Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Star Struck in Batam

By Cheang Hoi Yee, First Year, Digital & Precision Engineering

The moon through the lens of a Newtonian Telescope
Imagine seeing the Milky Way and shooting stars! Those were some of the highlights of our astronomy retreat camp at NongsaPoint Resort, Batam. Students from NYP and Hwa Chong Institution went for this trip organized by Cosmocraft from 17 to 20 June 2011.

Besides enjoying the sunny and serene beaches in Batam, NYP lecturers Mr Yeh Ong Chua and Mr Lim Sin Hoe from School of Engineering (Electronics) also covered topics ranging from Neutrino Physics to the introduction of birds of South East Asia. We learnt bird watching techniques and really appreciated the fact that South East Asia has the most bird species worldwide. The most common bird in Singapore is the Javan Myna, a bird with black feathers and a yellow beak. The lecturers were really knowledgeable and thus, it was really enlightening hearing them share their experiences.
During the first and second nights, the moon was waning gibbous, which is a phase in which more than half of the moon is illuminated. We were told that we were unable to see the Milky Way and were quite disappointed at first, but we got lucky when found a platform built for star gazing. It was pitch-dark, but when we raised our heads, we saw the Milky Way! Everybody was astounded by it, and stopped for a while to admire the beauty of the universe.
We also saw shooting stars. Some of us stayed out the whole night to wait for the breathtaking moment where the meteorites stroked the night sky. Although the sky was cloudy, we were able to see 2 to 8 shooting stars through the night. Some lucky ones were even able to see them through the binoculars. According to them, it looked like a flying fire ball and the structure of the meteorite was very clear. However, it was over in less than a second, so nobody was able to make a wish.
Meanwhile, we searched for constellations, stars and clusters by with the aid of our equipment and Google Sky Map. Google Sky Map is a really useful free smartphone application that shows the location of stars in the sky. We found clusters Jewel Box (shaped like a Christmas tree) and Butterfly, which was near the constellation Scorpius. In addition, we also saw the Giant Red Spot of Jupiter, Altair and Vega (the ‘cowherd’ and ‘weaver girl’ in Chinese legends), and the constellation Cygnus (bridge of magpie), which enables the cowherd and weaver girl to meet, as in the romantic Chinese love story of Qi Xi.
The camp was not just about gazing at stars only. We had a nice barbeque by the seaside during our last night there. We chose to end that night by throwing people into the swimming pool, our president being the first lucky one to get thrown.
NASTRO (NYP Astronomy Club) and Hwa Chong Institution students at the lovely NongsaPoint Resort

We bade farewell to this lovely island on Monday morning, and we glad to have learnt so much about star gazing, physics, bird watching and much more. This was really a marvelous trip.
Join us for more exciting trips at http://www.nyp.edu.sg/SEG/NYP_Astroweb/

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