moon (Episode 2)
- Secrets of the Universe
- Deadliest Space Weather
- If We Had No Moon
- Joao Maguiejo's Big Bang
- Aliens: Are We Alone?
- Alien Invasion: Are We Ready?

To find out the programme schedules, go to and type in the name of the programme in the search field located near the top right-hand corner of that webpage.

Alternatively, you may type in "423" or "Discovery Science" in the search field located near the top left-hand corner of the webpage. Click on the Discovery Channel logo and see a listing of the upcoming programmes.

You may set up an sms alert for any of these programmes by selecting the "Alert Me" tab option located in the right-hand margin of the webspage. Please read the official terms and conditions and FAQ/user guide for more information.

Programmes marked with an * are DVDs that can be borrowed from public libraries. Go to and search for them to check if they are available for loan and at which public libraries.

Have fun watching these programmes especially during cloudy nights in the north-eastern monsoon month of November! :)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Comet ISON photos by Singaporean photographer Justin Ng

Singaporean professional photographer Justin Ng is making international news headlines with his recent stunning capture of Comet ISON - the *potential* Comet of the Century!

He captured the comet on 27 October 2013 at Mersing, Johor, West Malaysia.

Watch his time-lapsed video here:

Journey of Comet ISON on 27 October 2013 from Justin Ng Photo on Vimeo.

As seen on CNN's iReport:

Report in EarthSky:

International Business Times (Australia):

News article in WPTV South Florida:

It was an honour meeting him at one of my stargazing talks at Toa Payoh Public Library. Hope to see him again to get the backstory of his astrophotographs. :)

So what are you waiting for? Check out more of his amazing photos at his website and follow him at @JustinNgPhoto now!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Double Shadow Transits on Jupiter - 30 Oct 2013

Weather permitting, the last double shadow transit will be visible in Singapore tomorrow for October 2013.

Date: Wednesday 30 October 2013
Time: 5:56am - 7:28am
Location of Jupiter: North near 69° above horizon
Jupiter rising above horizon: 23:56pm (29 Oct 2013)

The two shadows will be casted by the two moons of Jupiter - Io and Europa.

Io Shadow Transit: 5:15am - 7:28am
Europa Shadow Transit: 5:56am - 8:33am

When the double shadow transits occur, Jupiter will be very high up in the northern sky (69°) where the atmosphere is thinner compared to the horizon. This is the best position so far for the past three shadow transits offering potentially the clearest view.

For those who do not wish to stay up all night, you can get your telescope ready, go to sleep early, set your alarm to wake up at around 6:00am and start enjoying the view. If the weather is clear enough, you can still observe Jupiter until at least 7:00am when the sky turns blue! That's how bright Jupiter can be if you know where to look for it.

Don't forget to enjoy the beautiful thin crescent Moon right beside Mars! And for those who are more ambitious, you may hunt for Comet ISON visually through telescopes or with your camera and lenses.

Northeast monsoon is fast approaching. Next few shadow transits over the next few months may not be visible due to potential bad weather.

So clear skies and good luck to all shadow hunters!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Double Shadow Transits on Jupiter - 23 Oct 2013

There will be another rare double shadow transit across Jupiter early tomorrow morning.

Date: Wednesday 23 October 2013
Time: 03:22am - 05:34am
Location of Jupiter: East North East (ENE)
Jupiter rising above horizon: 00:23am (23 Oct 2013)

The two shadows will be casted by the two moons of Jupiter - Io and Europa.

Europa Shadow Transit: 03:19am - 05:56am
Io Shadow Transit: 03:22am - 05:33am

Compared to the previous double shadow transit last Wednesday, Jupiter will be in a higher 56° altitude - displaying the shadow transits through thinner atmosphere for a clearer view.

Some double transits happens far apart - one about to disappear (egress) while the other just appeared (ingress). For tomorrow's transits, their ingress timings are very near to one another. They are only about 3 minutes apart. This means we can potentially observe or photograph these transits for a much longer time across the disc of Jupiter - 2 hours and 12 minutes!

Although there is a bright Moon tonight, if the sky is clear enough, you may even catch a meteor while looking at the the direction of Jupiter! The radiant point of Orionid Meteor shower is near the "club" of Orion which is near Jupiter. This meteor shower is expected to peak last night (21 Oct) and tonight is still pretty close to the peak night.

According to officials -"Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Oct. 21 with about 20 meteors per hour. However, Halley's debris stream is broad, so Orionid activity could spill into Oct. 22nd.".

Do not have overly high expectation of catching it tonight because the meteor rate is low - about one every three minutes on average. Treat it as a bonus if you do, else continue to enjoy the shadow transits!

And if the sky is clear enough, there may be still a chance to catch the elusive Comet ISON below Mars!

So good luck, clear skies and try to stay awake the healthy non-caffeinated way - pure adrenaline rush from thinking about seeing these rare transits at more than 600,00,000km away from Singapore through telescopes!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Free Public Stargazing Talk - Sun, Moon & Eclipses

The next public stargazing talk I will be conducting is titled "Sun, Moon and Eclipses".

Date: Monday, 21 October 2013
Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

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

Learn about the Sun, Moon and the different type of eclipses they form as seen from Earth. Find out when are the interesting upcoming eclipses visible in or around Singapore in the coming years and how and where to observe them! There will also be brief introduction about spotting Comet ISON which will be the major focus of the next public library talk in November!

*Weather permitting*, during/after the talk, there will be an impromptu live stargazing session at open space just outside the library. You can observe stars, Venus and Moon through our telescopes!

So bring your family and friends along and acquire skills that will enable you to enjoy stargazing for the rest of your life!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Overnight stargazing at Bishan Park - 15/16 Oct 2013

UPDATE: Event cancelled due to bad weather! :)


*Weather permitting* overnight stargazing tonight. From 11:30pm tonight onwards (15 Oct) till tomorrow sunrise.

Venue: McDonald's at Bishan Park.

Main targets: Jupiter and Comet ISON.

Will be bringing a 10-inch dobsonian telescope along. Come join us if you are free.

In the event I cannot update this blog in time, please follow my tweets @astrosg for latest updates (e.g. change of location in park).

Good luck to all shadow chasers and comet hunters!

Double Shadow Transits on Jupiter - 16 Oct 2013

Today is Tuesday 15 Oct 2013, hereby wishing all Muslims Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha!

As mentioned in my previous blog, there are 3 double shadow transits visible from Singapore this month.

The first such occurrence is happening in about 10 hours from now. These are all in Singapore Standard Time which is 8 hours ahead of Universal Time. (Source: WinJUPOS 10.0.21)

Date: Wednesday 16 October 2013
Time:  01:28am - 03:20am
Location of Jupiter: East North East (ENE)
Jupiter rising above horizon: 00:48 am (16 Oct 2013)

The 2 shadows will be casted by 2 moons of Jupiter - Io and Europa

Europa Shadow Transit: 00:43am - 03:19am
Io Shadow Transit: 01:28am - 03:40am

Jupiter will not rise higher than 40° during this double shadow transit. Not the best highest position to catch this transit but good enough if the weather co-operates.

For the past few days weather has not been kind. As I am blogging about this now, sky is a little bluish after a heavy downpour earlier this morning. Jupiter only takes up a very small spot in the sky. You just need that spot to be clear enough even for a short while during this shadow transit period to enjoy a view that few on Earth knows about, let alone seeing it!

Some interesting thing to do for such shadow transits:

- Take photos and videos and show your friends what they missed! :)
- Observe Io and Europa getting very very close to Jupiter before "disappearing" in front of its glare. It will look like a small white "pimple"on Jupiter.
- Usually we see can see 4 moons of Jupiter as 4 dots surrounding a bright disc. Tonight, 2 of them is going to "disappear". Leaving the other 2 (Callisto and Ganymede) roughly at equal distance on each side of Jupiter.
- Take precise measurements on the entrance and exit of Io and Europa and they shadows on Jupiter. Then compare with your astronomical apps and software and see how accurate they are.
- Jupiter is a sphere. So the shadows casted on it will not be perfectly round black dots, especially near the limbs of Jupiter. See if you manage to observe that under high enough magnification through telescopes.
- Use this opportunity to test the capabilities of your binoculars, telescopes and photographic gear.
- For those who are keen to shoot and have no access to telescopes, just give it a try with whatever camera and zoom lenses you have. Mount them on a stable tripod and shoot Jupiter. Even if you can't capture the black dots, you can try time-lapse photography and frame all the 4 moons and Jupiter together. You may create a nice video showing these 2 moons "disappearing/appearing".
- Observe it with your family and friends to make it an even more memorable outing!

Weather permitting, due to the early morning hours, I should be observing it alone or with my friends. Follow my tweets to find out if luck is on our side! Tweet #JupiterSG if you are observing this event too!

So good luck, clear skies and stay awake everybody!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Solar Eclipses on a Distant World

Imagine how amazing it is to see the shadow of our Moon on Earth with your own eyes as it happens!

These two awesome videos show how that might look like aboard the International Space Station:

Most of us will not have a chance to go to Space to see this. Even if you can afford to go to Space during a solar eclipse (which will most probably double the price of your ticket), ironically, you need something to show up so Moon's shadow can be clearly seen - clouds!

So what is the next best thing for those of us who will be stuck on Earth for the rest of our lifetime? How about observing solar eclipses on a distant world (Jupiter) from Space (on Earth) through telescopes!

Jupiter has more than 60 over moons! But only the largest four of them are visible at bright dots of light through amateur-size telescopes and binoculars - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Since these moons revolve around gigantic Jupiter and Sun is illuminating both of them at times, there will be certain periods where these moons will cast their shadows on Jupiter. These periods are known astronomically as Galilean Satellite Shadow Transits.

Since Jupiter is a giant gas planet, these moon shadows are projected on a dense "smoke screen". Thus, they can be seen very distinctly through telescopes - pitch black circular spots on the disc of Jupiter.

On clear enough nights, you can enjoy this view even if you are located in a light-polluted city. And if you have nice view of the sky at home, you may even be able to observe this celestial wonder in the comfort of your bedroom and in your favourite space-themed pajamas! Who wants to risk their life getting lost in Space after an accident on the International Space Station anyway? Not so scary you say? Go watch Sandra Bullock in Gravity which is opening next month in Singapore!

But I digress ...

This is a nice animation of a shadow transit from Wikipedia:

Check out this video by YouTuber 925cpc. This is an actual shadow transit captured live by a webcam attached to a 9.25-inch diameter amateur telescope. (One of the major bands of Jupiter disappeared during that year!)

So how can we know in advance when these shadow transits is going to occur?

One user-friendly way is via this free web app by Sky & Telescope. A more powerful and graphical free desktop software is WinJUPOS. It has a more intimidating user-interface for newcomers to stargazing. Hope to find time to do a video tutorial on how to use it to plan for Jupiter-observing sessions.

Shadow transits happen relatively frequently on Jupiter - about once every few days. But a few factors can decrease the chances of a successful observation:

- Jupiter not be visible from your observing location - it may be below the horizon, too near the Sun or the sky might be cloudy.
- It may not be a convenient time to observe when it happens - e.g. middle of the night, family and work commitments.
- Access to a telescope.

Considering these factors, to be able to observe one such shadow transits should be consider rare. Try asking all of your friends on Facebook if they have even seen one. Their response will most probably be "Shadow what? You mean we can actually see planets through a telescope?".

Amateur astronomers (or most people for that matter) like to brag about seeing or photographing super rare stuff. (Btw, have you seen the once-in-a-lifetime Transit of Venus on 6th June 2012? :P) That's why to see one shadow transit moving across Jupiter is rare. Two, very rare! THREE? Oh-my-god-you-lucky-***** rare! Due to the astrophysics involved between Jupiter and these four moons, three shadow transits appearing on Jupiter at the same time is the maximum, not four. Which brings me to my main motivation for writing this blog - most of the western astronomical publications and forum discussions mainly focus on shadow transits that are visible in their countries. Imagine my excitement while playing with WinJUPOS a few weeks ago, I found out that in October 2013, there are THREE double shadow transits that can be seen in Singapore and many countries in the East! YAY!

A few pointers before we look at the data extracted from WinJUPOS:

(1) For the month of October in Singapore, Jupiter rises above the horizon at about 1:41 am on 1 October. It rises earlier and earlier everyday and by 31 October, rises at about 11:52pm.
(2) Under clear sky conditions, it is possible to observe Jupiter until at least 7am in Singapore in October. Of course, pre-dawn dark sky is more preferable compared to the brighter bluish twlight skies.
(3) If the shadow transits happens when Jupiter is high up in the dark sky, the view will be potentially clearer and less distorted assuming everything else remain the same.
(4) Shadows that are very near the edges of Jupiter may be difficult to spot due to curvature of spherical object like Jupiter.

Multiple Shadow Transits on Jupiter in October 2013 in Universal Time (UT)
(Credit: WinJUPOS 10.0.21)

2013/10/01 13:42 - 14:07
2013/10/05 02:39 - 03:24
2013/10/08 15:35 - 16:43
2013/10/12 03:25 - 06:01 (triple shadow transits!)
2013/10/15 17:28 - 19:20
2013/10/17 11:57 - 13:28
2013/10/19 06:25 - 08:38
2013/10/22 19:22 - 21:34
2013/10/24 14:30 - 16:03
2013/10/26 08:37 - 10:31
2013/10/29 21:56 - 23:28

Converting these timings to Singapore Standard Time (+8 UT) (Visible from Singapore =Yes/No):

Tue   -- 01 Oct -- 21:42 -- 22:07 -- [No]
Sat    -- 05 Oct -- 10:39 -- 11:24 -- [No]
Tue   -- 08 Oct -- 23:35 -- 24:43 -- [No]
Sat   -- 12 Oct -- 11:25 -- 14:01 --  [Triple!] [No!Oh-No]
Wed -- 16 Oct -- 01:28 -- 03:20  -- [Yes] - [Duration = 1hr 52min]
Thu   -- 17 Oct -- 19:57 -- 21:28 -- [No]
Sat   -- 19 Oct -- 14:25 -- 16:38 --  [No]
Wed --  23 Oct -- 03:22 -- 05:34 -- [Yes] - [Duration = 2hr 12min]
Thu   -- 24 Oct -- 22:30 -- 24:03 -- [No]
Sat    -- 26 Oct -- 16:37 -- 18:31 -- [No]
Wed --  30 Oct -- 05:56 -- 07:28 -- [Yes] - [Duration = 1hr 32min]

Some implications from these multiple shadow transit data for October 2013:

(1) Super rare Triple Shadow Transit on 12 October not visible from Singapore! So if you really keen to see this, plan to go overseas to the other side of Earth in advance!

(2) Three double shadow transits visible in Singapore - 16th , 23rd and 30th. Three chances to catch at least one of them.

(3) All three double shadow transits falls on a Wednesday early morning before sunrise. Easy to remember - last three Wednesdays of October.

(4) To be able to see Jupiter's Great "Red" Spot (GRS) during multiple shadow transits is a rare visual bonus. Unfortunately, GRS is not visible for these shadow transits visible in Singapore.

(5) 15 Oct is a public holiday (Hari Raya Haji). Get plenty of sleep on that day so you can stay awake for the shadow transits on early morning of 16th.

(6) Duration of multiple shadow transits can be very short - e.g. one egressing out of Jupiter a few minutes after the ingress of the other. For these shadow transits in October 2013, they are much longer on average - more than one hour! Plenty of time to observe with diferent telescopes and accessories, take photos/videos and socialise with other stargazers!

Here are some screen captures from WinJUPOS showing some interesting framing for visual or imaging purposes during these three shadow transit periods:

16 October 2013

23 October 2013

30 October 2013

I will provide more details in October closer to these shadow transit dates. In the meantime, you may use your favourite planetarium software or phone app to find more detailed information - e.g. each moon/shadow exact ingress and egress timings. Now that you have plenty of time to prepare yourself to witness these celestial wonders, go get a telescope soon or befriend an amateur astronomer! :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mid-Autumn Moon-gazing outside Toa Payoh Library tonight - 19 Sept

Update at 9pm: Tonight's moon-gazing event at Toa Payoh Central cancelled due to bad weather.


Weather permitting, we will be have a full moon stargazing session at open grounds outside Toa Payoh Public Library tonight. From 7:30pm.

Come join in the fun with or without telescopes/mooncakes/lanterns!

Learn more about this Chinese festival:

Famous Cantonese traditional song about Full Moons:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Free Public Stargazing Talk - The Andromeda Galaxy

The next public stargazing talk I will be conducting is titled "The Andromeda Galaxy".

Date: Monday, 16 September 2013
Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

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

Do you know under clear skies and at the appropriate time of the year, you can see the largest object in the Universe with your eyes alone?

Imagine if you have access to a telescope or binocular to enhance that view!

So come and find out more about the amazing Andromeda Galaxy - its fascinating mythology, scientific research value and how to locate it in the night sky.

*Weather permitting*, during/after the talk, there will be an impromptu live stargazing session at open space just outside the library. You can observe stars and Saturn through our telescopes! It's also the Mid-Autumn festival so come and see the gorgeous Moon - its craters, mountains, valleys and more!

Bring your family and friends along and acquire skills that will enable you to enjoy stargazing for the rest of your life!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mid-Autumn Stargazing at Bishan Park - 14 Sep (Sat)

In celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival, *weather permitting*, my friends and I will be conducting a Moon/Star-gazing session at Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park this coming Saturday.

Event: Moon and Stargazing at the Park
Date: Saturday, 14 September 2013
Venue: Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park (River Plains)
Observation Spot: Open field between McDonald's and Clover by the Park (condominium)
Time: 7:00 pm till very late evening.
Admission is FREE and open to public.

We will be bringing our telescopes to observe planets, star clusters and the beautiful Moon of course!

Some photos from last year's event at the same observation spot:

You may use your handphone to take photos of the Moon directly through the telescope too!

Yes. This is shot with my phone handheld over a telescope! No complex DLSR setup involved! No kidding!

Was just talking to a Straits Times reporter on the phone. She couldn't believe it! :)

One the same evening, there will be a major Mid-Autumn event organised by a Teck Ghee constituency (Ang Mo Kio). The Prime Minister is the guest-of-honour. So expect the Bishan Park carpark to be full and very packed. If you are driving, you may want to park at the multi-storey carpark along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and walk over instead. Or take public transport and alight at bus-stop near Bishan Street 22/25.

Do bring your kids and their lanterns along and join in the festive mood! For event photographers, this is also a good opportunity to practice their night shoots under challenging lighting conditions.

Want to take this opportunity to thank Nparks for being supportive of our mid-autumn stargazing event last year and this upcoming one!

Please take note this event is totally weather dependent. In case of bad weather, we may cancel it last minute. Please check this blog regularly on that evening for the latest updates or follow my tweets at

Astronomical Resources in Public Libraries

There is a phenomenal amount of astronomical resources which can be borrowed from our public libraries - books, magazines audio-visual materials and even ebook readers.

Due to the complexity of astronomy and practical stargazing to a newcomer, acquiring bits and pieces of random unorganised information from the internet may create more confusion. And in the process, wasting more time compared to the apparently "slow" alternative of reading good books.

In my opinion, reading well-written and organised books on astronomy is still the BEST way to get started into the wonderful hobby of practical stargazing. Good beginner books on this subject matter is written in clear and concise language with visually stimulating illustrations.

To fully appreciate and enjoy stargazing, one need to acquire general knowledge of astronomy, practical knowledge of operating astronomical equipment as well as observation and astrophotography skills.

Here are some listings of my favourite astronomical resources available in our public libraries.

You can click on these text hyperlinks to check if they are available for loan and in which specific libraries. If all copies are on loan, you may reserve them online and have them delivered to your nearest public library for self-collection for a reasonable fee of $1.55.

Books on Practical Stargazing:

- The Backyard Astronomer's Guide (Highly Recommend!)
Stargazing with Binoculars
- Stargazing for Dummies
Practical Astronomy
- Deep-sky Wonders
- A Little Course in Astronomy
- Patterns in the Sky
- Secrets of Stargazing
- Star Watch
- Stargazing with a Telescope
Star Ware
- Turn Left at Orion
- Moon Observer's Guide
- Solar System Observer's Guide
- Guide to Observing Meteor Showers
- Sky Book for the Tropics
- AstroFAQs
- Advance Skywatching
- 50 Best sights in astronomy and how to see them

Books on Astrophotography:

- Photography Night Sky
- Philip's Astrophotography
- Astrotophography for the Amateur
- Photoshop Astronomy
Ancient Light

Books on General Astronomy:

- Cosmos - Carl Sagan
- Sizing up the Universe
- Wonders of the Universe
- Nature Guide: Stars and Planets
The Brightest Stars
- The New Astronomy Guide
Stargazing with Jack Horkheimer
- The Cambridge Photographic Atlas
Photographic Atlas of the Moon
- Big Book of Stars & Planets
- Stories in the Stars - Atlas of Constellations
- Space! The universe as you've never seen it before
- Our Sun : Biography of a Star
- Totality: Eclipses of the Sun

Miscellaneous Books:

- The Weather and Climate of Singapore
- The End of Night


- Astronomy
- Sky & Telescope

Audio-Visual Materials:

- Seeing in the Dark
- The Wonders Collection with Prof Brian Cox
- The Wonders of the Solar System
- The Wonders of the Universe
- Inside the Milky Way
- Secrets of the Sun
- Eclipse Chasers
- Earth From Space
- IMAX Hubble
- Hubble's Canvas
- Ultimate Mars Challenge
- The Fabric of the Cosmos
- Into the Universe with Stephen Hawkings
- Through the Wormhole - Season 1
- Through the Wormhole - Season 2
- Through the Wormhole - Season 3
- The Universe - Season 1
- The Universe - Season 2
- The Universe - Season 3
- The Universe - Season 4
- The Universe - Season 5
- The Universe - Season 6
- Ancient Aliens - Season 1 *
- Ancient Aliens - Season 2 *


*Not a very scientific series but can be hilarious to watch!

I will try to update this list as and when I manage to recall some of the good books I have come across as well as those that cannot be borrowed (reference only).

For more information about the location and opening hours of public libraries in Singapore, please visit the official National Library Board website.

(Last updated: 21 March 2016)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Galaxy Astronomy Club featured on TV programme

Galaxy Astronomy Club and the Andromeda Observatory was featured in Channel U's TV show "Secrets in the Hood" (episode 5) on Tuesday 3rd September 2013!

Hosted by MediaCorp artiste Pornsak Prajakwit (@Pornsak_P), this TV series is about revealing the lesser known interesting places and good food at various parts of Singapore. The show is mainly in Chinese with Chinese subtitles when the locals being interviewed speak in English.

This particular episode was first broadcasted at 9pm followed by a repeat telecast at 12:30am (4 Sept).

If you missed the episode, here's the good news! You can watch this episode via internet streaming here:

The astronomy segment is from 33:03 - 38:25 minute marks.

I am not able to make the video player jump to this particular astronomical segment in my internet browsers. If that's the same for you too, just hit the pause button and let the programme buffer all the way before jumping back to the 33 minute mark to watch it. Watch it in high quality full-screen mode for best experience.

Since the astronomy segment is conducted in Chinese, I shall try my best to translate them for those who don't understand this language. My Chinese standard is only average. Please forgive me for any translation errors and feel free to suggest better ones by commenting at his blog.

The astronomy club president who is dressed in a white T-shirt is Jin Peng (JP) and the host is Pornsak. I do not know the name of that young lady that was being interviewed.


In chronological order from 33:03 minute mark:

[Pornsak] Tonight we are going to stargaze. Let me take a look at the sunset first since the sun is setting.

(Narration) Suhaimi (Yusof) told me after looking at the sunset, I can still go to a special place in Woodlands to stargaze. And the stars there are extra big. Where will this hint lead me to? Do you believe you can see extra big stars in Woodlands? There's an observatory at the Woodlands Galaxy Community Club!

Suhaimi told me his family's favourite activity is to come here to stargaze. Apparently, there is an observatory at the 6th storey of this community club. I know Singapore Science Centre and (unknown) have observatories. But Woodlands CC? Ok. The truth will be known when the lift door opens. Feeling excited! Here we are!

[Pornsak] Wow, so dark. Who are you? Please come quickly and introduce yourself!

[Jin Peng] Hello, how are you? I can't really see you clearly! Haha. My name is Jin Peng.

[Pornsak] Hello Jin Peng!

[Jin Peng] We belongs to an astronomy club. We meet up on every Fridays and Saturdays.

[Pornsak] So it is a really an astronomy club. (Shining torchlight at own face). When I am speaking, I need to provide my own source of lighting! This is the first time!

Hello ladies! Can you make yourselves more visible else our TV audience may not believe you gals are really here. (Shining torchlight at the ladies) Feels like I am about to arrest someone. Please show my your identification cards!

Are there a lot people that come to visit this place?

[Lady] Yes. A lot.

[Pornsak] Really? You are not kidding me right?

[Lady] No

[Pornsak] Lights! (Bright lighting revealing more people standing around) Wow. Hello, how are you guys? Really a lot of people here! Four telescopes here, so how long is the average waiting queue?

[Lady] About 5 to 10 minutes.

[Pornsak] So you guys have to stay outdoors here? What happens when it rains?

[Jin Peng] If the weather is unfavourable, we will inform the public about an hour in advance via Facebook and Twitter that the session will be cancelled.

[Pornsak] So what is name of your astronomy group?

[Jin Peng] Our group is known as Galaxy Astronomy Club.

[Pornsak] So for those who are thinking of coming, please check their Facebook page first. It may be possible to be raining here at Woodlands (north) even though it is not in Tampines (east) where you stay. You may not know.

(Looking at JP) You guys are located in the heartlands. So if I point this telescope towards the back (where there are residential buildings), am I able to look into the resident's houses?

[Jin Peng] No no no!

[Pornsak] Hahaha. Ok! (Pointing at the observatory) So is this space-ship like object the observatory? Do you have the keys to it?

[Jin Peng] Yes.

[Pornsak] So you are indeed the club president. Can you bring me in to take a look?

[Jin Peng] Yes. This way please.

[Pornsak] (Turning back) Thank you everybody! Shall not trouble you guys further! Thank you!

(Narration) Galaxy Astronomy Club helps the community club to take care of the only observatory in Singapore that is built in the residential area. It was set up with the help from various organisations.

[Pornsak] (Inside the observatory) This instrument looks like something that came out of a Star Wars movie. This is a big-Mac sized telescope! How far can this telescope see?

[Jin Peng] Very far. About 32 megalight-years (one megalight-year = one million light-years). One can also see Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, ...

[Pornsak] Really? So can I take a look now?

[Jin Peng]  Yes. You can take a look at Saturn now.

[Pornsak] Look through this? (Pointing at the slender tube telescope (90mm apochromatic refractor))

[Jin Peng] this. (Pointing at the eyepiece which is attached to the "fatter" telescope (12-inch Dall-Kirkham))

[Pornsak] Then what is this for? (Pointing back at the refractor telescope)

[Jin Peng] This is to point at the object. Point towards the object we wish to look at. Whereas this (the primary telescope) gives a more zoomed in view.

[Pornsak] Oh, I understand what you mean. So this (the main telescope) is for viewing. But this (the refractor) is for adjustments.

[Jin Peng] Ya. We use these 2 (refractor and primary telescope's finderscope which are both mounted on the primary telescope) to adjust and ... ...

[Pornsak] Ok. If you do not mind, I am going to take a look now.

[Jin Peng] Ok. This is the magnified view of the object. You can see Saturn.

[Pornsak] Yes. It is at the 9 o'clock position in the field-of-view now. Is this Saturn? Just like what I saw in the books - a ball and a halo around it!

[Jin Peng] Yes. The rings of Saturn.

[Pornsak] Huh! (Takes a look at Saturn through the telescope again) Or is it you guys drew it inside the telescope? Hahaha.

[Jin Peng] No no no! It's really that dot of light in the sky!

(Narration) The club president says the telescope has been set up to follow Saturn wherever it is moving to.

[Jin Peng] After a few months you may be able to see different planets.

[Pornsak] Really?

[Jin Peng] Yes. These few months you can see Saturn. After September/October you can see Mars rising up.

[Pornsak] Da-da-da-da-da! (Takes out an iPhone and point it around inside the observatory.)

[Jin Peng] Yes. This is one of the (astronomical) apps for iPhone.

[Pornsak] If I can use see Saturn using my phone, why do I need to come here and look at it?

[Jin Peng] Not necessarily. Because sometimes you need an internet connection. Secondly, you may only know roughly where Saturn is at in the sky but not its actual position.

[Pornsak] Oh. You can only see it as a dot but not its actual beauty right?

[Jin Peng] Yes.

(Narration while beautiful telescopes and astro photographs are shown) And do you know, constellations can actually be seen with the naked eyes? After every few months, some constellations will appear while others will be hidden. The club president says they teach others how to identify constellations. But to be able to know all the constellations very well might take a year.

The community club's weekly astronomical activities are opened to the public. For only $1 per person, you can see lots of stars right in front of your eyes! How can you miss such opportunities?



There is still so much interesting stuff to blog about regarding this TV programme, but I am too tired for now to continue (preparing and writing this blog for the past 5 hours). Maybe another day. :)

But just one important comment here for those who are not familiar with JP. He knows his astronomy stuff very well. But because his not very fluent in spoken Chinese and the Chinese astronomical terminologies AND the fact that Pornsak is new to practical stargazing and telescopes, there are some minor astronomical misunderstanding created between the host and JP.

But ironically, this makes the programme more entertaining for me (and most probably other bilingual good-English-but-average-Chinese amateur astronomers)! For example, the part about which telescopes to look through. When I watched it on TV, I was like "OH MY GOD! what's "finderscope" in Chinese??!! Arghh!!" LOL!

In most TV productions, there will be a lot of things said and filmed that will not make it to the actual show. For a relatively technical subject like astronomy and practical stargazing, a minor edit or omission during a conversation during post-production may inadvertently change the meaning and context of what was being said!

Once again, congrats to Galaxy Astronomy Club for promoting amateur astronomy in Singapore! When was the last time you saw local amateur astronomy featured on TV for more than 30 seconds? Let alone a 5 minutes 22 seconds segment on prime-time TV at 9pm! So kudos to the suits behind Channel U for featuring astronomy in this series and Pornsak for being an entertaining host!

Weather permitting, go visit the Andromeda Observatory at Woodlands Galaxy Community Club this weekend while Saturn is still visible for this year!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Free public stargazing talk at SAFRA Jurong - 17 Aug

Back by popular demand, we will be conducting a stargazing event at SAFRA Jurong this coming Saturday evening

Topic: Stargazing for Beginners
Date: Saturday, 17 Aug 2013.
From: 7:30pm till late
Location: SAFRA Jurong, Evergreen Room.
Admission is FREE. No pre-registration required.

Weather permitting, there will be a live stargazing session at SAFRA Jurong's multi-purpose outdoor court!

You will then be able to look some of the best privately-owned telescopes in Singapore. Observe the rings of Saturn, colourful double stars and Moon's craters, valleys and mountains live! You may even take beautiful Moon photos with just your mobile phone handheld over the telescope!

Location of SAFRA Jurong:

- Official website:
- Street Directory
- Google Map
- Google Map Street View


Directions to SAFRA Jurong:

View Larger Map

By MRT: Alight at Boon Lay MRT Station and walk South towards the T-junction formed by Boon Lay Way and Jurong West Street 64. You should see Jurong Central Park to your left along the way.

By Bus: Alight at Boon Lay Bus Interchange and walk South towards the T-junction formed by Boon Lay Way and Jurong West Street 64. You should see Jurong Central Park to your left along the way.
Bus services at Boon Lay Bus Interchange: 30, 79, 154, 157, 172, 174, 174e, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 182M, 187, 192.

By Car: Drive along Boon Lay Way, turn left into the SAFRA main entrance and then into the underground car park. Parking fees per session from 6pm onwards: $1.66 (SAFRA members), $3.45 (non members). From 6:00pm onward.


- Free car-parking right at the observation site and power supply for telescope volunteers. The cash-card deduction at entrance will be reimbursed on that night.
- Telescope volunteers who are keen to participate, please PM or email me at gary[at]
- Carpark is just below the observation spot. Just take a lift up. Easy to transport big telescopes with a trolley.
- We can stay there at least up to 3:00am the next morning.

So bring your family and friends along and have fun-filled starry evening!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Perseid Meteor Shower - August 2013

The most spectacular and highly anticipated meteor shower of 2013 is here!

Event: Perseid Meteor Shower

Duration: 17 July - 24 August 2013

Peak period: Tuesday 13, August 2013 00:15 until 04:45 Singapore Time

Q1: What's so special about his particular meteor shower?
Moon sets very early during this period. A moonless night is darker and allows more meteors to be seen. Especially the dimmer ones. Perseid Meteor Shower statistically has the highest chance of seeing fireballs - very bright meteors that can be even brighter than Jupiter or Venus! And it is happening on a super long weekend when people can stay up late overnight!

Q2: When is the best time to observe it?
During the predicted peak period on early Tuesday morning from 00:15am till 00:45am. BUT you do not have to wait until then. Meteors can be seen a few days before and after the peak period at a slightly lower rate per hour. And due to unpredictable skies, it may not be clear on the actual peak night! So start hunting every night from now whenever the sky is clear enough.

Q3: Where to look for meteors in the sky?
Take in as big patch of the open sky as possible with your eyes to increase your chances of catching them. Try to lie down on a comfortable mat or reclining chair and look straight up into the sky. Else, try to look towards the North East portion of the sky. The meteors will apparently seems to radiate from the constellation Perseus (thus the name of the meteor Perseids)

Q4: Where to observe in Singapore?
Dark areas away from most city lights with big patch of unobstructed sky overhead. For example, near the beach, parks or high up in the roof-top sky gardens in tall buildings. For example:

- Changi Beach
- Punggol Park
- Lower Peirce Reservoir Park
- Marina Barrage

Do take note of personal safety. Observe with at least a family member or friend if you are going to a dark area. Do wear long protective clothing and deploy insect-repelling  measures if you are observing in mosquito-prone areas.

Q5: How frequent will Persied meteors appear in the sky?
On *average* about 1 meteor per minute. Since this is just an average, it is possible not to see any for a few minutes and then a few meteors within a minute! So be patient and keep looking up!

Q6: How meteors look like?
Watch this excellent compilation video by Mr Y. K. Chia captured right here in the heartland of Singapore!

Weather permitting, from tonight 7 Aug till 11 Aug, my friends and I will bringing our telescopes and cameras to do stargazing as well as hunting/photographing meteors at Bishan Park. Either at the big lawn directly opposite McDonald's or at open grounds just outside McDonald's or both. If you happen to go to this park, feel free to drop by and say hello and observe through our telescopes at stars and planets (Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars)!

For the latest updates, please check this twitter page or follow me:

The hashtag for this event is #MeteorSG. Feel free to tweet your meteor hunting experience in Singapore with this hashtag so we all can share your excitement!

Due to time contraint (leaving for Bishan Park soon!), I do not have time to add more graphics and info about this event. In the next few days, I will try to update this blog. So do check it regularly! You may also search for "Perseid Meteor Shower" online (google/youtube/twitter) for more info.

Wishing all of you clear skies and good luck spotting big big fireballs!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Free Public Talk - The Summer Triangle & Perseid Meteor Shower

The next public stargazing talk I will be conducting is titled "The Summer Triangle & Perseid Meteor Shower".

Date: Monday, 5 Aug 2013
Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

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

Participants will be taught how to identify and appreciate the one of the most prominent asterism formed by 3 bright star in 3 separate constellations. A3-size printed star maps will also be distributed.

The last segment of the talk will be about the upcoming Perseid Meteor Shower - the best and most anticipated meteor shower of 2013! Learn how and where to catch them right here in Singapore!

Weather permitting, during/after the talk, there will be an impromptu live stargazing session at open space just outside the library. You can observe stars and Saturn through our telescopes!

So bring your family and friends along and acquire skills that will enable you to enjoy stargazing for the rest of your life!


These public stargazing talks are usually conducted on the third Monday of each month. Due to some changes in the library schedules, only for the month of August, it will be conducted on the first Monday instead (5 Aug 2013). Sorry for my late announcement and potential inconvenience this may have caused.

The latest GoLibrary publication and website do reflect the correct date of 5th of August.

Since my August talk is now happening before Perseid Meteor Shower, I have decided to include this in my talk content so participants can be aware of this in advance.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Iridium flare near colourful stars

Weather permitting, we may be able to see a bright iridium flare near some colourful stars tonight!

Date:         29 July 2013 (Monday)
Time:         7:40pm and 20 seconds
Location:   Near Mizar of the Big Dipper constellation
Altitude:     34°
Azimuth:    344° (North-North-West)
Brightness:  -7.0

An iridium flare is a man-made satellite orbiting Earth. Their antenna can reflect a lot of sunlight and make them shine very brightly in the sky. At its maximum brightness of about -8.4, it will even outshine the brightest Venus (-3.82), let alone the brightest star Sirius (-1.47).

Seen visually with unaided eyes, the duration of an iridium flare is very short - the flash will be gone in 2 or 3 seconds. That is the reason why most people have not seen it before. You have to know such a thing exist, exactly where in the sky to look at and the exact time it will appear. And that patch of the sky have to clear at that moment!

This is a video of an iridum flare captured beside Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky.

What is so special about tonight's iridium flare? It is near a visible star (Mizar) which means it is relatively easier to locate. One does not need to locate the exact 34° altitude and 344° azimuth position in an apparently star-less patch of sky.

But more importantly, its location will create an interesting view through a wide-field binocular or telescope because of Mizar! Mizar and its close companion Alcor are a pair of colorful stars through binoculars or telescopes. Mizar and Alcor are actually part of a six-star system.

When the sky just starts to get dark at about 7:30pm, try to locate the Big Dipper asterism in the north. Mizar is one of the stars in the "tail" of the Big Bear or "handle" of a ladle as illustrated below. Clench your hand into a fist as if you are holding a flag upright and extend your arm fully. Mizar is about 3-fists high above the horizon.

Get hold of a wide-field telescope/binocular which can give at least 4 degrees field-of-view and look at Mizar-Alcor through it. The iridium flare will appear slightly above and the to the right of Mizar-Alcor. Position this pair of stars so that there is sufficient space for the flare to be visible in the same field-of-view.

The smallest white circle in the middle represents the iridium flare location. The red circles from innermost to outermost represent 0.5, 2 and 4 arc degrees in the sky respectively.

In a binocular which shows the same orientation as unaided eyes, the flare will appear slight above and to the right of Mizar-Alcor as illustrated above. For telescopic views with involves different visual orientation (vertical and/or horizontally inverted views), please adjust accordingly so you know exactly where to position/look at in the field-of-view.

Synchronise your clocks and start observing Mizar-Alcor latest by 7:40pm and hopefully you will see the bright flash beside the colourful stars!

Imagine a person with no knowledge of stargazing or astronomy and happens to randomly look at a star (Mizar) tonight at the exact timing through a telescope or binocular. He/she would have seen a bright flash through the view of the optical instrument and upon putting down the instrument and looking at the sky, no such bright object could be seen by then! That person will most probably think it was an UFO travelling at an amazing speed!

Thanks to the fantastic Heavens-Above website, anyone can find out in advance iridum flares and appearances of other man-made satellites for free. Do check out his wonderful resource and let us know if you find more interesting irdium flare + celestial objects conjunctions in the coming weeks and months!

Wishing all of you good luck and happy hunting!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Free Public Talk - Sagittarius, Scorpius and the Milky Way

The next public talk I will be conducting is titled "Sagittarius, Scorpius and the Milky Way".

Date: Monday, 15 July 2013
Time: 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Public Library. Level 1 Programme Zone.

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

Participants will be taught how to identify and appreciate the two most prominent constellations and our Milky Way galaxy in the summer sky. A3-size printed star maps will also be distributed.

Weather permitting, during/after the talk, there will be an impromptu live stargazing session at open space just outside the library. You can observe the Moon and Saturn through our telescopes!

So bring your family and friends along and acquire skills that will enable you to enjoy stargazing for the rest of your life!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Super Moon 2013

Super Moon happens when Moon is most full *and* closest to Earth. For this year, it will occur on Sunday, 23 June 2013 at 7:32pm Singapore time (UT+8).

"Super Moon" is a term coined by an astrologer in recent years. The proper scientific term is Perigee Full Moon.

Watch this informative talk about Super Moon by NASA Astronomer Michelle Thaller:

Unless you are living in an air-conditioned cave in Singapore for the past week, you should know the haze situation is at national crisis level now - the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit a record high 401, the armed forces are activated to speed up the distribution of N95 face masks.

This photo from NASA's Earth Observatory report says it all:

Photo Credit NASA Earth Observatory

Moon was visible for the past few nights through the thick haze. But instead of looking briliantly white, it looked more coppery-red, as in a lunar eclipse. Just like in the following photo by Clifford of an actual total lunar eclipse visible in Singapore in December 2011:

The next total lunar eclipse visible from Singapore will be in October next year. This weekend's Super Moon through haze can give you an idea how total lunar eclipses looked like since lunar eclipses will only happen during Full Moon.

We are wish for non-hazy clear skies of course. As I am writing this blog, the PSI has just dropped to 73. The less hazy the sky, the more white-bright it will be compared to being more coppery-red through haze. IMPORTANT: Please take note of the PM 2.5 levels in the air. If it is still unhealthily high (more than 100), you may still want to stay indoors instead of risking your health.

You can still observe or photography the Super Moon indoors through closed glass windows!

Full Moon is bright enough so it will be visible even through glass. Of course, not as good as without any glass medium. This is the best compromise in view of the current haze situation. So why not take this opportunity to understand the visual or photographic difference of Super Moon through a glass?

You can still use your binoculars and telescopes and look through your window glass to admire the Moon. This may be a fun activity for the whole family who is stuck indoor with windows closed due to the haze:

(1) Get some easily removable small stickers or blu-tack
(2) Use them as markers of the size/diameter of the disc of the Super Moon at your arms length
(3) Do that at regular intervals - e.g. every half an hour.

Now you can visible see the path of the Moon through your glass window. 2 weeks at around 7 July 2013 where the Moon is next furthest from Earth (i.e. apogee), do the same fun exercise again. Now you can compare different apparent sizes and path of Moon!

I do not know the effects (if any) of haze pollutants on optics (e.g. binocular/telescope/camera lens or mirror). So I cannot be responsible for any potential damage on your optical instruments if you decide to observe/photography the Moon outdoors regardless of the haze situation.

Weather, PSI and PM2.5 index permitting, my friends and I will be conducting a Super Moon public stargazing session tomorrow Sunday 23 June. We will be deploying our telescopes at the open ground in front of McDonald's at Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park. From 7:30pm onwards till about 11pm. This location in the park has a great view of the eastern sky where we can catch the Super Moon shortly after moon rise near the horizon.

Please check/follow my twitter regularly for the latest updates and changes. You can also see the twitter updates at the right-hand margin of this webpage.

There is very little difference between the "super-ness" of the Full Moon tonight (Saturday 22 June) and tomorrow. So you may want to start observing or take photos of it starting from tonight.

If you have a camera or camcorder which has great zooming capability, this weekend evenings are the best times to use it! Check out this video by YouTuber DigitalMediaProTV:

Moon will be rising tonight (Sat 22/6) at 7:08pm  6:06 pm and tomorrow (Sun 23/6) at 8:11pm 7:08pm. Good luck!


Update 23 June 2013

Before 7:30pm, use an accurate compass (or phone app), locate and face 110 degrees (East-South-East), make sure the Moon is not obstructed and pray for clear skies!

It will located at about 4 degrees above horizon - about half the vertical length of an extended fist.

Continue to enjoy Super Moon as it rises higher into the sky where it will be clearer due to thinner atmosphere.