Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Perseids Meteor Shower Rewind

A repost of an entry made 4 years ago..

Six years ago, this date, August 13, fell on a Friday – yep your regular, much dreaded Friday the 13th,, an unlucky day that has spawned many horror movies and unfounded fears.

I know of people who had unfortunate experiences to associate with this day. Why, just 3 months ago, a coworker while cruising through the NLEX, had an accident on a rain-drenched Friday the 13th. He survived the collision with a broken neck; his car though was a total wreck.

Despite its sense of foreboding, miracles have happened for me on Friday the 13ths. I recall at least 3 dates which had been memorable moments in my life.

On a Friday the 13th in 1992, I felt the full blast of the magic called love.

On a Friday the 13th in 2001, I reached the peak of Mount Matutum – a long-sought dream.And 6 years ago, a Friday the 13th , I had a meteor shower of a lifetime.

The year was 1999; I was a Science Grade 7 teacher then. I was on my third month of teaching the kids who were all enthusiastic to discover life’s mysteries through science. That Friday night, I organized an overnight stargazing session.

August 13th marked an annual astronomical event – the Perseids Meteor Shower. I explained to the kids that on a normal night one could see a handful of sporadic “shooting stars”. But occasionally the earth, during its annual journey around the sun, passes through a region in space with high concentration of dust particles. Such instances are a feast for sky watchers; the particles entering the atmosphere provide a spectacular and abundant display of nature’s fireworks.

I had looked forward to the event because my first experience of a meteor-shower observation in college had been an intimate and liberating one. Vicariously feeling the child-like wonder and amazement in my students I knew that if only the skies would cooperate they were in for in a marvelous treat, a rare experience that would anchor in their childhood memories.

If only the skies would cooperate and that had been the big if. Perseids Meteor Shower Observations had always been a tricky battle with Mother Nature. August skies are almost always overcast.

That morning did not provide any glimmer of hope. Ominous black clouds hovered above us. Neither was the official weather news encouraging. Even my horoscope for that day was not cooperative (okay okay I sometimes check out the horoscope for a sense of validation). On hindsight it did seem that all odds were against us.

I knew that all I could do was just hope. I prayed to God for a clear sky (I recall praying the rosary the night before, an act I rarely do). The prayer was not for me, it was for the kids. How would they handle the disappointment? How would they handle the brutal blow to their anticipation ?

And so it happened. On the night of August 13 in 1999, a Friday the 13th, there had been a heavy downpour in the villages sorrounding Mt Matutum (as we’ve learned the morning after).

The sky unloaded its watery weight and flooded the villages with its wrath.
On the foot of the mountain where the school is located, the scenario was entirely different, oblivious to the storm occurring in the nearby areas. The clouds had parted ways- as if an answer to my prayers- providing us a magnificent view of the clear imposing sky, teeming with stars.

We lay down there on the school field watching in awe and admiration as the awaited shooting stars zoomed intermittently in front of us. The kids screamed and shrilled at each find as if a treasure, their eyes glued to the sky lest they miss the next spectacle. Amidst their oohs and aahs I offered a prayer of thanks.

From the countless stories jubilantly told and retold in the days that ensued I knew it had been an experience they would cherish.

It has been six years since and yet I could still feel the exhilaration. I could still hear the echoes of their screams. I could still see the awe and excitement on their faces.

I could still fondly recall the miracle that happened 6 years ago on a Friday the 13th.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Astro Factor

A repost of an old blog entry in 2005

Last night my buddies from UP Astrosoc had a get together.

It still amazes me to think that Astrosoc has endured through time and distance. In terms of bonding I think it has gone far better than the other orgs I have joined or most of the fraternities I know of.

So what was it? What is the Astro factor that made that uncommon bond, a bond that makes us talk the same stuff over and over again every time we meet (and yet never seemed to get tired of it)

Astro probably provided solace for each unique individual. It was a place where one can just be one’s self and not fear being labeled weird or different.

It was a group where athletic mountaineers coexisted with introverted bookworms.

It was a group where electrecution-thrill-seekers blended well with role-playing-game fanatics. It was group that never raised eyebrows to a twenty-old year old who still plays GI Joes, or to a lady who refuses to give her birth date or to a lass who shaves her hair for the heck of it.
It was and still is a group that thrives on differences and eccentricities.

Yet despite the range of idiosyncrasies we realized we are the same.
We go to the abandoned and desolate hill on a Friday night to look up at the wide expanse.
We leave behind our thoughts on a make-or-break exam, or the fast-approaching thesis deadline, or the looming MRR at the end of the term.
We take part in the continuing saga of creation that unfolds in front of us.

For that brief respite we forget our hang-ups, our broken hearts, our fears, we all become innocent kids once again basking at the overwhelming creation that surrounds us.

We all find the searchers and the poets in us as we navigate through the skies. We become one.

And after that celestial journey we go down the hill and back into each of our own lives. We deal once again with the usual banalities that grind us down.

And yet we feel a spark of hope and a sense of longing. We have the energy to go through the week because come Friday night we once again come home.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Shahai Total Solar Eclipse Multiple Exposure Shot

Here's a cool shot taken by Kin Enriquez one my teammates in our Shanghai Solar Eclipse Expedition..

Link of this original photo as follows. Please acknowledge photographer when reposting.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Tips to save on travel : Tip 2 : Book in advance

Eclipse hunting requires a long term commitment. This ain't for wimps and folks who back out due to some last minute changes. It takes planning not just weeks but months ahead.

The event unlike ordinary movie premieres, birthday parties, get-togethers or what have yous isn't changeable. It becomes a sacrosanct mark on your calendar where all other activities would revolve.

Six months in advance should be a good rule of thumb.

The plane fare is the big bulk of the expense of hunting. In our last hunt the fare amounted to almost 60% of the budget. One can drastically reduce this by eyeing on airline promos. (One member got his trip for 8K, while another got it for 17 K.. do the math)

One would just have to be on the constant lookout. One can even get as low as 60% discount.

So always visit the websites of the airlines or better yet sign up for email reminders.

But be forewarned. Once you booked the itinerary any changes would mean penalties.

We had a member of the team who was penalized 50% of the whole ticket cost because of rebooking and cancellation.

The drive to reduce cost should be balanced with acceptable risk.

But risk-tasking is a character that defines a hunter.
Once you've confirmed the itinerary, take the plunge.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Eclipse 101 : What is an Eclipse?

Of course if you happen to stumble by, one assumes that you have a baseline knowledge of what an eclipse is.

Nonetheless should you need to brush, here's a cool video from from video jug of what an eclipse is

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Tips to save on travel: Tip 1 : Establish Contacts

1. Travel Tip No. 1 : Establish Contacts

There's a kewl site called Couchsurfing.
It provides a great way to trot around the globe without spending so much by booking in the so-called couches. It's also a great way to establish meaningful contacts.
What I like about the concept is that it somehow works on a Pay it Forward principle.

Our spot in Jinshanwei was identified because a fellow Couchsurfer provided the link in a meeting event.

Totality Video Shanghai 2009

Here's a kewl video taken by Kin, a fellow astronomer, of the totality in Jinshanwei, Shanghai.
More videos to follow.

This video is posted at