Monday, November 14, 2011

The Chronicle of the Stargazers

The Song in head syndrome – This, the term I was looking for popped up in an IELTS test. Currently, “Secret base” kept playing in my head. I wouldn’t be surprised, as this time – I’m on the verge of leaving something that I’ve cherished, something that has been my reason to go to college, or even, to wake up every morning, something that took up every minute of my free time and something I would gladly die for – The Stargazer Society of Methodist College Kuala Lumpur.

Establishment

In actual fact, the club was conceived somewhere in late November 2010. At a time when I was searching for my true self. The 6 founding members – Lai Cheong, Edward, Stephanie, Nixon , Charmain and me. God knows where some of them have gone now. It was, above all, the tenacity of the desire to set up this club, coupled with the invaluable leniency of Mr Michael, that the Stargazer Society was able to open its doors on 10 Feb 2010.

One thing that really inspired me for the setting up of this club is the 2010 Geminids Meteor Shower, which we observed in Kajang along with Simpson, De Yun and Li Huan. As the night gradually falls in, the familiar patterns of stars which I once was so crazy about it long ago, they were calling out to me – I felt so at home under the sky. This feeling, I still have it every time I find myself in a sky full of stars. And thanks to the superb meteor shower, it rejuvenated my determination to start up the club in the holidays, and I never regretted every second of it since.

Reinventing astronomy

The 2nd meeting was a big mistake. A hastily compiled data set of theoretical physics for 1.5 hours proved much more effective than Ms Lim’s afternoon Maths class. Seeing member after member trying to stay awake, I made a resolution to change the way astronomy is preached to the members, and also to everyone :P Ironically what I remembered most is that Adrian was the only one who seems to be so interested about everything, even giving a ‘wtf’ look when I put it the turtle towers analogy.

Anyway, I squeezed my brain juices for the next meet. Luck was in the form of a star party, which was the informally Stargazer Society’s first Star Party in Kajang with Tan Simpson’s new SpaceProbe 130 ShortTube Equatorial. I was introduced to Stellarium, later proved to be a very effective tool in extracting the oohs and aahs from the newbie Stargazers :D The outing reminded me of how pleasing stargazing is, and thus….

‘Ok now, everyone please lie down on the table!” was something I suppose not every normal club president would ask the people to do! But that was exactly what happened that day, where we were to learn about the celestial sphere, the zenith, meridian, RA and DEC, the hand angles and everything pure astronomy goodness. Yeang Ching brought along a new member, who was later instrumental in radically changing the Stargazer Society – Secretary Choong Joy Teen.

Stargazer’s Outpost – Kajang

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Since the start of this club, old school friend Tan Simpson has been of immeasureable help to the club. In fact, out very first informal and formal outings are both held at the park near his house at Taman Prima Saujana, Kajang.

Stargazer Society Star Party 1 and 2 saw the wonders of the Winter and Summer skies. Mr Lopez helped made the second star party official by driving 2+ hours all the way to Kajang! With the help of many people and Lady Luck, both star parties are considered succesful and proved instrumental for our following outing.

Spreading the message

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One event that the Stargazer Society still take pride in organizing – the President always talk about it even today – the UNMC Nature Club – MCKL Stargazer Society Lyrids Watch! It was definitely a very different outing from all of the rest.

At the suggestion of Josh, the Stargazers contemplated about having a star party in the serene outskirts of KL, in Semenyih at the UNMC campus. After much doubts, with reassurance from the good fellows over at Nature Club, we decided to make the event a blast!

Well, it was not really a blast. The plans all went haywire, the beautiful amphitheatre was full of people lying down like refugees and we decided to let them be – while the Stargazers walk around and guide them to the sky :) A great help from Ms Teoh Hui Chieh and Aisah Yap, fellow enthusiasts that brought a refractor and a Cassegrain to view the Winter sky. Unfortunately it was like really cloudly for most of the night, but when the sky is clear the Stargazers showed them the famous constellations and implant some astronomy virus in them, according to the princicples of the Stargazer Society.

They are out there….

Towards the end of the first semester, the Stargazers realised that more can be done – we will be having a long, long time to play in the 2nd part of the year! Therefore, I along with comrade Simpson went on to get contacts and network with the astronomy community in Malaysia.

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On the night of the Chem 4 exam, a once in how-many-years Lunar Eclipse was taking place and the National Space Agency was hosting an observation party over at the National Mosque. Joy, Yi Kun and I represented the Stargazer Society. Apart from watching half of the eclipse, the Stargazers got to know Ms Chen Chen Lau of the Planetarium, Ms Sufen of Orion telescopes, among many others. It was an outing that was memorable in many ways, although we didn’t get to see the eclipse in full. Sharing astronomy with the people at the mosque was also fulfilling, and telescopes the size of garbage bins by the Planetarium makes the Stargazers drool. Hehe.

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Next up is none other than the Penang Astronomy Convention in Penang. It was a trip like none other – Simpson and I rode a 4 hour trip over there and it’s our first time backpacking. In USM we met the legendary Dr Chong and USM Astronomy Club, and had a helluva time in USM and Penang.

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The astronomy spirit in Penang is amazing! Quite a number of secondary schools actually set up booths in the convention, not to mention small kids manning the water rockets we launched in the something fair in Kepala Batas. No need for 1Malaysia or any other shit, astronomy was good enough to keep us together! Over at the fair I’ve also met a friend from long ago – the Perseid Telescopes company that came to the motivation camp in SJKC Chee Mong back in 2003. I bought the Star Charts and lost it, and now I have it again! The Star Charts reminded me of my days in Kerteh looking at Scorpio, and longing for a telescope in KL when I was 12 back then.

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And this is the aweshume largest refractor in Malaysia…! OK this is turning into an ‘Astronomy and me’ blog post. Ahem well the trip inspired me to, above all, further spread the sidewalk spirit and launch water rockets! I also made a note to myself to bring the Stargazer crew over to Penang someday.

Bigger, and louder!

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Not to say discriminating, but Julies are awesome! Haha that’s what I thought. The new semester saw the joining of a very enthusiastic crew that attended our first (partially failed) sidewalk effort in KLCC moved to Titiwangsa Park. However, the smiles are worth the effort, especially when they see Saturn or the Moon through Simpson’s scope at that time! We didn’t manage to get any long term ‘converts’ that time, but well I hope that we made an impression!

Note : If we want to really make the news – as Chee Meng requested as our goals – I think we can start with a monthly sidewalk over at Titiwangsa! I’m sure many will be interested!

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The Perseids Meteor Shower saw a participation of 18 people (or so I remember), a damn large delegation that saw unfortunate consequences – long walking under the hot sun, squeezing the KTM, KTM delay,walking to KTM Station. Well, it’s a budget trip, we’re a budget society. However, most participants, if not all, managed to get glimpse of some beautiful meteors (I scored 5), and who does not enjoy to have a refractor and reflector at once! ^.^

Festival society

Back in college, I think we somehow must’ve be known as the festival society. All thanks to the hard work, sweat and breaking bones by the Stargazers, with special special special credits due to Joy our beloved master planner!

First off is the Stargazer’s Summer Festival a.k.a fundraiser! In the pretext of more exciting activities, we sold food and stuff throughout the week (devastatingly tiring), mashed potatoes, our FAMOUS nachos with some cheese or chilli con carne with credits to Cross, Joy’s mushroom soup and Cross’s caricatures! The Stargazers worked hard, played hard, stole food, pulled overnighters, further enhancing the bonds between friends and meanwhile promoting the society! After the fund raiser, we took a break, not knowing something bigger is looming ahead….

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And that was a festival like no other – A Japanese themed, astronomy aimed, Party Rock atmosphere-d, Chinese Moon Cake Festival! We were in luck for the Recreation Room was ours to have for the whole week, out of luck where we have scarcely enough time to promote the festival, and it rained when we planned to set up in the basketball court. Truthfully, the scene when everyone in college, Stargazers or not, all came down and helped us set up the stalls and lights when we were running out of time – it almost moved me to tears. Really. That was when I was so glad that the Stargazer Society was in MCKL.

Of course, Stargazers were awesome too, relentlessly serving the participants to make the event a memorable affair. Special credit goes to the one who hasn’t had a good sleep for days, worked until her neck went stiff, and planned all the details when the president was stymied by the realisation of how complex the required plannings were. No amount of gratefulness can describe how much the Stargazers owe you.

And the cycle goes on…

One doesn’t have to listen to Guns and Roses’ November Rain to know how depressing the end of the year is. All good things come to an end, and here are we, passing on the baton to the committee of 2012, Adrian, Daisuke, Apple, Hui Jia, Yaw Jin and Arvin. As much as I didn’t want to let go, I believe that you all can and will do a better job for the club. It was my life – and I hope that it can be part of yours too. After the Water Rocket and Bukit Tinggi final outing, the club is in your full power :) but do remember to call me whenever you’re going on outings or having an interesting experiment. Hopefully I will be there, or else I will be waiting for your updates on the blog!

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