Text Run of the Event
Photos (See Gallia Photo Album at Website's Photo Gallery)
In April 2009, Paul Maley of NASA, NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society, and International Occultation Timing Association first contacted the Philippine Astronomical Society (PAS) through email for the latter's assistance in an occultation research project.
The 98-km Asteroid Gallia is predicted by professional astronomers to occult a 3.1`magnitude star Zeta Hydrae on October 1, 2010 at 4:13:43 AM and can be seen at the northern Philippines. (Zeta Hydrae is a yellow star 7 to 10 times bigger than the sun and is 150 light years away from Earth. Located at Hydra's head, it is the brightest star of constellation Hydra.)
The occultation (eclipse) is expected to last for 3.3 seconds in its maximum at the center of the asteroid's occultation path and may be less at the edges (northernmost and southernmost boundaries). This Gallia occultation is considered to be the best occultation in 2010 by professional astronomers due to the fact that occultation of bright stars is very rare.
Because the asteroid is too small and too far away to be seen, what the viewer can see is only the star's disappearance and reappearance when the asteroid passes by in its occultation path and blocks the star in the process.
This eclipse can be viewed by the naked eye, by binoculars, or by ground-based telescopes. But the observer has to be located at the narrow band where the asteroid's occultation path is located. In this case, the occultation can be seen in the northern Philippines from San Fernando, La Union through San Esteban, Ilocos Sur in the west and from Santa Fe, Nueva Viscaya to Santiago, Isabela in the east.
The Philippine Astronomical Society readily agreed to Paul Maley's request for assistance and thus began the coordination between him and PAS. Being PAS Observation Committee Chairman, Engr. Ronald Tanco was instantly assigned to be the Project leader. Victoria Evarretta was also picked by Paul Maley to be his contact person for the project.
The first step done by PAS is information dissemination to the group and to others to drum up everyone's interest on the project. (Please refer to the series of articles on the occultation in our Appulse issues found at The Appulse Section of our website.)
The second step is conducting an ocular survey of predetermined sites at the northwestern and northeastern provinces. The initial schedules last year were foiled by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that wrought destruction to the provinces the survey team was supposed to go to and that also damaged the houses and personal belongings of PAS members caused by the disastrous floodings. PAS then scheduled the survey after the national elections held in May for security reasons.
The first ocular survey was conducted on May 27-30 by Engr. Camilo Dacanay, Engr. Ronald Tanco, Leah Villalon, and Jennifer Baltazar.
They surveyed the northwestern provinces from La Union to Ilocos Sur after an overnight stay at Baguio City for the much-needed coordination with John Nassr. From Baguio, they miscalculated the distance and danger of crossing the Cordilleras as a shortcut to go to Tuguegarao City for a planned rest/recreation and further survey of the eastern predetermined sites in going back to Manila.
They ended up risking life and limb somewhere in the hardly traversed mountain ranges of Ilocos Sur where their car got stuck in the landslides of huge boulders bigger than their car.
The team had to discontinue the plan of going to Tuguegarao and went back instead to the town Cervantes where they stayed for the night in a hotel. However, they found the mountain scenery there spectacular and also found the claimed oldest sundial in the Philippines.
The second survey was scheduled on June 25-June 27 to check the sites at Aurora, Quezon to Palanan, isabela. This, they believed, did not impose any obstructions at all to the eastern horizon (a problem in some areas at the surveyed western provinces) because the area is right by the Pacific Ocean. Marnelli Atienza, Leah Villalon, and Edward Von de Lelis joined this second survey team along with Ronald Tanco and Engr. Camilo Dacanay.
Another problem surfaced here though. The road map they had shows a straight road from Aurora to Palanan. Taking this route, they ended up in a river that can only be crossed by a boat. What about their car? So the group went back to Aurora and again stayed for the night at the beach. The survey team had finally decided to do the occultation observation at the northwestern provinces of La Union to Ilocos Sur.
The third and final survey joined in by RTU Astronomy students Lordnico Mendoza, Miguel Artificio, and Ghela Lequiron was done on September 10-12 to determine the final sites and stations for observation at the northwestern provinces from La Union to Ilocos Sur.
Right after this trip and after further meetings,the teams were finally formed and and sites were finally determined. Note that every team had to provide their own telescope, GPS receiver, and videocamera.
Following were the initial teams formed (team leader, recorder, visual observer): Team Alpha - Leah Villalon, Engr. Leo Villalon, Allen Yu, Jonathan Alcartado; Team Bravo - Edward Von de Lelis, Arnold Castro, Marnelli Atienza; Team Charlie - Lordnico Mendoza, Pauline Divinagracia, Hernan Dizon; Team Delta - Frank Martinez, Ghela Lequiron, Leo Manosca; Team Echo - Rhayan Colonel, Miguel Artificio, Jake Irlandez; Team Foxtrot - John Nassr, Mae Nassr; Team Golf - Ian Allas and QCSHS students; Team Hotel - Anthony Urbano, Erika Valdueza, Sigrid Batongbakal, PJ Jane Quimba.
The team members are from the Rizal Technological University Astronomy Society, UP Astronomical Society, Quezon City Science High School, and the Philippine Astronomical Society.
The stations finally determined were San Fernando, La Union (16 deg 36' 44.7 N; 120 deg 21' 01.2 E); Luna La Union (16 deg 52' 14.3 N; 120 deg 25' 15.3 E); Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur ( 17 deg 04' 25.68 N; 120 deg 27' 33.4 E); San Esteban, Ilocos Sur (17 deg 17' 1.90 N; 120 deg 26' 46.9 E); Baguio City (16 deg 24' 59 N; 120deg 35' 35 E).
All volunteers underwent an orientation and simulation training days before the occultation event at Parc Chateau in Ortigas and at RTU in Mandaluyong. Initially scheduled trainings were cancelled due to the rainy weather and cloudy sky.
The group with final 24 volunteers (Team Alpha members Leo and Leah Villalon no longer joined the group for personal reasons) left Manila on September 30 at 6 AM from assembly point at Greenhills in a convoy of four cars and one 19-seater van. Note also that at initial stages of this project, Paul Maley and company were supposed to come to the Philippines to oversee the occultation documentation; but personal reasons also prevented them from traveling to the Philippines.
Because of the initial Team Alpha's members' absence, the teams had to be reorganized and following were the final team-ups fielded at sites approximately 24 kilometers apart: Team Alpha stationed at San Esteban, Ilocos Sur - Engr. Ronald Tanco, Miguel Artificio, Rhayan Colonel, Marnelli Atienza, Jake Irlandez; Team Bravo stationed at Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur - Engr. Camilo Dacanay, Ghela Lequiron, Allen Yu, Kelvin Martinez; Team Charlie stationed at Luna, La Union - Lordnico Mendoza, Pauline Divinagracia, Hernan Dizon, Ian Allas, and 5 guest student observers from Quezon City Science High School; Team Delta stationed at San Fernando, La Union - Anthony Urbano, Erika Valdueza, Pb Jane Quimba, Sigrid Batongbakal; Team Echo stationed at Baguio City - John Nassr, Jayvee Mae Vargas-Nassr.
The Final Occultation Trip and Event
The final 24 members were physically and mentally prepared aside from the videocameras, GPS receivers, telescopes having been pretested and synchronized before the event.
They stopped for lunch at different eateries in Agoo, La Union and checked in at the Sea and Sky Hotel at San Fernando at about 4 PM for the needed rest before deployment at midnight. However, they had the leisure time of going to the beach in the afternoon, had a meeting after, and were all scheduled to go to their respective stations after 12:00 AM.
The weather forecaster of the group Lordnico Mendoza announced at about 7:30 PM the not-so-good news of a cloudy condition all over the archipelago when he checked the weather at http://www.maybagyo.com/. There was a low-pressure area somewhere in the Visayan region that's causing the scattered rain showers and prevailing cloudy skies even in the northern areas of the Philippines.
The initial encouraging early-evening appearance of Zeta Hydrae gave way to a total clouded-out condition after midnight. Too bad.
However, one good note for the day was the fact that team Echo John Nassr located at Baguio City was able to record the event using an HD videocamera. Quite a miraculous stroke of luck for the group who were all clouded out at the low-lying stations in the coastal areas. As Engr. Camilo Dacanay says, John Nassr's recording of the event saved the group from nature's wrath.
But the recording was declared a miss by Paul Maley. John did not see in the video recording any decrease in Star Zeta's magnitude. The asteroid path significantly shifted northward from the occultation path predicted by professional astronomers.
Despite being clouded out though, we were still lucky for not having another Typhoon Ondoy or Typhoon Pepeng at this time as what struck these areas last year. And all 22 members from Manila came home safe and sound with the best memories of the place, the event, and the bonding experiences with the group.
For the rest of the trip, please see the team reports and the following texted messages that somehow described what went on during the expedition and supposed observation. (Abbreviated messages were expanded for easier understanding. All texts are stored in my cell phone.)
TEXT RUN OF THE EVENT
September 30, 2010
5:13 AM - Alam ko nagreready na kayo. Exciting. Wish I were with the group. Pictures ha? And don't forget the table for each team to borrow from site neighbor. The cemetery site has more than enough. Good morning. (ve)
5:15 AM - Sige, ok. We'll do. Good morning. (cgd)
5:16 AM - Ha ha ha. Right on top! (cgd referring to tombs as tables)
10:31 AM - Vicky what time visible Gallia? (ao)
10:32 AM - 4:13:43 AM tomorrow. Note that the eclipse can only be seen for maximum 3 seconds from La Union to Ilocos Sur in west and Santiago to Tumauini ata sa east. Please check July-August Appulse pages 6-8 in our website. (ve)
4:48 PM - We've checked in first at Sea and Sky Hotel. Rest. Meeting afterward. Then deploy teams by 12 midnight. Rain shower a while ago. Now it's clearing. (cgd)
5:02 PM - San Fernando, La Union at Sea and Sky Hotel. Now synchronizing time with GPS. (cgd)
5:32 PM - Thanks for update. Nagbeach ba kayo earlier? I hope okay feeling ng all? Sana okay weather at 4 AM.
5:37 PM - By the way, what about those whose sites are at Ilocos Sur? Nagproceed na sila din? Or all nandiyan pa sa hotel? (ve)
6:12 PM - We're all together here beside the sea. Deployment in every station starts at 12 midnight. At 12:01 AM, each team is on his own. This is my biggest concern. Pray.
6:12 PM - ABS-CBN may call you or Ronald anytime now or later. Please be on alert for this. Nothing will happen to anyone. (ve)
6:39 PM - Sorry 1 AM after midnight pa pala nagemail ABS-CBN sa akin to clarify some points re article I sent them. Now ko lang naman chineck emails ko at sira computer ko and am sick. So not sure what time they'll call if they call pa. (ve)
6:40 PM - John strongly suggests that the teams test their video cameras on 3.1 star to be sure Zeta can actually be recorded and timed!!! He says equipment may fail if not pretested beforehand. (ve)
6:55 PM - Fully tested/viewed 3.1 magnitude Zeta Hydrae several times. GPS time synchonized with all stations now to be rechecked later. (cgd)
7:04 PM - By the way, did anyone bring laser pointer to easily point star to team members especially to the kids? (ve)
7:15 PM - Even without laser pointer, kabisang kabisa na kung alin sa milyon milyon sa kalangitan ang Zeta Hydrae. (cgd)
7:16 PM - Great!!! Dapat ako nandiyan. Mga bisita ko hindi naman dumating. (ve)
7:29 PM - Good PM John. Entire archipelago clouded per http://www.maybagyo.com/. Kindly check your source. (cgd)
9:11 PM - Done that. We just pretested it without the star and have had some trouble. Will test with a 3.5 star if we can spot any, clouded out now. (rt)
10:12 PM - Had some trouble? Ok lang clouded now basta magclear at 4 AM. I hope teams' batteries still charged at this point. Baka lowbatt na sila. (ve)
10:40 PM - Ako ang lowbatt with only two hours sleep and driving. (rt)
11:13 PM - Jake pakipicture din yong pagrest ninyo diyan na parang sardinas sa hotel. Nice to show all aspects of trip before actual study. Please get at least a picture of team in action at site na. Kanya kanya picture na lang sa site. (ve)
October 1, 2010
12:19 AM - It's still cloudy. No deployment yet. (cgd)
12:28 AM - "Nag-aabang sa langit, sa mga ulap sumisilip. Sa likod ng mga tala, kahit sulyap ng ghalla." milo (cgd)
12:58 AM - The sky is clearing now. We are now moving ready for deployment. Clear skies! (cgd)
2:58 AM - We're all now deployed in each station. Still cloudy. Quite cold. (cgd)
3:01 AM - Nakapwesto na kami lahat kanya kanya station. Cloudy! (cgd)
3:17 AM - Ha ha ha. One hour pa naman before Gallia passes by. (ve)
3:23 AM - Zeta Hydrae has risen approximately 15 degrees but cloudy. (rt)
3:26 AM - We expected that kind of weather since last year but we still hoped and hope for clear skies. Kahit hanggang picture lang tayo, the world will know you all did it to your best. (ve)
3:27 AM - Now stationed at San Esteban. Very hazy and windy condition. (rt)
3:40 AM - Vicky awake ka? How's the weather there? (ao)
3:41 AM - Agnes yep I'm awake kasi panay text sa akin nina Engr and Ronald to update me how they and weather are in their stations. You and I can't see this because we are outside the very narrow band of Gallia's occultation path. You have to join group to where they are now. But bad weather dun now. (ve)
3:41 AM - Cloudy and hazy. You and I can't see Gallia. Its too small and too far away to be seen but with clear skies you can see the fading and reappearing of Zeta due to Gallia's passing . (ve to ao)
3:42 AM - Zeta disappeared from view. (rt)
3:47 AM - Please don't forget 3 seconds lang ang eclipse. Baka magclear din sky at exactly 4 AM for you all to see and document the event. (ve)
4:13 - Camera now running - from John! (cgd)
4:17 AM - Around what time is the occultation? (ao)
4:18 AM - Wala na Agnes. 4:13:43 AM yun at for maximum of 3 seconds lang. Di mo rin makita. (ve)
4:16 AM - Ha ha ha. 4:16 pa lang sa akin. So you have packed up na, have breakfast, and go back Manila. Enjoy naman seguro grupo kahit puyat at pagod. (ve)
4:26 AM - John was able to record it in Baguio at 15 gb using HD camera. (cgd)
4:27 AM - Good morning John. Clouded out all other teams sa La Union at Ilocos. Clear ba sa Baguio? You were able to video it daw? How's it possible? (ve)
4:32 AM - Haaaay. Well-planned, well synchronized BUT nature prevailed. Paano mood grupo? Disappointed ba or happy pa rin despite no show of Zeta?
4:36 AM - Packed up na. Just waiting for the other teams to pass by and go in group convoy. (cgd)
4:43 AM - We are happy for John. That saves our day. John saved PAS from the wrath of nature. Happy Jollibee! (cgd)
5:22 AM - I hope you were able to get the missing coordinates from two stations. Yong rest same coordinates pa rin? (ve to rt)
7:14 AM - Good that you still have kept in touch with Paul Maley and whatever it is we still submit available data observed from where our groups are. What PAS did was a real hands on at kaya ng Pilipinas basta good weather lang. (ao)
9:34 AM - John I tried to call you but I have insufficient load na. Were you able to record eclipse? All other teams were clouded out though. Just checking if news is true because I have to update Paul Maley and Yahoo Group. Thanks. (ve)
9:45 AM- Got it. Am on the road with two mad dogs to Bolinao. Be back in Baguio Sunday. Will forward report and video data then.
(cgd - Engr. Camilo Dacanay; rt - Engr. Ronald Tanco; jn - John Nassr;Ve - Victoria Evarretta; ao - Agnes Oclarit)
1. Team Echo - John Nassr, Jayvee Mae Vargas-Nassr (Baguio City)
My alarm clock woke me at 3:30 AM and I stepped outside to see if the sky was clear. There was a slight haze and a few thin clouds, but it was definitely more clear than not. Good! I climbed up to my rooftop observatory, rolled open the roof and saw Orion and Gemini shining prominently
in the early morning sky. I activated my laptop, mount, and camera. I synchronized my computer clock with the atomic clock in Denver by using Atomic (a freeware that synchronized my computer’s time with the atomic clock in Denver).
I checked The Sky star chart once again to make sure where exactly magnitude 3.11 HIP43813 was with respect to three familiar stars - Pollux, Procyon, and Sirius. I oriented my sky chart to coincide with the actual position of stars in the sky and mentally worked out what I would see through my upside-down mirror image finder scope. I also aligned the DEC setting circle of my mount as close to +05deg 54’ N as possible to correspond with the DEC coordinates of
HIP43813. I then slewed my finder scope along the RA axis toward the rising head of Hydra the serpent and easily found it in the eastern sky.
I carefully checked my sky chart one more time to make sure which star HIP43813 was and determined it was the lowermost of three brightest stars that nearly fully spanned the field of view in my 50x8 finder scope. A thin cloud passed in front of HIP43813 as I booted up IC Capture, the acquisition software of my DBK21 videocam with an ICX098 CCD. Its image flickered into view on my computer screen. I was glad that I spent time the night before to carefully align the optical axis of my finder scope, 5" refractor, and Borg 77ED f4.3 imaging scope on unmistakably common targets, Jupiter and its moons. I wanted to use a wider field of view using one of my film camera Canon lenses, but I was unable to obtain a lens-to-videocam adapter in
time for the event. So my Borg 77ED would have to do. It was the widest field instrument I had
available that worked with my DBK21 videocam.
I took one last peek through my finder to make sure I had the correct target centered. I did. It was 4:09 by the time all this was done. And it was clear toward the east where the head of Hydra was. I predetermined that I would start capturing a 30fps 4-minute video stream of HIP43813 starting 4:11 AM and end at 4:15 AM; ample time allowance I figured for the Gallia event predicted to take place at 4:13 AM.
With HIP43813 centered, focused, and previewed on my computer screen, I hit the record button at precisely 4:11 AM. I noticed its brightness flickering. I supposed it was caused by thin haze and poor seeing conditions. By 4:13 AM I waited for the 3-second drop in brightness from mag 3.1 to mag 13………but did not notice anything!
I thought, perhaps it will happen a little later. I waited, and waited, but still nothing by the end of my video at 4:15 AM. Just to make sure, I decided to immediately take another 4-minute video starting 4:03 AM. I still did not discern any significant magnitude drop.
I hope Paul Maley at NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society finds something useful in these two videos which represent the combined efforts, time, and resources of so many Philippine Astronomical Society members who traveled great distances to participate in the observation.
2. Team Delta - Anthony Urbano, Erika Valdueza, Sigrid Batongbakal, PB Jane Quimba (San Fernando, La Union)
The team was dispatched to the assigned observation site (16d 36m 44.7s N, 120d 21m 01.2s E) in San Fernando, La Union at around 2:00 AM on October 1. On arrival, an ocular inspection was performed to assess the safety of the area and to find a place for equipment setup. To the group’s surprise, the observing point was at the middle of a rice field, with two to three cows lying around and a guard dog to complete the rusticity. The view of the western horizon was free from obstruction. The eastern horizon, however, was blocked by treetops. The group managed to find a spot to set up their equipment. They immediately assembled their telescopes, synchronized timers and GPS, and tested the laptops and video cameras. At 2:30 AM, everything was set except for the weather. Clouds covered the whole sky. This caused observing conditions to be fair in seeing and poor in transparency. The moon, Sirius (brightest star in Canis Major), the constellation Orion in the east, and Jupiter in the west were hardly visible.
At 3:00 AM, Procyon (brightest star in Canis Minor) was discernible despite unchanging weather conditions. While waiting for the sky to clear up, Anthony, the observation leader and operator of the first video camera setup, performed a systems check and took a video of the moon, Sirius, and Procyon using a Canon Legria FS20 video camera through a 6-inch f/5 Newtonian reflector. Erika, the operator of the second video camera setup, then took a video of Sirius and Procyon using an 8-megapixel Olympus FE-250 digital camera through a 3-inch TMB Triplet Apo Refractor. Both telescopes used were equipped with tracking mechanisms.
The group’s video setup consisted of 1) a video camera, which was attached to a telescope, sending audio and video signals to 2) a laptop computer inserting timestamps to the video field (the computer was using a timer program that displays time accurate up to 1/100 of a second) and saving the time-stamped video file into its hard drive, and 3) a backup laptop computer monitoring and recording all activities.
With merely an hour left before the key time, Sigrid, the group’s visual observer, used a pair of 10x50 binoculars to navigate the sky and looked for Zeta Hydrae, a 3.1-magnitude star in the constellation Hydra that will be occulted by asteroid Gallia for 3.3 seconds at approximately 4:13:42 AM. The group’s timer, PB, started to perform time checks and a countdown sequence to alert the group of the remaining time. Castor and Pollux in constellation Gemini started to appear at 3:30 AM. but there was still no sighting of the target star. At 4:10 AM conditions have not yet improved. The group started to lose hope of witnessing the astronomical event.
On the timer's cue 2 minutes before key time, the cameras started recording; but due to poor seeing conditions, Zeta Hydrae was only seen a minute after the asteroidal occultation. Its sighting was confirmed by the group's visual observer.
The Astro-Imaging Group (AIG) of UP Astronomical Society, despite the one-minute miss, was more motivated and determined to hunt for future occultations. The difficulties and sacrifices for this 3-second event served as both blessing and inspiration to the team to be more fascinated, more curious, and more in love with the stars.
3. Team Charlie - Lordnico Mendoza, Pauline Divinagracia, Hernan Dizon, Ian Allas and 5 QCSHS student observers (Luna, La Union)
Our team was assigned at Luna, La Union - probably the safest and most accessible from all stations. Our group has the most number of members with Lordnico P. Mendoza as the group leader and also the video recorder, Pauline Pearl M. Divinagracia as the timer, Hernan Dizon as the visual observer together with Ian Mark Allas and five other student observers from Quezon City Science High School.
We arrived at the site at around 3 in the morning. On arrival we set up our 8 inch- f/5 Newtonian telescope. Attached to it is the Canon FS200 video camera mounted with adapter and plugged into Nico’s laptop. Then, we ran down the softwares needed; everything and everyone was ready except for the weather. Nico immediately texted Engr. Ronald Tanco about their location and the weather condition on their site. The whole eastern sky was clouded out and the zenith sky was hazy; only the moon and prominent stars of the constellations Orion and Sirius can penetrate the heavy cloudiness. The moon also created a halo that added up to the observation obstruction. At around 4:10 AM just exactly 3 minutes before the grand event, the whole team lost hope because there were no signs of clearing in the eastern sky. Since Nico’s camera was installed in a tripod, he just documented pictures of the place. Playing on the exposure of his camera he was able to take exposure pictures of cars and trucks running in the highway. And with luck, he also got the chance to take a picture of the winter triangle and the moon’s halo.
Though the event was unsuccessfully observed, we were still able to establish camaraderie with other astronomy enthusiasts! :)
Regards to all BS Astronomy Technology students of RTU. We thank PAS for inviting us to join this splendid event. We all look forward for more astronomical observations with PAS and with other astronomy aficionados.
4. Team Bravo - Engr. Camilo Dacanay, Ghela Lequiron, Allen Yu, Kelvin Martinez (Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur)
We all left the Sea and Sky Hotel after midnight for our respective stations despite our initial hesitation because of the cloudy sky and the forecast of the whole archipelago being clouded out September 30 to October 1. Going out of the Hotel and looking up made us lose hope that we can possibly document the occultation. What a rather 'good timing' for such a scientific event about to occur. As Engr. Dacanay has been muttering, "Nature's wrath seems to be on us."
Anyway, we arrived at Sta. Cruz at about 3:00 AM. The sky condition in the site was mostly cloudy on the eastern side of the sky from the horizon up to 30 deg although the zenith was fair but hazy and the moon's halo contributed further to greatly diminishing the view of the event. It was quite cold though where we were.
Our team assignments were: Frank Kelvin Martinez - telescope/camcorder operator; Engr. Camilo Dacanay and Allen Yu - visual observers; Ma Angela Lourdes Lequiron - timer.
We started to set up our 100-mm f5 refractor telescope to which our Canon FS100 videocamera was attached. The computer we had was NEO V1103 and the software to be used for recording was Camstudio, ENMVG, Atomtime PRO.
Anyway, luck was not with us because we didn't see the 3.1 magnitude star Zeta at all due to the heavy blanket of clouds in the eastern sky where the event was supposed to occur. We also didn't run the camera anymore on the appointed occultation time because all we saw and would be recorded on camera were only the clouds that hid Zeta from view..
We packed up at 4:30 AM and waited for Team Alpha from San Esteban to arrive in our site before we could travel back to our Hotel at San Fernando. Team Alpha arrived at about 5:00 AM, then we went on to Luna to pick up the Team Delta members before heading all together for San Fernando.
5. Team Alpha - Engr. Ronald Tanco, Miguel Artificio, Rhayan Colonel Jake Irlandez, Marnelli Atienza (San Esteban, Ilocos Sur)
At midnight, everyone was getting ready to go to their respective stations, but checking out the sky made us rather hesitant and doubtful. The sky was heavily clouded out! But we took the chance anyway despite another possible three hours travel for the farthest station from San Fernando, and that's our station at San Esteban, Ilocos Sur.
However, when we were about to leave, we noticed that two girls were missing. We got apprehensive. Where did these girls go? After a long search (bathrooms, hallways, restrooms, etc.), we found Ghela Lequiron and Pauline Divinagracia still cozily sleeping in their room! Ooops. We had to wake them up and rushed them to get ready. Miguel Artificio, however, had to be left behind in the hotel as he was sick.
So being the only one in the group who knows all the sites, I (Ronald) had to drop the teams one by one in their respective stations - first at Luna, then Santa Cruz, and off we sped to San Esteban.
We arrived at San Esteban at 3:30 AM just in time for the occultation. We were supposed to be stationed at the cemetery, but I drove passed by the area because it was very dark and only the headlights from our vehicle lit the road just ahead of us. Missing our supposed site, we ended up in a ricefield 1 kilometer away from the cemetery. I did not dare tell my teammates about the cemetery near us or someone in the group with a third eye could have gotten scared or could have started ghost hunting instead of focusing on our event.
It was cold and windy in our station. San Esteban is right by the China Sea, so that may explain the windiness in our area. But that was not our main problem. Looking up and seeing the heavily clouded sky was our concern. We cannot see Zeta Hydrae at all! The other team leaders too texted me that they were all clouded out. Anticipating the impossibility of seeing/recording an occultation, we decided not to set up anymore although all our equipment were pretested and fully synchronized.
Rhayan was supposed to be our recorder, Marnelli the visual observer, and I the timer. Having hardly no sleep two nights in a row, I had to take Jake Irlandez as the team's alternate driver besides being a visual observer.
However, the skies' clearing up was sort of impossible. It didn't clear up at all as we expected. But we did do a countdown just the same. We packed up at 4:30 AM and drove back to San Fernando, La Union stopping by at Santa Cruz first so my team and that of Engr. Dacanay can go on a convoy.
Oh well, we had fun although the event turned up to be quite disappointing, for all the year-long preparation for the 3-second occultation ended up with nature still taking the upperhand. That's astronomy - the weather is beyond our control.
The occultation group pose for a souvenir photo in front of Agoo Church on their way back to Manila. They had so much fun despite Zeta's no show.
From Paul Maley - NASA, NASA JSCAS, IOTA
Thanks to all the wonderful team members who made this fantastic effort. It is really unfortunate that the weather took over and clouds prevailed. This has happened to us many times in the past and is a consequence of life. However, I am looking forward to seeing John's data. It may reveal at least an idea of how far north or south the path shifted.
Congratulations to all of you who led and coordinated the effort (Vicky, Milo, Ronald) as I know how much time and effort it took to pull all of this together. I have identified a couple of other occultations in the coming year that are almost as good as this one, but to have such a bright star involved is quite rare. I will provide this information later on in case some PAS members are interested to consider them.
with best regards,
From John Nassr
It was really exciting and fun being able to work and coordinate with a very spirited and enthusiastic team whose members were so generous in tirelessly giving so much of their energy, time and resources. I consider it an honor being part of such a dedicated company.
From Vicky Evarretta
To the very end of the Gallia Occultation project, our stalwart volunteer 3-man teams from the RTU Astronomy Society, UP Astronomical Society, Quezon City Science High School, and the Philippine Astronomical Society braved the cold and dark at their respective stations at San Fernando, La Union through San Esteban, Ilocos Sur from midnight to 4:30 AM today.
Their GPS receivers, telescopes, videocameras were all pretested and synchonized; and all 23 project members were fully prepared physically and mentally for the Asteroid Gallia occultation.
But weather, weather lang as Kim says. The 5 teams were clouded out in their respective stations. John Nassr whose site is in a much, much higher elevation at Baguio City was able to document the event.
From Allen Yu
The heavens declare His glory, and I congratulate PAS and the volunteers for a job well done! Minsan lang ako napasama sa outing na ganun and I appreciate the spirit and camaraderie of all involved. I thank too, the UP Astrosoc group, who trooped with PAS at the last "minute", and their presence is so much appreciated. Congrats to John Nassr for uplifting the project's purpose. God bless us all!
From Jenny Baltazar
Congrats to all PASers, UP, RTU studes, John and those who volunteered with all their hearts and PURE intentions, ganyan ang camaraderie na kailangan ng grupo, SINCERE at DOWN to EARTH. Kahit pa we missed it dahil sa weather, we saw something naman right now what pure science and teamwork means. Wala sa inyo guys ang naringgan namin ng reklamo, nakitaan ng ere or nag pagalingan dito sa project na ito. Lahat humbly work and coordinated with each other, walang whinners at posers. Keep it up!!
From Agnes Oclarit
I salute all of you! Looking forward to each report that comes to its first hand experience of being
with the team. More stories!
From Jenny Baltazar
To the five teams from PAS, UP, RTU and QCSHS, kahit miss yun, dahil sa clouds, I salute all of you for all the efforts and preparation- Ronald, Engr & Leah and RTU studes, marami pang occultations!! Lets hunt them all!
Hope i can join then next time :-) I know mas nae joy nyo naman ang trip kesa dun sa actual hahahah
From Raymund Ang, ALP
I think what PAS is doing will benefit the whole Philippine astronomical community. Observational astronomy is essential, especially for a developing nation like ours. I hope that PAS will continue to engage in observational and practical astronomy. Let us remember that for a number of decades since the formation of PAS, observational/practical astronomy has been the key in molding future amateur/professional astronomers. Congratulations on PAS' efforts."
From Richard Taylor
Congratulations to all of you!
From Clem Brazil
I have been following this thread from the start and I was in suspense until
that fateful day. It is unfortunate that the teams have been clouded out
save for John, who was able to record a surprising finding. Nonetheless,
their actions deserve merit. Congratulations to all of you!
From Mike Kosa
Congratulations sir! You saved the day. It was very cloudy that night, we couldn't even determine where Procyon is that night. 14gb video recorded? maybe store it in a flashdisk then send via airmail.
From John Nassr
Thank you but.......the observation was deemed a miss by Paul! Apparently, the predicted path moved northward and missed Baguio all together.
From Dr. Armando Lee, ALP
Pertinent negative data is still a valid and valuable data. Congratulations John!
One factor did affect almost all of the observing stations! May i ask what software was used to predict the path of the asteroid shadow? Who decided on the location of the observing sites? How far are the chords from each other? Clear Skies!
From Victoria Evarretta
It may be a miss, but it still showed a significant shift of Gallia's path from what professional astronomers predicted it to be. Baguio is 42 km south (per Paul) and the southern limit is supposed to be 54 km, so your running camera should have still recorded the occultation event if the asteroid didn't make that northward shift.
It's too bad that there was an untimely low-pressure area in the south that caused all that heavy blanket of clouds at the coastal areas where the teams were stationed. San Esteban, Ilocos Sur especially is right by the sea. But you know how nature works, and it is beyond our control. (At least, it was not another Ondoy.)
Even I, Jenny, and Agnes and most were all ears and eyes and hopes and prayers for you and for the weather to miraculously cooperate. But what do you expect at this time?
You all gallantly worked for this scientific cause to the very end, and I am very, very proud of all of you!!! If only Tuguegarao was near, sana nagcelebrate tayo dito!
Thank you very much, John.
From Jenny Baltazar
Even if it's a miss in your spot, the effort that you did to prepare and capture this is very commendable. Me and Vicky personally saw how you do imaging and we know how passionate you are in doing that each time.
The Certificate of Appreciation and Participation for the Asteroid Gallia Occultation of Zeta Hydrae Project was given to all team leaders and members during the monthly meeting on October 23 at the Rizal Technological University Astronomy Center Auditorium.
A sample Gallia Occultation Certificate