Monthly Archives: June 2012

Why Stars Move


If you observe the skies at night long enough, you’ll realise that the stars move. You’ll see some constellations disappearing below the horizon and new ones appearing on the other side all in one night. Just like the way the sun and moon rises and sets. Well, It’s not the movement of the stars that causes them to rise and set on the horizon, but rather Earth’s rotation on its axis, around the sun.

Here’s a pic which summarises the rotation of Earth. It spins on its axis which is tilted 23.5 degrees to the perpendicular of its orbit around the sun (the Ecliptic). So, during the course of one Earth rotation (which is one day), it’s Ecliptic appears to shift north and south of the Celestial Equator at a tilt of 23.5 degrees.


Source: Massey, S. and Quirk, S. 2010. Atlas of the Southern Night Sky Second Edition. Australia: New Holland Publishers

We see stars when Earth faces away from then Sun. Earth is always spinning; Throughout the night, some stars will disappear below the horizon on the West and new ones will appear on the Eastern horizon. And since Earth makes a complete orbital around the sun in a year as it travels on its ecliptic, we journey around the sun seeing all the different constellations in our skies as we, like passengers, are transported by our very own spaceship, Earth.

Categories: Observation Gear, Stars | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A View of the Moon

I know my sis Brindha recently wrote a post about the moon. However, I would like to emphasise on how beautiful it really is in this post.
I always expected the moon to be white with holes in it. And yes,I did imagine it to be beautiful. I set the bar really high cause I knew that anything from outer space would be gorgeous. So when I finally got more my eyes on a close-up of the moon through our telescope, ohh it touched that high bar alright. It was something I could imagine but never thought would be a reality, but it was real!
The moon was so white, pure and untouched. It looked like a ball of ice when I stared at it longer. AMAZING!
And it was so round! It was like a perfect circle floating in mid air. Like a painted white circle (a perfect circle – something I could never draw) shaded with grey against a piece of black paper.
How gorgeous everything is in outer-space!
The moon really is a stunner!

By Geetha.

Categories: The Moon | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SkEye Planetarium App

My favourite planetarium App for Android mobiles: SkEye!

Why I absolutely love this app you ask?

1.  It’s calibrates to the section of the sky you’re pointing almost instantly. I have the GoSkyWatch app too but it’s does not calibrate as fast as SkEye when you’re moving your mobile and pointing it to different parts of the sky.

2. It has a search function that guides you (with a bullseye reticle) to point your mobile and zoom in onto the interstellar object you’re looking for.

3. Plus, it has a huge database of deep sky objects, Messiers and NGCs. Way more than I could ever hope to observe from the suburbs with moderate light pollution levels, in which I live in, through my 10″ scope.

4. It can be used as a PUSHTO Guide on your telescope optical tube assembly. All you’ve got to do is attach your mobile to your scope, align the app’s map to what you’re observing and voila, you now have your very own tracking system!

5. All these features come free!

For detailed instructions, visit: SkEye, Planetarium and PUSHTO Guide for Android.
Visit the SkEye’s official site at:

Categories: Amateur Astronomy, Observation Gear, Observation Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sir William Herschel and Life on the Moon

Something interesting that I thought I’ll post up. William Herschel believed that life exists on the moon! And he made this deduction by observing the moon through his homemade 7 foot long reflector telescope – the longest reflector made at his time.

The evidence:

1. Among one of Herschel’s early papers submitted to the Royal Society is “Observation on the Mountains of the Moon”. This paper describes “lunar forests” existing on the moon.

Source: Holmes, R., 2008. The Age of Wonder. Harper Press.


2. Herschel proposed the idea that the craters on the moon were artificially built by lunar inhabitants. This circular craters functioned as towns that could harness solar energy. He called them “circuses”.


Source: Holmes, R., 2008. The Age of Wonder. Harper Press.


3. Herschel believed that the shadows on the moon could be either “forests” of vegetation or “black soil”.


Source: Holmes, R., 2008. The Age of Wonder. Harper Press.


These pictures were taken from a book, The Age of Wonders by Richard Holmes, that I recently bought and am still reading. It’s a wonderful biography of a selected scientist and explorers who lived during the Romantic Age.

A biography on the lives of the greatest scientist and explorers of the late 18th century, the Romantic Era.

Back to Herschel, I truly admire him for having the guts to stand up for what he believed in, despite having to go against Maskelyne’s (Maskelyne, who was leading astronomer at the Royal Society) opinion. At that time, it was such a heated controversy between them that Maskelyne himself visited Herschel in Herschel’s home to question him on the credibility of his astronomical works. However, Herschel never gave up! And mind you, Herschel had no professional qualification in astronomy (or even physics/mathematics for that matter) – a perfect reason to drop his endeavours in a field in which he had little expertise and credibility in.  Herschel was in fact a poor man, an émigré from Germany and self-taught in astronomy.
So, instead of succumbing to the doubts of others about his theories, Herschel admitted that his claim of life on the moon needed to be substantiated with more proof. He therefore persevered and kept observing the moon and skies through his telescope. And guess what he stumbled upon eventually while searching and mapping the stars, Uranus!

ps. Check out this post, Sir William Herschel’s Belief in Extraterrestrial Life, to read more about Herschel’s endeavours to discover life in space.

Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, History, The Moon | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: 10″ SkyWatcher Collapsible Dobsonian

Here’s my first ever telescope! Early last year, my parents promised me a gift for doing well in my national exams. So, since then, I’ve been on a hunt for my first ever telescope.  I did loads of research before buying it (as it wasn’t going to be cheap!). In the end, I ended up learning so much:  the differences between a reflector, a cassegrain, a refractor; the importance of aperture, focal length and focal ratio; which eyepieces and filters work best; collimation; portability; mirror quality (pyrex or perspex) and coatings. In the end, I chose a dobsonian (a Newtonian reflector minus a tripod but with a Lazy Susan base instead) as it provided the most aperture for the least cost (as a tripod stand isn’t needed).  “Aperture fever” I must say!

And thank god for that as I’ve got too see things like the Trapezium Nebula and NGC 1999 (a small reflection nebula) through it! Observing from my light-polluted balcony, I don’t think I would have got to see as much using a smaller aperture (albeit more portable) scope.

This site proved invaluable in the study of observational gear:

Here’s a link to a dilemma I faced when having to choose between an Orion XT 10 and A Skywatcher Collapsible Dob.

A picture of my sister and I collimating the scope. Yes we used sunglasses to protect our eyes from laser light from a Saxon Laser Collimator! Though I don’t think it helped much as I later read that we would need special glasses for laser protection. Word of advice, point your dob at a wall when using a laser collimator, so the reflected laser beam (from the primary mirror) dosn’t aim straight at your eyes and burn cells in them.

Image Credits: Vasanthi Vijaya

I was initially worried that nudging the tube (as it’s not equipped with a tracking device) to keep track of an interstellar object in the field of view would be troublesome, but worry not, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  In fact, you barely even realize you’re moving the tube as you’ll probably be too engrossed with whatever you’re looking at (like myself).

Images are really clear too; the first object we saw through it was the moon on a clear night and it look like a giant crystal of ice. It was just breathtaking! The craters were really well defined and sharp. You’ll have to see it for yourself to believe how beautiful it looked!

And guess what, the collimation holds really well too. I’ve only collimated it once when I first bought it. Each time I observe, I’ve got to carry it out to the balcony (about 15 feet away) with the help of my dad. Despite all the bumping around when transporting the scope back and forth between my dining room and the balcony (which has been going on for almost 9 months now), I’ve never had to collimate again!

A scope highly recommended!

Let me know if you have any questions about this scope, I’ll be glad to help.

Categories: Observation Gear | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Star Party in Penang

Mid last year, a Malaysian science university, University Sains Malaya held a star party! So, my family and I took a long drive up to to Penang (which was where the star party was held), a state in the northern Malaysian Peninsular, to catch the party. Here’s a picture of the moon taken with a Samsung NX100 camera pointed to an eyepiece of a 8″ Celestron cassegrain telescope.

Credits: Geetha Kanniah

Not the sharpest picture I must say! But, this was the first time that we got to see crater’s on the moon! As we’ve never looked through a telescope before, the moon was always a white (sometimes shady) circle up in the dark  sky. So, seeing the moon up this close was so exciting! I loved looking at the moon with the black background behind it- it made me think that the of the moon as a lonely rock floating in the darkness!

Despite the blur in this photo, we can clearly distinguish Mare Serenitatis, the “Sea of  Serenity”, the crater shaped like a mushroom, in it. Yeah!

Here’s a clearer picture of it:

Alright then, that’s my first experience viewing the moon through a telescope! It was an awesome feeling to see something so far away, something that most of us will never travel too, so close.

Categories: The Moon | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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