January 26, 2009 ALP Partial Solar Eclipse Observation Report
by James Kevin Ty , Armando Lee , Teodoro Gonzaga



Last January 26, 2009 , members of the Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP) setup in various observing sites around the country to document the partial solar eclipse that was visible in the late afternoon.  The primary observing site was based on Boardwalk  seawall beside the Manila Ocean Park. Aside from Boardwalk, prime observing sites were also setup by ALPers at Aling Mahsya Restaurant in  South Wing Seaside Parking of SM-MOA (near the SM-MOA dampa seafood market) , Cebu City and Iloilo City.

At the Boardwalk main site, members started to arrive at the site at around 2:45pm.  Among who were present that day were ALP President James Kevin Ty, VP Jett Aguilar and wife Angge, Membership Chairperson Angie Tan, PRO Alice Villa-Real, Secretary Rich Pijuan, members Tommy Tan, Alfonso Sy, Andrew Ian Chan, and sister Berenice Viola ,  Dennis Buenviaje , members of the Manila Planetarium staff that include Liza Quitlong, Nel Lagda , Roberto Silvestre, and Maximo Zabanal ; guests Mr. & Mrs.Yoshikatsu Chikira and staff of Sun East Asia Corporation , AP photographer Aaron Favila. ABS CBN reporter Jeff Canoy and his crew. During that day, Francis Sarmiento III and Soriano Lim became the newest ALP members as well!  If one was to se who will comprise the ALP Solar Eclipse Expedition Team to Wuhan, one could say that most of the ALPers present on that day are the serious ones that will comprise the team :) ALP eclipse expedition team leader James Kevin Ty had informed the members that this event will be use as one of the first dry run to be made by the expedition team to further train their awareness and concentration for the upcoming July 22th total solar eclipse in China.

At around 3:30pm, they started to setup their telescopes facing the seawall.  James brought along his trusty TV-101 refractor on Vixen GP-D mount ; Jett with his Takahashi TSA-102 refractor, Stellarvue 80mm refractor and Canon 100-400mm IS zoom lens on Vixen GP-D mount ; Andrew with his Skywatcher 80ED refractor on EQ-1 mount ; Alice and Angie brought along their Orion ST-80 refractors on tripod and Planetarium staffs brought along their Celestron C8 SCT. Guests Mr. Chikira of Sun East Asia Corporation brought along several units of the Galileo telescope which will be the official telescope that will be used by PAGASA National Organizing Committee (NOC)  in promoting this year's International Year of Astronomy (IYA) while AP photographer Aaron brought along his huge Canon 400mm f/2.8 telephoto lens!

The sky that afternoon was not clear as lots of thick clouds were covering the entire sky with only some small patches of clear sky were passing through or beside  the Sun :(  First contact was expected at around 4:55pm but unfortunately, they missed seeing it because of the bad weather.  First glimpse of the Sun was seen at around  5:39pm already with a large chunk of the Sun already eclipsed!  A loud bursts of cheers and camera shutters started to trigger away and with the Sun already low in the sky, James shouted out to the members to remove their solar filters as the Sun was still covered with a thin haze of clouds near the horizon.  With less than 10 minutes to go, anxiety fills the air as everyone was wondering if the Sun will make a final move to let the members as well as the crowd see a perfect eclipse Sun before it sets into the western horizon and a few minutes before sunset, the Sun popped out of the clouds to show its maximum 62% obscuration and sink behind a freighter parked at the edge of the horizon where the Sun sets.  Still a beautiful sight to behold!  Everyone as well as the foreigners and local crowds cheered and applauded after the Sun sets.  It was a nice experience for the team members specially  the first timers of the group to get a feel of what's in store for them in the July event.  As for James, it will help him assessed how the team members performed that day.   It will also  let him get a first hand look on what needs to be addressed and corrected to ensure the team members will perform flawlessly when E-Day arrives! 

Initial reports coming from  ALP's   South Wing Seaside Parking side of SM MOA side was also a success and they were also  lucky to get a clear view of the horizon with the Sun setting beside the freighter! In my opinion, the orientation of the setting Sun against the position of the freighter was more of  a matter of LUCK  than what others were saying that careful planning of the site between the MOA and the Boardwalk site was the key. I would presume that one cannot predict the exact location of  the freighter's  parked position  a few days earlier that gave the ALPers at MOA site a better view of the setting Sun.  It could have gone also the other way around to the advantage of the Boardwalk observers had the freighter parked on the other part of the horizon :) .  Nevertheless, the important matter  is that the successful documentation of the event was a good initial training ground for ALPers to get prepared for the upcoming July 22, 2009 Total Solar Eclipse in China.


As early as 345pm, ALPer Dr Lee together with his wife Mia and Son Jason arrived at the South seawall of the SM-Mall of Asia. They were later joined by the 1st year BS Astronomy Technology students from the Rizal Technological University namely; Antonette Icot, Pauline Divinagarcia, Angela Lequiron, and Miguel Artificio. The restaurant manager Aling Rosa was there to assist and coordinate with the security personnel of SM-MOA. Telescopes came in when Sidewalk Astronomers Bencie Lee (Dr Lee's brother) arrived with Fermin Naelga, Wilbert Palma and girlfriend Bes with a van. The following scopes were then set up: WO ZS80edII on an EQ2 mount, ST80 on an EQ2 mount fitted by Dr Lee with PC164c-ex ccd video camera and KIWI-OSD-VTI and Canon ZR200 videocamera, and another set up for public viewing - the Celestron version of ST-80.

At first the sky was so cloudy that the Suns' disk could not be discerned even by naked eye. At first contact time - 4:55pm, the video set up of Dr Lee was already recording but unfortunately too much cloud prevented the view of that moment. Relatively clear sky followed until right before sunset when thick clouds again covered the sun. And 5 mins before sunset, the western horizon cleared and people were ecstatic to see a cresent Sun setting. Shouts were heard. People ran towards the seawall while Dr Lee and Fermin Naelga shot their images and the rest of the people watch the sun with their naked eye while they scream, shout and clapped with joy.

Everything went too slow as we watch the spectacle with great awe! A very memorable event indeed that will last a lifetime of memories. This one for the books...until the next eclipse comes. We will sure be there again to be awestruck. The group finished off the session with a sumptuous dinner provided partly by the owner of the restaurant, Mr Bernie Esporlas, and Dr Armando Lee. Everyone kept talking about the event as if it never ended. A sure sign that everyone did got their share of pure bliss.

NOTE: ALPer Alexander Loinaz was also at the SM MOA site to image the partial solar eclipse but he opted be separated from the ALP's SM MOA South Wing Seaside Group as well as the ALP's Boardwalk Group  to be mobile in search for an even better imaging position with his very mobile setup, a 1000mm mirror lens setup on tripod.


Solar eclipse really fascinated new ALPer Ted when he experienced it more than two decades ago, during his high school when they were allowed to go out from their classrooms and observed crescent shapes of sunlight through punctured cardboards. It grew an interest in him to explore the heavens and some frequent stiff necks watching the night sky.

October last year, thanks to Mr. James Kevin Ty and through his help, he was able to acquire a Vixen R130sf Newtonian Reflector telescope on Porta 2 mount and also a Baader solar filter. He tried practicing afocal pictures of the sun (and the Moon as well) with an Olympus FE-170, a point and shoot camera which is the only one he had on hand.

Upon learning there would be solar eclipses this year, He checked the internet if he could see it from Iloilo City. Luckily, his friend and officemate Chad Torrefranca mentioned that from his lawn, he can see the sunset. Ted brought along his cousin, Mark Sequio, and they set up at his residence as early as 4 pm and waited eagerly for the moon’s silhouette on the Sun.  He used a 20mm Plossl eyepiece in order to get a full picture of the Sun when photographing it afocally.  They were grateful that it was sunny that day, though windy, but with very few cloud cover. It was a good idea to put sunblock on for they seldom took their eyes off the eyepiece. He took several shots, until the Sun was too low and covered with clouds hovering along the mountains of Cabatuan few minutes before 6 pm.



It was a very rewarding experience, able to see an eclipse up close and in real-time and not just from pictures or television. Being new to astronomy sure has many of “Firsts” and he is  quite sure this is one of the best. 


For more partial solar eclipse images taken by ALPers, please click here.

For more activity images taken by ALPers during the partial solar eclipse event, click here.

Alice's Partial Solar Eclipse & Activity Images

Francis Sarmiento III Activity Images


You are our   Free Counter  th visitor since August 2003