Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October 08, 2014 Blood Moon at the Philippines - An impromptu Astronomical Adventure

Today, we are blessed here in the Philippines to witness a very beautiful natural phenomenon - an eclipse. It's been a long time since I last had a post about my amateur astronomy adventures. Time takes its toll on us all, including me and my hobby. About a year ago, I sold my refractor telescope and now my reflector telescope has a broken tripod leg, improvised finderscope and poor eyepieces so I am not so much inclined to use it.

 Here is my poor reflector telescope in our garage.

Notice the broken tripod leg part in the heavy equatorial mount.

However, our family was very lucky to be given a very beautiful camera from my Aunt abroad. I've used the Canon SX50 HS camera quite a few times during my recitals and performances.

Here is our camera, a recent gift from my VERY generous aunt abroad.

Notice how it says "Canon Zoom Lens 50x IS" around the lens? It's a pretty powerful camera, capable of zooming in quite well and then some more. It also has some manual controls such as aperture and shutter speed control which gives me some settings to use when taking photos. Interestingly, the powerful zoom capabilities of this camera together with some manual control options would also allow me to use this for basic astrophotography without using a telescope. An idea came to mind - why don't I try to use the camera to take pictures of the blood moon using this camera?

I heard of the blood moon the night before on news. My favorite local news program, "24-Oras" reported that the blood moon will be visible in the Philippines on October 8, 2014 at around 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM. So I waited. Sadly, there were heavy cloud covers when I looked up the sky at around 5:30 PM. I was praying that the clouds would clear up in time for the Blood Moon. 

Come 6:30 PM and here's what I saw. Check out these photos of the blood moon. (ISO 6400-0.5 second exposure, aperture between f 3.4-6.5 depending on zoom level)

 Notice that there are two stars beside the moon? I've encircled them in this picture for easier identification.

Man and Nature - A plane passes by.

Now we see the next phases of the eclipse - 3/4 of the moon is covered by the earth's shadow. These pictures are much clearer now because the moon is high above the cloud coverage near the horizon. You can see the shadow getting smaller and smaller as you progress down as we near the end of the eclipse.

 The shadow getting smaller
 And smaller....
 And smaller.........
And even smaller.

And there we go! That sums up my blood moon/eclipse coverage as seen from the Philippines on October 8, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. It was really hard to capture all these images but the amateur astronomer inside me says that I must do it so that I may share it to my fellow amateur astronomers.

Here's a little portrait of how I looked like from the start of the blood moon til the end of my coverage. My arms hurt a bit after the coverage session! Clear skies til our next astronomy event!

Marvin Xylon M. Jaen - Amateur Astronomer-Adventurer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I have returned!

I never knew that the transit of Venus was happening today. Here is a little story:

June 5, 2012 – around 5 PM

Catoy Residence (Family of my girlfriend)

Mrs. Catoy : "Marvin, diba dadaan bukas ang Venus sa harap ng araw? Dalihin mo naman yung telescope mo dito para mapanood natin".

Me : “Ay, sa pagkakaalam ko po tita, next week pa po yun. Ewan ko lang po kung tama yung narinig ko sa balita pero ang alam ko po ay next week pa po yun".
June 6, 2012 – 8 AM

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church – Javalera, General Trias, Cavite

Fr. Reuel : “Marvin, diba ngayon yung transit of venus? Di mo ba papanoorin?

Me : (Looks at the Inquirer and sees an article about the transit of Venus happening today) "Ay! Oo nga po father! Teka lang po, titignan ko!". (Hurriedly sets up the telescope and tries to get photos)

I have returned.

According my blog’s record, I have been inactive for a year or more with my last post dating to January 2011. It was a very busy year for me and astronomy was not in my priority list. I do, however, clean my telescopes every now and then and they have also found a new home here at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at Javalera, General Trias, Cavite where the skies are pristinely dark. During my free time, I set up my telescopes outside and look at the usual sights – planets, nebulae, star clusters and most recently, Andromeda galaxy. Aside from the casual stargazing sessions that I have for a few minutes during free days, I did not involve myself in any astronomical ventures. But I do enjoy a very supportive community here – many people are interested in astronomy and I often find myself explaining the heavens and wondering about the marvels of space and most importantly, affirming the existence of a God who made all of this. Due to the busy schedule, no photos captured, no posts were written and no news about my amateur astronomy adventures ever came.

But now I return. Not that I have left astronomy – it is still in my heart. I must admit though that I became inactive for quite some time partly because I am tired of my equipment. Manual tracking, manual astrophotography (I have a few posts on how I usually do my astrophotography), small finderscope, shaky mount and all of those little things which when added up makes astronomy quite difficult. I do wish that I could afford equipment – proper and modern equipment. But today I remember that it is not the equipment that defined my astronomy but rather, the love for it. So now, I return. I return with a new post, I return with new photos and videos but still the old telescopes :P

Sorry for the long story ladies and gentlemen, readers of this blog. I felt that I had to explain my long absence in the field of amateur astronomy in the Philippines. Anyway, the transit of Venus is one spectacular event where the planet Venus will, in our field of view, cross the sun. This event last happened during 2004. I remember watching the transit then by holding up an X-Ray sheet from my last medical check up and seeing a faint black ball traversing through the sun’s disc. Now, I had the opportunity of watching it with a telescope. According to my research, this will happen again on December 2117 and December 2125. Still quite a  long time eh? So I decided that this year’s transit of Venus must be covered by the amateur astronomer inside me.

Since I was rushing today, I did not take any notes regarding the time I took the photos nor did I take any notes regarding the transit. Today, I just enjoyed the sight, and shared it with the people here who were interested in seeing this rare event. I will let the pictures speak for themselves in this post.
Equipment used : 60mm refractor, 20mm Ramsden eyepiece fitted with a solar filter (Warning: This practice of using the sun filters which can be threaded at the bottom of the eyepiece is not safe and is not recommended by any astronomical organizations, whether amateur or professional. Please do not use the filter. I only used it because I was only taking snapshots and not viewing it directly.) Weather conditions : Sunny with casual cloud covers.

Here are my first few photos. Still not that good because I'm still figuring out a way to take the photos since I dont have my tripod with me. All of the shots were done handheld, using my trusty Canon A450 digital point and shoot camera.

Around 8:30 AM

A solar projection on the wall for the public who wants to see the transit in action.

In here, we have two interested children. The girl on the left is also quite interested in astronomy and the sciences.

 This is the best picture that I had captured. The image is very crisp, featuring the transit of Venus with a sunspot group in the center.

Here is my setup for the transit of Venus. Just my precariously perched 60mm refractor 

Some more photos of the transit

The transit nearing its final stages.

Here is a short video - an attempt to capture the exit of Venus from the disc of the sun.

Here is another video - exit of Venus from the sun's disc.

I hope you have enjoyed my coverage of this rare event - the transit of Venus. Hopefully, i'll find the motivation again to observe and photography. If my situation or rather, tools and equipment improve, then I might become busy again, blogging about my amateur astronomy adventures.