Sunday, December 20, 2009

A pale blue dot

Pale Blue Dot

"Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." - Carl Sagan

HaHa... some food for thought =)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Astro @ NJ Boarding

Click on the poster to see full view. The Boarding school session is on 4 November starting at 0730 pm. All members are required to be present to help. Meet 0730 sharp (or earlier but not later) at the Boarding School garden. In the event of bad weather, we will be meeting at the conference room of the boarding school.



Monday, October 26, 2009

Hwa Chong Astro Fiesta

Hi astro members,

Hwa Chong Astronomy Club is organsing the HC Astro Fiesta on 29th October 2009 (Thursday) at the High School field and Auditorium. It will be from 7pm to 11pm.

Attractive prizes will be given out plus it is a good opportunity to get to know other astro people. So do try to come for this event.

For more information, please refer to Please let me know if you are interested.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Galilean Night

Hey Astro members,

Please take note that the Galilean Night Event on 23 Oct Friday is COMPULSORY for all members. Attendance will be taken. Details of the event is in the previous post. Zhuo Yun will also be sending an email with the consent form and all other relevant information. Please take note that you are supposed to print out the consent form, get it signed and place it in Ms Yeo's letter tray lattest by 22 Oct Thursday.

The overnight event on 24 Oct is optional however all members are strongly encouraged to attend this event since we havent had much overnight session this year. Furthermore, orionids is one of the more promising meteor shower and from experience you can expect to see 10 - 30 meteors in a night depending on both weather and luck. Those who are interested please indicate it in the consent form and let Zhuo Yun know about it so all the boarders can apply for permission from boarding school together.

We seek your co-operation by adhering to all instructions given. Any doubts please feel free to clarify with me =)


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Galilean Night 2009

Above is information of Galilean Night 2009, held on 23 and/or 24 October 2009. Click on the image to view the full size version. Let me know if you are interested.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Term 4

Hey Astro people,
I've designed a logo for NJ Astro club. Please feel free to give comment on the design and feedback on how to improve it.
The schedule for term 4 will be out pretty soon. The exco is still confirming the time and date. But most probably there will be a session coming Friday 16 Oct 2009. Venue is at Sigma Lab, 6:30 pm. There will be an observation session after that.
The Boarding School Session for the JH 1 will be on 4 Nov 2009. So PLEASE keep that night free for all members are to help out on that day. We are seriously SHORT-HANDED so we need EVERYONE. I will upload the plans for the boarding school session onto the blog asap so remember to check the blog regularly.
That's all folks. Good luck for your End of Year Examinations. Hope to see you soon =)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some things to do in December =)

1. Learn how to polar align a GEM with the "star drift" method

2. Procure a R.A drive for both NJC and NUS

3. Observe without ever having to touch the slow motion controls again =)


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total Solar Eclipse on 22 July 2009

First of all would like to apologize for my infrequent updating of the blog; I will try my best to keep up with it. Anyway, apparently the blogger interface is down so I'm using another one to post this : /

The solar eclipse of July 22, 2009 was the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, lasting as much as 6 minutes and 39 seconds in some places.

This article pretty much covers what happened around the world over:

The view observed in Singapore would be a partial one, with a maximum obscuration of 3.63% (which would be around 4% as mentioned in the media). The first link is an animation of the eclipse of Singapore, the second shows the maximum obscuration. (thanks to vangoh from singastro!)

Unfortunately, the heavens did not favour us and there was an island-wide downpour during the eclipse period (around 8-10am), thus making it impossible to observe the partial eclipse. If I'm not wrong there was a TASOS expedition to China to observe the eclipse (21 July Straits Times prime pg 6), hopefully they had better luck, as well as those who went to China for the eclipse had the good grace of weather too.

I would love to post some pictures that rlow took of the eclipse in Hangzhou, however I'm unable to do so because the blogger interface is down. Finally, a link to provide some food for thought. It makes me so envious of those who have experienced totality! T_T


Friday, July 17, 2009


Hey Astro ppl,

CCA will resume next week on 24 July, Friday. I apologised for not being able to turn up on the coming Astro session as I need to attend my former secondary school speech day.

Details of the session are as followed:

Date: 24 July 2009, Friday
Venue: Sigma Lab
Time: 6:30 - 8:00 pm
Topic: Optics and related trivia

Cao Li will be in charge of the session while the rest of the Exco will do their best to help him (Hey, Tung, Lam and Zhuo Yun... Don't be happy too soon... your turn will come too... *MUhhaahah* LOL)

Hwa Chong Astronomy Club has also invited our club for this dialogue session with Sir Martin Rees, a prominent researcher and the current Astronomer Royal. I will like everyone to attend if possible. I have passed the relay message through sms, but just in case you happen to see this blog post but not check your hp (how unlikely is that... I wonder...), well, do let me know asap either through email ( ; ) or hp.

Date: 25 August 2009, Tuesday
Time: 10:00 -12:00 pm
Venue: Hwa Chong Institution, LT@SRC

Lastly, I will be posting our term 3 schedule (including senior farewell party, our informal astro outing or gathering, astro programmes for boarding school and of course the normal sessions and star gazing) really soon so do remember to check the blog for regular updates. Also, feel free to email me if you have any suggestions for term 3. Meanwhile good luck and have fun =)

Edrei Chua

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Particle physics and a great website for starters

For some of you starters who are interested in particle physics, the plethora of books and online resources available on the topic might be a little overwhelming. Even some of the wikipedia articles covering the topic have some advanced areas that may be difficult to understand, i.e . Therefore, I would like to recommend the following site for starters who wish to have a basic introductory foundation to the topic.

This award-winning site introduces particle mechanics such as The Standard Model, Accelerators and Particle Detectors etc. in a fun and interesting manner. The interactive tours are viewable at .


Ob report on AstrOrdinary Camp'09 @ Pulau Ubin 20th June

Hello everyone!

I'm writing this ob report not only as practice for future ob reports in future but also to give other first timers a general idea of the observation site etc.

Met up with JY(Jun Ying) and 3 of his friends who wanted to go for the ob at around 5pm (20th June) at Changi village. Unfortunately, while we were unable to attend the afternoon activities, JY is a confident Bin trekker so we were confident of making our way to any campsite in Bin. Changi village has a ferry terminal where ferries cater not only to Pulau Bin, but also places such as Desaru. I didn't bring anything except for my laser pointer and some water, which turned out to be a mistake. The rest brought snacks like Top biscuits, Ritz biscuits, ice cold beer, and other random stuff like a DSLR and macbook. Thereafter to get to Bin you wait for a ferry bumboat where the captain waits until there are 12 people before setting off. The fee is $2.50 for a single trip, therefore a trip to and fro will cost one $5.00.

Upon reaching there we had dinner at one of the numerous eateries available. There are numerous eateries to choose from, generally at affordable prices. There were also many bike rental shops available for bike rental. As our original plan was to rent bikes, we asked around various shops for the rates and the general rate for rental of bike overnight was $6.00, per bike. After discussion however, we decided not to rent the bikes for 2 main reasons: a) to save money and b) there were some off-road gravel tracks with rough terrain and rocks that we were unsure the bikes could traverse. We also considered renting a van but we were not sure of the cost and we needed to know our route(via walking) to find our way back. Thus the decision to walk to the observation site was made.

The observation site is actually based on the northern site of Bin near Bubut hut near Kekak Quarry and Ketam Quarry (see map). Basically, it’s the OBS campsite beside Kekek Quarry. The site is around 4-5km away from the Pulau Bin Jetty start point and by foot, takes slightly less than an hour to traverse. The roads leading to the observation site have no signboards nor significant landmarks pointing to its direction for someone new to the island, therefore it is recommended that someone experienced lead the way should it be the first time the group is travelling to the ob site. (For us, it was JY in this case) The roads leading to the ob site also do not have any street lamps along the way, it is easy to get lost along the path once the sun sets especially nearer the end of the trail, when there are dirt trails(off road gravel tracks with rough terrain and rocks) and not paved streets. It is thus advisable to bring a torchlight in case one is unable to reach the ob site before nightfall. Also, there are no sources of potable water along the way, and also only 1 restroom stop. We managed to find the ob site even after nightfall due not only to the experience of JY but also due to the fact that a MP astro member managed to identify us. I will talk more about the observation site and the logistics involved later.

The observation site is actually a small clearing located in the middle of dense vegetation(trees). The clearing no longer has any grass due to previous campers clearing the error, making it a suitable place for placing groundsheets etc. as the insect count from vegetation is reduced. The vegetation provides a "perfect" cover from ambient city lights, such that the only light visible provided light discipline on the ground is the skyglow(light pollution) from Johor in the north and Singapore in the south. However the skyglow is prevalent enough such that the limiting apparent magnitude is around 4+, so Milky Way is not visible, even without cloud cover. The vegetation only rises about 30 degrees altitude above the horizon so it is acceptable.

Logistically wise, there is no food or potable water available nearby so one would need to bring their own. There is also no restroom nearby (the nearest one is over 2km away). There is also no shelter from the elements available nearby so a tent would be required in case of rain(debatable issue though, thankfully it didn’t rain).

When we reached the ob site there was actually major cloud cover. However, these were generally cumulonimbus or low-altitude clouds so I was personally confident that the wind would blow them over. We reached the campsite around 715pm, and while it was still dusk despite the major cloud cover several bright stars and objects could be easily identified, such as Arcturus, Saturn, Regulus, Castor and Pollux setting etc. However, at this point constellations could not be easily identified. The "weather" was hot and humid. The reception for handphone signals was also very poor, depending on the provider communication with the mainland was close to impossible. We also heard from the MP astro members that there was a fallen log blocking the dirt path to the camp site. Apparently the van carrying the scopes and other supplies had to stop at the fallen log (because it was impossible to pass through) and they carried all the scopes and supplies via hand to the ob site : / It is unsure at the point of writing whether NParks or OBS personnel have removed the fallen log.

Photo courtesy of Lim Jun Ying

MP Astro had brought 2 scopes, a 4.7 inch double element wide-field achromat(600mm f/l) and a 90mm(I think) triple element apo. While waiting for the clouds to blow over the the wide field achromat was set up and trained on Saturn. The seeing was really bad at the time so there was not much point in pushing magnification, at ~50X the rings could be seen, however Cassini division could not be resolved at the magnification. Detail was also not visible in the tiny disk at that magnification. Titan was visible on the far left of the planet.

The few of us engaged in casual banter and before long it was around 11pm. As expected the low-altitude clouds blew over and there was a improvement in the condition of the night sky (namely the transparency). For the first time in many years I was able to, with the help of Stellarium software in the macbook identify whole shapes of constellations in the night sky which would never be possible in the mainland. We managed to trace out, via the laser pointer, the kite shape of Bootes, square of Hercules and its arms and bow, the U shape of Corona Borealis, the "Pentagon" of Ophiuchus and even some stars of Draco. Corvus, Libra and the big dipper of Ursa Major were also identifiable. On towards the southern/eastern sky, Antares was rising fast in the sky and the shape of scorpius was readily visible to all, together with the teapot of Sagittarius. So were the southern stars of Centaurus, Crux, and Lupus. Faint constellations such as Norma, Hydra and Corona Borealis were sadly out of our reach. Still, I was very impressed by the increase in limiting apparent magnitude compared to any part of the mainland.

The wide field refractor was used by our human "goto" Siu Yung and I absolutely fell in love with the beauty of wide field views. A 40mm ep with 600mm f/l gave a magnification of 15X with a comparatively huge 4.7 inch unobstructed aperture. The Jewel box, or NGC4755 could be framed well within the eyepiece together with the blue-white view of Mimosa, which I had not seen with any other scope. The attention was then turned to M13, which was readily visible as a fuzzy white ball, but sadly unresolved. Moving on to M57, the ring nebula it was seen as a faint white small "ring" that contrasted against the background of pin-point stars. Unlike the mainland sky where I had to use averted vision, M57 was visible even with direct vision, an impressive feat. Thereafter we moved to M4, which was not as well defined as M13 (as it was also a globular cluster) but readily visible nonetheless. In the Takakhashi apo with smaller aperture it was noted that the image was dimmer, but that it had much higher contrast. I still have a long way to go as a visual connoisseur I guess! My guess is it would probably need a larger aperture to resolve. The open clusters in scorpius M6 and M7 were a sight to behold. M6, in the wide field refractor had a distinct butterfly shape. M7 was defined by a multitude of stars across the whole FOV. Indeed, clusters are best viewed via wide field refractors. :) Moving on to M22 the globular cluster again could again be seen as a fuzzy patch, like M4 and M13. The most impressive, however, was M20, where I could clearly see nebulosity in the trifid emission nebula.

As the hours passed the summer triangle of Vega, Altair and Deneb was clearly seen and the complete constellations of Aquila(which I never observed in mainland before) and Cygnus together with Lyra(also never seen the rhombus in sg before) were clearly visible. Sadly I didn't think of some objects in mind such as Albireo, the double double Epsilon Lyrae and M11 in scutum. It was 3 am and the sleep monster was getting to some people. In order to stay awake I thought of the ingenious idea to maintain constant conversation with the 4 of JY's group so that we would not fall asleep. Although one of them fell asleep, the rest of the 4 of us remained salient and were able to keep ourselves awake. Most of the rest of the people eventually fell to the temptation of the Z monster. In the night sky though, strange patterns which I had never seen before were rising in the east and due to the lack of the Macbook (asleep), I had trouble identifying them. Meanwhile, Jupiter rising from the East was extremely bright compared to mainland standards and seemed like a beacon in the sky. I managed to identify the great square of Pegasus but Capricornus and Aquarius around Jupiter was too hard for me to decode. The only other constellation I could decode was far north, the constellation of Cassiopeia, a wide M shape. With the scope trained on Jupiter, I was amazed at the level of detail seen, it even surpassed the C8 at NJC which I used to observe Jupiter with. Details in the bands were clearly visible, though apparently the GRS was not in view. All four of Jupiter's Galilean moons were visible.

If Jupiter was bright, then Venus would be a UFO. It was so bright that I felt it could almost cast a shadow. Under the scope false colour of the wide field refractor was finally very apparent, with the edges bleeding violet. Interestingly it showed a half phase of the moon, but no other surface features as expected. Soon, the crescent moon started to be visible above the treetops at dawn. For the first time, I could see the "earthshine" effect of the crescent moon(reflected light from the earth illuminating the night side of the moon) with the naked eye, which I rarely observed in mainland. In the scope, details such as Maria and craters were apparent in the night side of the moon, even though false colour was visible around the lit edges.

Brief overview of deep sky objects:

NGC4755: "A-shape" pattern of coloured stars (bright-blue and reddish-orange) clearly visible beside mimosa in wide field view

M13: distinct "fuzzy" patch, however unable to resolve cluster

M57: faint white "smoky" ring, able to be seen with direct vision

M4: faint "fuzzy" patch, also unable to resolve cluster

M6: distinct "butterfly" shape of bright-blue stars with orange giant BM Scorpii clearly visible, open cluster easily framed in wide field view

M7: Ptolemy cluster able to be framed in wide field FOV, entire field of densely packed stars (stardust effect)

M22: faint "fuzzy" patch, unable to resolve cluster

M20: nebulosity clearly seen in HII region (seriously wonders what one would see in a 12 inch scope under Mersing sky ^_^)

And thus, the observation ended. Really have to thank MP Astro for organizing this event and for lending us the groundsheet, allowing us to observe via their equipment etc, even though I felt very “paiseh” we didn’t help much in the logistical part. (for e.g carrying scopes to ob site and back, sorry JP!)

Ok several views(advantages/disad) on this ob, firstly I felt that this observation site is an excellent site for ob in SG territory. As mentioned above, the vegetation blocks all ambient light from the cities and only skyglow is visible should light discipline on the ground be maintained. Thus, should be used as an ob site as much as possible.

Furthermore, the views far surpass that of the main land. The clear naked eye visibility of the rhombus of Lyra and the visibility of nebulosity in M20 in a 5 inch scope have far surpassed that of my mainland experiences. Mainland locations are not only closer to the sources of skyglow(light pollution) but also have too much ambient light, which is a major cause of limiting apparent magnitude.

Last but not least, being part of Singapore territory, it is easier to plan such an event for students compared to overseas trips like Mersing or Desaru.

Disadvantages wise, I think a major problem is the issue of moving equipment from the paved roads to the beaten off-track graveled, rocky tracks, since both cycling and renting a van could have some problems travelling these roads. Also, the fallen log problem showed that they had to carry equipment quite a long distance from the van to the ob site.

Another disadvantage is the cost problem. The transport to and fro Bin costs 5 dollars per person, excluding food. Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, it was a mistake not to bring insect repellent (I only brought water), as I suffered numerous insect bites(probably sand fly bites) all over my arms.

In summary though, this site has still the darkest northern sky in Singapore. Maybe NJ astro and other schs can organize a trip someday after exams!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An attempt to revive this blog

In an attempt to revive this blog, I will be posting some astronomy related material here from day to day, an eventual goal would be to have something like . Looking forward to your support!


Monday, July 6, 2009

Astro Session

Dear all,

Just a reminder. There is an Astro session coming Friday, 10 July, 6 pm at Sigma Lab.

Edrei =)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NUS-NTU Astrochallenge 2009

Hey astro people,

NUS-NTU Astrochallenge has finally ended! NJ team 2 won the team 1st runner-up in the senior category as well as the most popular project, both which are commendable achievements! Congrats! A great thank you to the alumni (esp kenneth) who came back to train the team too!

For those who participated but didn't manage to enter final, don't be demoralised. All of you did a really great job and your devotion to the competetion is well appreciated. Continue to work hard for next year Astrochallenge! I am confident if we are united as one and are willing to work towards a common goal, NJCastro will be able to strive to greater heights. May our legacy live on!


Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.
- Ptolemy,c.150 AD.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Training resources

Dear all,

Please log on to this website for competition notes and other important documents. Do NOT spread the password around, as the materials are strictly confidential and only for circulation within NJC Astronomy Club.
Hope our training and competition go smoothly :D

Clear skies, 
Anne (:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Astronomy lecture

Hi all astro members!

There will be an interesting Astronomy lecture next week.  


Talk title -          Solar System Planetary Magnetic Fields

Speaker –         Professor Jeremy Bloxham

                        Harvard University


Venue -             Lecture Theatre (LT) 31

                        Block S16 Level 3

                        NUS Faculty of Science

                        Lower Kent Ridge Road


Date Time -       Thursday 23-Apr 6.00pm


The planets in our Solar System exhibit a wide range of magnetic fields. Earth and the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn have strong, predominantly dipolar magnetic fields. The ice giants Uranus and Neptune have strong but highly non-dipolar fields. Mercury has a weak field, Mars an extinct field, and Venus no field.


Magnetic fields are generated by dynamo action in electrically-conducting, convecting regions in a planet’s interior. This dynamo action can be investigated both experimentally and numerically. The last decade has seen great advances in numerical models of dynamo action, but they still operate in a numerical regime that is far from that which is appropriate. Given the limitations of the numerical models we ask whether the gross differences that we see between the magnetic fields of the different planets can be explained by the gross differences in those planets’ internal structure. We also examine the critical role of observations, and the constraints that observations can place on dynamo theory.

Geophysicist Professor Jeremy Bloxham is Dean of Science in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Mallinckrodt Professor of Geophysics, and professor of computational science in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He was first appointed to the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor in 1987, promoted to full professor in 1993 and assumed the Mallinckrodt chair in 2005. In 2002, he was named a Harvard College Professor, a distinction recognizing exceptional undergraduate teaching.


Prof Bloxham studies how planets generate magnetic fields, a long-recognized dynamic phenomenon that is still not fully understood despite more than four centuries of scientific investigation. His research group has developed a three-dimensional numerical model that could help explain why the Earth’s magnetic field has weakened by as much as 10 percent over the past 150 years. Other interests include the application of high-performance computing and visualization to problems in geophysics.


Prof Bloxham holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Mathematics from Cambridge University awarded in 1982 and 1986 respectively, and a Ph.D. in Geophysics awarded by Cambridge University in 1986. He is a fellow of the Royal Society, Royal Astronomical Society, and the American Geophysical Union, and a member of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.


He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Geophysical Research and Geophysical Journal International and has received professional honors including a Packard Foundation Fellowship in 1990, the Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1991, the Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union in 1994, and the Chapman Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2001.

Do notify me if you're interested, then we can go from school together.

Thanks a lot!

Clear skies (:

Friday, March 27, 2009


Hi all!

So here I am trying to revive a (quite) dead blog.
Below are links to several webpages that I find helpful. Do explore and make good use of them!

Astronomy Picture of the Day
Stellarium - stargazing software - website for Singapore IYA2009
Singastro - a non profit organization for astro enthusiasts in Singapore. Lots of info on practical astronomy can be found here.

If you know of any other website that you find useful, do contribute!

Clear skies (:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Orientation 2009!

Dear all,

We'll be having our NJC Astro orientation this coming Friday 13 Feb, 5-7pm, at Sigma lab. There'll be an introductory talk about astronomy as well as fun and interactive games. You're also encouraged to join us for our dinner and stargazing session (optional) after 7PM (:

Please contact any Astro EXCOs if you're interested. Our contacts can be found at Astro noticeboard between LT1 and LT2.

Thanks a lot and see you there!

NJC Astronomy Club