Thursday, July 26, 2012
Going out for studies soon, and I thought hard on what books I want to bring along for the trip. After much choosing I settled on these 4 – excluding the last one. Nevertheless I find them to be the 5 best books I had for my interest in science, engineering, astronomy and space exploration.
40 Nights to Knowing The Sky by Fred Schaaf
Topics : Astronomy, Stargazing
This is my very first book on truly serious stargazing, it was from a second hand book store. The author, Fred Schaaf of Sky & Telescope taught the early skywatchers the techniques and skills to naked eye skywatching, as well as gradually introducing the arcane astronomy of Messier objects, deep skies and others. As a young boy I don’t find his writing too daunting, in fact the introductory part – “Nights of the Heaven in Motion”, serves well to explain and clear any doubts on why are the stars moving, why is the Moon sometimes not up at night, et cetera.
The Sun’s Heartbeat by Bob Berman
Category : Science, Astronomy
This is a science book on a class of its own. The ever-familiar Sun gets a image makeover from talented Astronomy magazine writer Bob Berman that you will never look at the Old Sun the same way again. This book answers very unexpected questions – Why are highway boards green? Why does a pirate has an eye patch? As well as providing fresh insights on how the great ball of nuclear fire has already infiltrated our daily lives since time immemorial.
I particularly enjoy this book for its independent chapters. On the sleepless nights, I can just grab it and flip to any random chapters, then start reading! At RM90 it was one of the most expensive books I had, but it is certainly worth the money (It was paid by the government anyway, lol)
Atom by Piers Bizony
Category : Science, with a pinch of History
Enter Piers Bizony, ace documentary writer. You might have heard of the names Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Rutherford from the sleepy physics classes of old – this book brings the characters alive, back into the heady days of atomic research when Man has just discovered a whole new world in the subatomic realm. Rutherford was boisterous and has a bellowing voice, while Schrodinger claims his womanizing helps him in his discoveries in quantum mechanics. Or have you ever heard of the epic fights and debates on the Solway conferences, or experiences the tension of the moment during the Manhattan Project where they realized the monstrous power of the atomic bomb? Scientists are also human, science and history go hand-in-hand, and Piers Bizony will bring you into a realm of physics your average physics teacher will not lead you to.
The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin
Category : Space Exploration
This is written for a slightly more focused audience group, but nevertheless if you have a passing interest on why aren’t we building Habs on Mars now, this book will show you the ways how can we do it now, using present technology know-how and some ingenious thinking.
In this book Robert Zubrin proposes a plan called the ‘Mars Direct’, which involves several launchings of manned and unmanned spacecraft to the Red Planet, and in the plan how many redundant systems are also incorporated for the aspiring astronauts to fall back on. The Mars Direct plan is now very popular and is featured in some documentaries, one of them being ‘The Mars Underground’.
Rocket Men by Craig Nelson
Category : Space Exploration
Okay, I’m big on space exploration. Haha.
Why is this book excluded from my trip? Frankly, it’s because it’s too thick, and I have limited space in my luggage. However, this is also a contender for one of the great books I’ve read in my non-fiction collection.
In the same spirit of Atom by Piers Bizony, Mr.Nelson brings alive the moments of the Greatest Adventure in the History of Mankind, the Apollo programme. From the early days of rocketry where German, American and Russians are fighting for missile supremacy, to the era of the Cold War where the Space Race may have prevented an all-out nuclear war. To the details of the men involved in the programme, the strong but sometimes wavering camaraderie of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. To how their journey to a place no man has ever been changed their lives forever, for better or for worse. This book, although a bit heavy in words at the beginning, is a very good time machine in bringing you back to the glorious days of Apollo, where science and technology develops at breakneck speed and the world has never felt as proud as we had ever since.
You might’ve noticed that there are none of the usual fare, of Stephen Hawking, or Michio Kaku. I’ve read some books on Michio Kaku and have the full collection of Hawking, but to me these are the best books on science. For me, the good books are where they are easily approachable by novices, but will also elicit interest from the ones who are already familiar with the subject by bringing a fresh insight. It is also very important for me, to present science as not just another subject, but a driving force that brought us to where we are today. To let the generation now appreciate science and the contributions of our forefathers towards their development.
So yeah, to each their own. Nevertheless, these are truly recommended reads from someone who has hundreds, if not thousands of books to his reading experience. So, I really urge you to get a copy, and read =)
Next : Top 5 fiction
Suburban Timelapse from ChronoFong on Vimeo.
Sunrise at Panorama Hill from ChronoFong on Vimeo.
This was on my first trip to Sungai Lembing back in 2008. That time the Sun was much redder and clearer! Will visit Sungai Lembing again next time! =)
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Monday, July 16, 2012
Since the inception of the Stargazer Society in MCKL, I have been looking around and noticed that the people’s awareness and interest in astronomy has been increasing. (Or it’s just me who didn’t realise that all the while?) HELP has their own astronomy club now, as well as INTI Subang. Kajang and Klang enthusiasts has been conducting their own stargazing sessions too! Despite the fact that Penang Astronomy Convention last year had its lowest turnout and was scrapped this year, the momentum is building up, thanks to social media such as Facebook which has really helped connect astronomy enthusiasts from all around Malaysia and even within the city, which can be so large that you barely know your neighbours!
And now, to another astronomy club which is on the rise – the Yu Hua Astronomy Club!
The Yu Hua Astronomy Club has been established quite some time ago, I once was their member back in 2006 but the club has been lying dormant all the while. Until now! Simpson and I decided to pay a visit and Simpson to guide and advise them on their future activities, as full-fledged amateur astronomers!
The attendance was shocking! Well, it’s Yu Hua, a humongous school of 5000 people. First, we introduced them to the Universe, focusing on our home, the Solar System. It was a quick and easy presentation, followed by a game which involved 10 people standing in one line to demonstrate the scale of the Solar System!
THE TRUE SCALE OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM : (pic captions are from upper left to right, then bottom left to right)
- From the edge of the Solar System! Here’s Pluto in yellow. You can see Neptune in the distance!
- The last of the icy giants Neptune! You can see Uranus in the distance.
- the icy giant Uranus! You can see Saturn in the distance.
- The beautiful planet Saturn! ;) You can already see Jupiter not far away, and even Mars too!
- The largest of them all, Jupiter! You can see the rocky planets already!
- And at last, all the rocky planets are stuffed close together, from left : Kee Onn, Mercury (the small boy), Venus the girl in front, Sun the girl furthest behind, Mars the guy in red, and Earth the guy at the right.
Did you really understood and appreciate the scale of our own home, the solar system? Well now you do!
Apart from that, they also got the chance to check out Chrono’s 100mm refractor and Isaac Low’s mini 76mm Dobsonian Reflector! We provided them with a clear view of the Kajang town :D They also learnt how to use the star chart, and we urged them to go out to stargaze whenever the sky is clear!
Finally, there was ‘homework’ for them – a task to observe and record the phases of the moon for the next month! As their meetings is once a month by school regulations \(=.=v)/ we have to get them interested and occupied until the next meeting. They also have their own Facebook group so its easy to keep in touch.
As I’ll be leaving soon Simpson will be advising this club in the future. All the best for the future of Yu Hua Astronomy Club!
Saturday, July 14, 2012
What is it that you are seeking for
Are you hinting in your seductive gaze
Or are you just telling me to not think too far off
Luscious sweet, so tempting
My dreams are coloured with shades of pink
They drop off, like little flowers dancing in the wind
Sips of wine, infatuating
I found love in your amber gaze
Allow me... to fall in your lap and feel your warmth
Hints of fragrance as the wind blows
I drown in the embrace of your hair
It's a feeling that words can't express
And I get caught in your inescapable net
Friday, July 13, 2012
You were there to guide me, shining
I basked in your warm hugs, melting
And you were always there, smiling
Little did I knew that your smile was hiding
A rift in your soul that badly needs mending
Yet I still trod on it, thinking
That you will always be there, brightly shining.
Yet with your warm glow you succeeded in changing
A stone cold potato into one golden, browning
I found refuge in you, but I fail for not noticing
That deep inside you your heart is crying.
If there is one word to describe you, it would be 'amazing'
You are the most courageous girl the world has ever seen
A valiant knight who fought through the darkness
With the light of His glory, you are brightly shining-
I will miss your warmth as we bid our partings
But I will be contented just to see you smiling
Fight on, my girl, for what you believe in,
And may our paths meet again in life's many crossings.
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Malaysia is actually quite a blessed country owing to its position on the equator - we can see much more constellations than countries on other latitudes do. We can see the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross simultaneously in the night sky. Unfortunately, living in the tropics means that there will be many days where clouds obscure your views of the heavens above, and you won't usually see auroras either. Nevertheless, Malaysia is quite the exciting place to be an astronomy enthusiast.
First step : Connect!
I have learnt from experience that if you don't have a group, or even a person, to share your hobby with, your interest will die out quite quickly.
The best thing you can do is to join a star party. You do not need a telescope or any other equipment to join. In fact, join them before you buy your telescope. There will be many experienced stargazers that would be willing to share their experiences with telescopes, observing or astrophotography with you. Stargazers are 99% friendly. :-) Find a club/association near to your area using this link : http://chrono13.blogspot.com/2012/06/list-of-astronomy-clubs-contacts-in.html. Join them on Facebook, message them and ask them when are they planning their next observation.
If you are a student, join the astronomy / science club in your school or college, there's a better chance you can find someone of the same interest there. If there's no clubs like that in your school, create one! Ask you extracurricular head of what does it take to form a club. If you are a member of the public, you can join any of these public astronomy clubs listed above. Of course, students can join too!
If you really cannot find any clubs near your area, join our astronomy group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/222149901131543/, it's better than nothing and it encompasses many fellow enthusiasts around Malaysia.
But I don't have a telescope!
No worries. You don't need a telescope to start your journey in astronomy! Believe me, I've been stargazing with only star charts for 8 years before I got my first telescope. And indeed, it is not time wasted - you're learning the way around the cosmos which is a very valuable skill when you have a telescope later on.
A free SFA star chart can be downloaded here : http://www.midnightkite.com/starcharts.html
A free night sky simulation program can be downloaded here : http://www.stellarium.org/
You can also find many free star chart apps for your Android/iPhone smartphones. Just search for it in your respective App Stores or whatever.
A guide to using the star chart (for Malaysians) will be available here : http://chrono13.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-use-sfa-star-chartmalaysia.html
Many of the pleasures in astronomy comes from the knowledge of what you're seeing. A read-up on some of these topics will help you better appreciate astronomy.
- Why does the stars have seasons, why does it rise and set like the Sun and Moon.
- Moon phases, Lunar eclipses and their causes.
- Solar eclipses, features of the Sun and their causes. Read up especially on 'Analemma'
- Properties of each of the planets.
- Star clusters, galaxies, globular clusters, Milky Way.
A star chart can be confusing at first with the dots and strings - no worries. For Malaysia we usually just use the 2nd and 3rd 'Equatorial Region' star chart.
1. Look at the upper scale, the one with the dates and search for the date today. Then, look downwards at the constellations - the ones that are directly below the date are the ones that appears directly on top of your head on 8p.m..
What does ‘meridian’ means? It simply means an imaginary line that splits the sky into the East and the West. Knowledge of your orientation is very important during observation of the night sky. So what’s under the dates shows the constellations that are on the centre of the sky during 8p.m. Be prepared to search for a wider field as illustrated, not just one or two stars.
If you’re observing at other times, just move the red rectangle 15 days forward per hour after 8p.m. For example, if you’re observing at August 6, 12a.m., move the ‘rectangle’ to October 6th.
2. Hold your star chart upright and face North. Find a constellation where the stars are brighter (larger black dot on the chart), then look up and search for the constellation. An easy target to start with is Orion or Scorpio - either one can be observed throughout the year.
The left scale, ‘declination’ shows where the constellation will be in the night sky. The ones on declination zero will be at the centre. The ones towards the negatives will be on the southern side, the ones towards the positives will be towards the northern sides. For example in this Stellarium snapshot, you can see the constellation Ophiuchus on the line marked ‘Declination zero’. You can also see that it is also on the Meridian on 11p.m. on July 6th.
Once you gauge the approximate positions of the constellations, you will begin to identify more of the constellations. A good training is to download the Stellarium application at www.stellarium.org and practise identifying the constellations using the star chart and disabling the lines.
Once you’re there - Congratulations, you've acquired the most important skill for stargazing.