From the classroom, to the Universe



During the moons crescent phase, you can see a pale glow on the unlit part of the moon which is actually the light reflected by the Earth hence the term. So go out and have and take a peak of this treat tonight! No telescope required.        
 Photo details:

ISO 400 at 1 sec exposure 

Canon 700D and Skywatcher ed80 

edited using PS express. 


M42 Orion Nebula

Its was a clear day and I had a chance to do some quick imaging of the Orion Nebula at Salt Pan Reserve in the suburb of Riverwood,NSW. I was a bit hesitant because I was alone and not familiar with the place. Thankfully it was a safe and friendly place and I met a few people who were curiuos to what was I am doing.  Luckily I was able to share a few stars and the nebulas with them.

15 meters away from the car park ,light posts and apartments around gave heaps of glow in sky but I was able capture 12×10 second subs of M42.

Image details:

10×12 sec exposure at 1600ISO using Canon 700D and Skywatcher 80mm ED mounted on a NEQ6 pro. 

Processes using Deep Sky Stacker , Photoshop and Instagram.

Taken at Riverwood, NSW. 

Venus Jupiter Conjunction

 Conjunction is a phenomena when two or more celestial body appear to be close in the sky. Here in this photo of the recent planetary conjunction of Venus(left) and Jupiter is at their closest taken July 1,2015. 




 Crux or the Southern Cross is probably the most popular constellation in Australia and is as well a symbol in their flag. In the southern hemisphere, it is used to approximate then location of the south celestial pole by extending it 4 1/2 times to where it points. In one aboriginal culture, it is regarded as a stingray. 

Photo details:

Canon 700D 

30s single exposure f4 at ISO 3200

Taken at Katoomba Airstrip, NSW


Buying Your First Scope 

Getting that “first scope” is the most difficult task for anyone starting out in astronomy. Walking in a telescope store or simply browsing online among the plethora of products, most of us would go round in circles trying to find out which is the “best” for us. In this guide I’ll let you see through some pros and cons and pitfalls to avoid in buying your first scope.  

1. Budget 

If truth be told, it IS the deciding factor in buying your first telescope. To simply put, if I have a billion to spend, I’d probably get the best that there is! Or just buy myself another space telescope if ground isn’t enough for me.   

So how much are you willing to spend? As a rule of thumb, anything cheap doesn’t do well and if you want better quality and performance, the price does simply go up! If you are playing it safe around cost vs performance, you’d probably be ready to spend 20,000 php to 30,000 for a start. Get ready to spend more as you get more serious in it!  

Pitfalls to avoid: 

Avoid cheap toyish telescopes that falsely advertise seeing planets and the universe saying it can zoom up to 500 times! It might, to a certain degree but it would only frustrate and dampen your high for the sky. These department store telescopes is made of very poor plastic materials thus leading to bad optics. Again, stay AWAY from it.  

But there are as well entry-level telescopes from a well known manufacturer that are “computerized” or called as “go-to” that is designed to locate objects in the sky by a push of a button. But it only makes it more expensive rather than an improvement of the optics. I’m not saying “go-to” is a bad thing, in fact it does help, but as starting point, you could have put more value on your money on the optics rather on the fancy stuff. You could get it 1/3 of its price without go-to and will still give the exact same view! 


Tight on budget but wanting to start? A decent binocular is one of the best ways to start observing! Costs around 2,500 and up, it can give you views of some of the best hidden gems of the sky! Definitely better than department store refractors out there.

2. Where to buy one?

In this age of the internet, you could almost get anything from anywhere around the world, telescope including ofcourse. Most of local astronomers had been a regular customers from US based shops since there is only a few stores that specializes in telescopes here in the Philippines. But there areare things to consider from buying overseas which includes the shipping rate, customs fee and insurance. These three factors can add up the price of the telescope bought outside the country significantly. There are work around to minize by using an online shopper service, which will buy and pack things for a cheaper rate using freight but takes a longer. But this does not eliminate the damage your scope could recieve in transit so always read carefully the insurance policy of the provider you choose.

Theres a known hobby shop in Manila that sells entry to intermediate level telescopes. They are authorized dealer of Celestron here so you would save your self the worry of shipping. Plus, if you are a member of a local astronomy club, you could get a 10% discount from them too!  

Check from time to time local classifieds and from club listings that sells used but excellent scopes. They are cheaper and saves you the cost and trouble of shipping. 

I was lucky enough to get a used ETX 125 for a fraction of its price and it served me really well and had loved it! But when buying a used telescope, personally inspect/make sure that there is NO DAMAGE on its lens or mirror. A well-cared telescope can last a lifetime.  

3Visual or Photographic?  

A very good way to help in choosing a telescope is to ask yourself if you would want to enjoy stargazing visually or if you want to do some astrophotography. Or maybe even have some amateur science studies with it?  

Most of the amateur astronomers I know had started by doing visuals then jumped into photography and there are some who enjoyed and still enjoys visually romancing the stars! It will all depend on you or how you would mature as an astronomer.   

For visual astronomy, in my opinion, a dobsonian telescope (a reflector telescope usually 6-12 inch in aperture mounted in an alt-az base, popularized by John Dobson, hence the name) will be the best option. The simplicity and its light- gathering power combined provides an enjoyment to novice and experts alike.  

Its mount is so simple that with enough DIY skill you can make one yourself, and you’d just have to buy a reflector telescope of your choice. The only downside of a dobsonian is its portability, since they are quite big and bulky and you might need a hand or two in transporting it. But if you have a good observing site at home, I can say this is a good choice.  

If you’d like a grab-and-go telescope for visual use, I would recommend a Maksutov or Cassegrain around 90mm that can be mounted easily on a photo tripod. It’s small and light but its focal length gives a good “zoomed-in” view of the moon and planets. Despite being small, it can give enough view of deep sky objects! These are good if you don’t have a good observing site in your house or area and would like to travel a lot, great for campers.

Astrophotography is, however, another broad subject. Most amateurs who venture in this area are those who had matured in visuals and want to take pictures of what they observe or to record data for science use. Some are actually photographers who want to look for an out-of-this- world subject, literally and figuratively. But nevertheless, there’s a bit of a learning curve in it, not to mention the cost of the equipment to use.  

You could start of by choosing a OTA, meaning optical tube assembly that is suited for photography, not all telescope works well in it and equally important to it is a good and stable tracking mount. Astrophotography is a very rewarding venture be it in art or science, but patience and passion is a must to go on with it.  

A very expensive telescope that is not put into use is just simply a mirror and a piece of tube, what matters is how much you would use, enjoy, and share the wonders of what the night sky has to offer.  


Every telescope (or telescope accessory) comes with clouds and rain so better be ready for it!  


Sunspot AR 1884 and AR1885


AR 1884 and 1885 captured using ETX 125 and Toucam Pro. November 3, 2013

Debt, Deadlines and Death

The news about a student who has committed suicide has brought once again issues regarding a school’s policy on students financial obligations.  Different schools impose different policies  but one thing keeps me in question, which does provide greater importance, the schools measure to secure operations or students current financial capabilities? As isolated as this case maybe according to the officials, but this is only the tip on the iceberg on how a student feels every time tuition fees are pressed against their right to access education which for some is their ticket out of poverty.  While most students do not resort to suicide, many most would be in emotional torture dilemma since they have to think of a way out of it. How can one be at their best form in reviewing for their final exam if they are in the midst of the uncertainty of having be able to pay their tuition debts?

My school is implementing which what we call as  Examination Permit Policy, students are only allowed to take examination if they have either an examination permit, which means they had paid their dues or a provisional permit if they can’t settle their accounts on the agreed date.  It might look pretty convenient but I find it really difficult as a classroom teacher. Though it is true enough that the school does not also offer me a promissory note during paydays, however I believe that examination is still a part of teaching learning process. Examinations provides a feedback to teachers the gauge of a students understanding and barring them the right to take exam because of their parent’s lack of financial obligations is like also robbing them the right to learn. Assessments and evaluation is a vital part of teaching learning process, without it a teacher can not say that they have done their part of the bargain. Schools would always wave their grandeur vision and mission in developing children but they should also include that it comes with a price, no such thing as a free lunch after all! And students do not really have a choice in this and I believe that it poses a negative impact on students attitude in taking exams and coming to class. I am sure there can be ways to be strict and stern in fees and other financial matters that does not include barring exam or even attendance.

While I do well understand that the life blood of the school’s operation is based solely from its tuition and fees but let’s not forget the fundamental reason  why a school was founded  and that it to teach students.

Deep-Sky Observing Marathon at Big Handy’s Ground Tanay, Rizal

The Philippine Astronomical Society hosted a deep-sky observing marathon at the dark skies of Big Handy’s Ground located at Tanay Rizal. It was an off-the-grid camp site, literally – no signal, electricity, water supply and is away from buzzing sounds and blinding lights of the metro, a perfect get away from daily urban lifestyle. The site offeres 360 view of the skies with minimal obstruction from mountain tops and though light pollution from Manila can be seen afar in the west, faint stars that are usually invisible in the metro doesn’t shy away and glitter fantastically and steady that you’ll get lost in the sea of stars! Its such rare occasion for me that I stared in awe above and have to reorient my self to what constellation I am looking into. Faint DSO’s are resolved easily that hunting them was a breeze, only if clouds had not rolled in quick!View from Big Handy's Grounds

View from Big Handy’s Grounds

Members of the Philippine Astronomical Society

Members of the Philippine Astronomical Society


Members of the UP AstroSoc joined us also in this event

Winter Triangle

Fish Eye View of the skies of Tanay, RizalParticipants Group Shot

Participants of the event included students from RTU Astronomy Society, UP AstroSoc, individuals from other walks of life – PAS members and non members alike.

Big Handy’s Ground is located at Brgy. Cayumbay, Tanay Rizal and welcomes camping, star gazing and other stuff. For more information in the site you may send Mrs. May Serrano an email at

For anything about astronomy, you may attend events of the Philippine Astronomical Society which is free and open to the public. Clear Skies!

Photos by:

Kashogi Astapan


Crescent Moon

Solar Observing with Students

We were greeted with a warm shine from the sun during our club meeting so we went to the roof deck to have a closer look at it.

The school roof deck is actually a good observing site, except for the lights from the North Express Way.

Basics of setting up a telescope. Next time they will have to do it by themselves.

Checking out the sun.

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