ALP November 29, 2008 Stargazing Session
by Vincent Lao
Images by Dr. Armando Lee & Vincent Lao


A team of ALPers left for Caliraya at around 2:30 in the afternoon amidst the cloudy sky in Metro Manila. They (James Kevin Ty, Tommy Tan and Vincent Lao) were hoping that the sky in Caliraya will be better. James' contact reported that it rained in the morning there but has since stopped. It is difficult to predict the weather condition in Caliraya as it is usually different from the lower grounds. When they reached the Magallanes Shell station, they were joined by Doctor Armando Lee and his RTU astronomy students namely Miguel Artificio, Pauline Pearl Divinagracia, Antonette Icot, Angela Lequiron, and Cliff Weinston Roa. After stocking up on supplies such as snacks and energy drinks, they continued their journey.

Along the way, they were able to observe some sun rays passing through some holes in the otherwise cloudy sky. When they reached near the expressway exit, the sky there was almost cloud-free. Tommy even joked that they should setup on the greens there instead of proceeding to Caliraya.

As they neared the intended observation site, they were disappointed as the sky was almost void of stars. While having dinner in Pagsanjan, a slight glimpse of hope emerged as the 2 brightest planets: Venus and Jupiter can be seen.

After dinner, they proceeded to the usual camping ground, the Caliraya Ecosaddle. They waited outside to see if the sky will clear up sufficiently for proper observing. They did not immediately enter the resort to avoid paying the entrance fee. While waiting for the sky to clear up, the RTU students were already busy studying the constellations when some opening emerges. They were also having fun catching fireflies. One can almost hear the ohhhs and the ahhhs when a clear patch of the sky shows up as the students were not used to the darkness of the site unknown to most people living in Metro Manila.

About an hour or two and a few drizzles later, the team decided that the sky will stay covered and will not allow them to observe and image properly. So they proceeded to plan B, which is to visit Dr. Lee's house and private observatory dome in Calamba.

When they arrived there, Dr. Lee showed them his mini dome with a 10-inch dobsonian temporarily housed inside. After peering through the eyepiece, James noticed that it was out of collimation. So they showed the students how to collimate a reflector's optics and let the students use it to their heart's content.

RTU Astro Tech students lined up to get a glimpse of Orion Nebula through Vincent's Orion Starblast reflector.

ALP president James Kevin Ty discussed with ALPer Tommy Tan while waiting for the sky to clear.

ALPers and RTU Astro Tech students posed for a group shot

RTU Astro Tech students gets some tips and techniques from their RTU teacher and ALP member Dr. Armando Lee & ALP President James Kevin Ty.

M42 Great Orion Nebula taken afocally by ALPer Vincent Lao with his Orion Starblast Reflector.

A half arc rainbow was visible in the morning after a light drizzle in the early morning.

After resting and chatting a bit, the ALPers noticed that the sky was clearing up which might give them some chance to observe and image. So they quickly setup their telescopes. Tommy was very excited to try out his 5" Orion Apex 127 Maksutov-Cassegrain reflector on a sturdy Slik fluid video tripod, James brought his usual TV-101 refractor on GP-DX mount while Dr. Armando Lee brought his WO Zenithstar II ED refractor on Orion Atlas EQ-6 mount. James was doing his usual imaging setup and testing the sky condition with few short exposures. Doc Lee was showing his students how to setup a telescope and photograph DSOs. Vincent was doing a bit of visual observation and photography. However the sky was still giving them some hard time, because the clouds come and go.

After some time, they decided to call it a day and pack up their stuffs. Although the imagers were not very productive, they still had quite some fun. Tommy was a bit disappointed that the mount he borrowed wasn't stable enough for good views but was satisfied to find out that a photo tripod will not work for him. But those with the most excitement were the students who learned how to use a telescope, photograph distant objects, and most of all appreciate the dark sky.

They rested a bit until daylight arrives. There's even a nice rainbow visible at the site early in the morning. Then it is time to head for home.


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