#BucketList: Stargazing & Meteor Observation with PAS

I know my Bucket List hasn’t been updated in a while; but slowly and surely, stuff is getting crossed out.

I’m a city-girl.  I was born and raised in the city.  I still live in the city, which is why I am fascinated with many natural wonders that lie beyond those towering skyscrapers.  One of my greatest frustrations in living the city life is being unable to see the stars.  I know it sounds funny and ridiculous, but I’ve always wanted to look up to the sky and see nothing but stars.  I’m not referring to just two to three flickering dots in the sky, but a massive outburst of stars.  The bright city lights restrict our view of these majestic heavenly bodies, so when a friend of mine invited me to go to a stargazing event out in the rural area, I said “Yes” without any reservations.  

This event is hosted by the Philippine Astronomical Society (PAS) and held at Big Handy’s Grounds in Tanay, Rizal.  The area is actually a privately-owned property that is often used for camping trips and outdoor events such as this one.  It is not that high up in the mountains, but rural enough for us to get the feel of what it’s kind of like to be in the middle of nowhere.  The camping ground is vast enough to hold 300 participants, and nothing obstructing our view of the skies.

Before I go any further, here’s something you ought to know — I have never camped in my entire life.  All of my out-of-town trips usually involve staying in a place with running water and electricity, and working mobile signal; so this is my very first experience of camping out in the semi-wilderness.

We met up at the Manhattan Parkview in Cubao, Quezon City and headed to Big Handy’s Grounds by bus.  Upon arrival, we took a short hike up to the camping grounds where we were greeted by the owner and her adorable dogs.  After choosing a spot, we pitched our tents.  It’s still summer here in the Philippines so the weather is extremely hot.  The sun’s rays are scathing to the skin, but luckily the cool air from the mountains balanced it out.  We took our time walking around the camp grounds and catching every opportunity to take some photos, until it was time for dinner.  We had to bring our own food and water so we munched on a couple of sandwiches, canned tuna and biscuits.

After watching one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, we all huddled together to listen to the lectures given by the PAS marshalls.  The sky slowly darkened and stars started lighting up the sky.  The lecture was very informative as they taught us how to discern a planet from a star, trace the constellations, teach how to tell time just by looking at the stars, and give some trivia about stars and satellites.  The marshalls were even equipped with a laser-pointer that beamed straight up to the stars themselves.  No kidding, that thing looked like a miniature but powerful lightsaber!  The group also sponsored a couple of telescopes for us to use, which was set to view different parts of the sky at certain times.  Through that telescope, I caught a glimpse of Jupiter and its massive moons, Saturn with its beautiful ring, and a bright Mars that glowed with a red-orange hue.

Settling ourselves on the ground, we watched the skies change as the planets and constellations moved, and plenty of meteors shot through the heavens.  At around one or two in the morning, the universe’s masterpiece finally revealed itself — the Milky Way!  This is what I was waiting for since the sun set.  My wish of seeing the galaxy unfold before my eyes was granted.  We even got the pleasure of getting our pictures taken underneath it.  I didn’t get much sleep during this event, which is fine by me.  The experience was worth more than a night’s sleep, but just so you know, I ended up crashing on my living room sofa the moment I got home.

So how was my first semi-camping trip?  Not bad.  It wasn’t as perfect as I hoped it would be since I was under-prepared for a couple of things, but it still went rather well.  No, I’m not physically and emotionally scarred by this trip.  On the contrary, I can actually see myself joining another camping trip like this one.  By then, I’ll be more than ready.

Cheers!

milky way_Alan Mercado

Beautiful astral shot with Mars and Saturn in view.  Photo c/o Alan Mercado

PAS4_Reginal Quinto

Camping beneath the stars.  Photo c/o Reginald Quinto

 

PAS_Ehla Cruz

Can you spot me?  I’m in the far left, wearing a yellow shirt and a cap.  Photo c/o Ehla Cruz

PAS2_Ehla Cruz

Put yo’ hands up!  Photo c/o Ehla Cruz

 

Links:
Philippine Astronomical Society (PAS) – http://www.philastrosociety.org/
Big Handy’s Grounds – https://www.facebook.com/Big-Handys-Grounds-314120765450349/

 
Until next time, matta ne~

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