Saturday, July 7, 2012

Getting started in astronomy - Malaysian Edition

This is my sincere attempt to write a simple but comprehensive guide to starting astronomy as a hobby in Malaysia. All the stuff here are of my experience and of many other stargazers in Malaysia.

Malaysian Astronomy 
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

Read! 
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 search of these terms on Google will give you sufficient information to understand them. It is also highly recommended that you visit the National Planetarium with a good guide to explain the displays they have at the exhibition hall. 

This section is still under construction and many more topics and details are about to be added in the future. Clear skies! 



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