Written in the Stars – Science Centre Singapore Observatory

Hi everyone! Welcome back to our little enclave in the amazing Milky Way blogosphere! Speaking of the Milky Way, XL and I will be heading down today to observe the heavenly bodies in their original glory, unedited and unadulterated. Where to, then?

The Science Centre Singapore is home to the 3rd largest observatory in Singapore, the bigger two are not accessible by the general public, sad to say.

Whoopee! Finally at the Science Centre…. Erm… knock knock, anybody home?

When there is need for help, ask and it shall be given. We approached the wonderfully nice security guards, and realize to our pleasant delight that, YES! We were at the right place after all, we just needed to trace the orbit (pardon the pun) of tunnels to reach our destination.

Approach the first security guard and she will lead you on to the next security guard in the tunnel (Amazing Race anyone?)

First sign of hope (Aah, we are in the right track)

Second sign of re-affirmation (Good things come to those who are patient)

Third sign of restlessness (Mommy! Are we there yet?! @.@)

AAHHHH Hell yeah! Cool stuff beckons! Let’s push that door… and let’s see what awaits us!

Upon pushing the door, alas! What greeted us was a pitched black sky enveloped by the heavenly bodies that we will be observing tonight! And here is what it actually looks like, from the eyes of our lousy, old Panasonic camera though, with no editing whatsoever.

A small note to our dear readers, do expect a higher volume of visitors during the holiday seasons.  So either be there early or endure the queue under the starry starry night.

Time check: 8:06pm, we had to take the second option, which is to queue. YAY! Indeed Singaporeans’ favorite past time, could we not enjoy it, especially since we have the privilege of queuing under the sky-lit night?

And up the observatory we went!

Cam-whoring while queuing! (and elson can’t seem to open his eyes in the flash…)

Do enjoy the cool breeze under the romantic night skies while queuing.  What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stop and stare. So go ahead! Stare at the skies all you want to! If you are armed with a smart phone, we would advise you to download an app on your smart phone’s app store, Android market, which allows you to point your phone at the skies to identify the star/cluster of stars you are currently staring at? Bazinga! Go try it now, if you own an iPhone, you can try this out using the free Distant Suns app! 

Finally! We are right in front of the 3rd largest telescope in Singapore! Apologies for the lack of photos here, as no flash photography is allowed in here. The main attraction for tonight is the planet Saturn. You can find a complete schedule of the optimal time of the year to view certain planets right here (http://www.science.edu.sg/events/Pages/Stargazing.aspx)

The main treat for tonight is Saturn! It was certainly a delightful experience seeing the planet in the flesh, after reading so much about it, particularly in primary school. Gosh that is wayyyy back in time!

Anyway, here’s some Saturn tidbit for all of you:

  •  Saturn is not colored as depicted by most books, but rather, monochromatic. (There is a friendly Caucasian chap manning the telescope, dishing out tirades of astronomy facts. Do say hello to him and fire away your doubts!)
  • Our Milky Way is that ex-planet Pluto is 15years (!) away from earth and currently there is a spacecraft being sent on an expedition there. No signs of life and water on Mars? No problem. Pluto is close enough; challenge accepted and we shall hunt for life on Pluto, says the folks of NASA. We don’t know about you guys, but this idea sounds out of this world (well it is, literally!)

And here’s Saturn projected on the computer next to this mega big telescope where everyone is peering into.

OK, mission completed. We trudge down the observatory with a sense of achievement. It was our virgin experience viewing planets through the lenses of a telescope.

BUT ALL IS NOT SETTLED YET. Wait a minute, there are a few other telescopes below the observatory. We discover that most of the staff are actually volunteers rather than paid employees of the Science Centre. There are even astronomy enthusiasts who bring their own telescopes here to share with members of the public. Uber generous dudes! Thank you guys for your generosity and sharing of your astronomy knowledge. 

Clusters of people gathering at the different telescopes

While queuing up to view the Alpha Centauri (ehh pardon me, Alpha Whutt??? Was the first thing that came into out minds), we had the opportunity to interact with two of the volunteers. Let us share our newfound knowledge here. The Alpha Centauri is the closest cluster of 3 stars to our solar system, and it is 4.3 light years away from us (in human speak, it takes a beam of light 4.3years to reach our eyes) Speedpost anyone? HAHAHAH! Well the implication of this fact is that we are looking into the past of the star, to be exact, the image of Alpha Centauri that we are seeing through our telescope is the image of the stars 4.3 years ago.

There was a heated argument between the both of us and I must admit that I had a heated discussion with XL about this. EHHH! Are you saying that we can travel back into the past?

Finally we managed to clarify our doubts. What actually happens is that the PAST of the star is what we see in the telescope. It does not mean that the star is currently living in the past. CLOSE ENOUGH! (insert meme)

Dudes and dudettes, if you own your own spanking DSLR, and are interested in taking pictures of the planets and stars through the telescopes, do head down to a photography store and purchase an adaptor which allows you to mount your DSLR onto the telescope to capture images of the heavenly bodies. According to one of the astronomy buffs there, it costs around $60. Do note that it might take awhile to mount your camera, so you will only be able to do so when the crowd disperses, or alternatively head down when it is not the school holidays.

The Good:

  • Enriching night for the both of us! Friendly
  • Excellent place for all, whether it is for couples to romance under the blessing of the stars and planets. or for  families to educate their children on astronomy. Best of all, at totally ZERO admission charges, it is completely free! Free parking at the Science Centre as well. So do not spend your Friday nights simply going to the same few places in town. Take the path less travelled, and be rewarded with a splendid experience.
The Bad:
  • Some of the telescopes belong to private enthusiasts, who have been very generous to share them with all of us. Hence do not be alarmed if they are not service-oriented like how Science Centre employees would have been.
  • It can get rather hot on humid nights. (as in the case in Singapore most of the time) So it might be a cool relieve to bring along a fan of sorts to fan yourselves while queuing up to enter the observatory.

(imagine we can afford a fan made of these, hah!)

  • For non-astronomy buffs, do note that it is not possible to see all planets in a single night.
Getting there!
Here’s the detailed link as to how to go there for anyone who might need it!
What we felt could have enhanced our experience would be for the Science Centre to be more involved instead of relying a lot on the kind volunteers. Perhaps there could be commentaries to explain certain astronomical bodies that will be observed for the evening.

But hey, at a grand total of $0, we really couldn’t ask for more. It has been an astronomical experience for us, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Cya on our next expedition! Ciao!

elson

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4 thoughts on “Written in the Stars – Science Centre Singapore Observatory

  1. Hi Elson,

    Just came across your blog entry on your first experience at the Science Centre Observatory. Great share! Can we get your permission to share your blog on our Science Communication Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/ScienceIt We will credit it to you, of course.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Kiat Teng,

      glad you guys love it! Because we love the wonderful experience as well.

      Do feel free to share it on any social media platform. This is the essential motive of our blog, to let everyone know about the interesting nooks and cranny of Singapore.

      Thanks for your compliment!

  2. Hi Elson, nice blog entry you have about your experience at the Science Centre Observatory.

    Would it be okay if we share it at http://www.facebook.com/scienceit?

    Cheers

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