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18 February 2014

Cambodia 2014: Astronomy trip through photos



Angkor Wat in a pink sky with Moon
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click to enlarge)
  I travelled to Cambodia to see how much people knew about astronomy. I observed the quality of the night sky for stargazing and did some cool astronomy projects.

I explored 6 different astronomy topics in a 6 posts series here on Links Through Space. 

Thank you for Following us in our Astronomy trip through Cambodia. I hope you enjoyed the posts and pictures. You can see a list of the posts HERE

Here is our Astronomy trip through photos. You can see our pictures HERE




17 February 2014

Cambodia 2014: Chasing the Green Flash. Catch on film the last moments of the setting Sun.


Gif animation of the setting Sun into a veil of dust.  Kho Kong Cambodia 2014.
Credit: S. Lamoureux/ Astronomy Club Toutatis
  
Follow our Astronomy club Toutatis in our travels through Cambodia. A series of 6 posts on 6 different topics related to Astronomy.
One of the projects that I was really looking forward to was chasing the Green flash. This involved me being on a beach, sipping great cocktails, following the Sun while tanning, bathing in a waveless sea and be sure that the camera is ready for the Sunset when it arrived. This sounds fantastic doesn’t it? It was!

I observed the Sunset from 2 distinct places in Cambodia. First was for 2 days on the west coast of Cambodia, near the border town of Krong Koh Kong (Border with Thailand). The other place was the paradise island of Koh Rong on the coast of Sihanoukville in the southern parts of Cambodia. I stayed there for 4 days.

So, what is the Green flash? What are you looking for?
 Green flashes and green rays are optical phenomena that sometimes occur right after sunset or right before sunrise. When the conditions are right, a green spot is visible above the upper rim of the disk of the sun. The green appearance usually lasts for no more than a second or two. Watch for a flash, flicker, or brief glow of bright green light. It will appear on "top" of the sun just as the sun appears to slide below the horizon. It may also appear as a green glow on the horizon just as the sun has set.

Sun moment before setting into dust veil, Koh Rong, Cambodia
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
A minute later, the Sun sink into a dust veil above the sea.
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
How can I see it? Where can I see it?
 Choose your location wisely. As I did for the first Sunset, I walked almost 3 kilometers for what I though would have been a great place, but turned out to be to far and to “remote” for any contingencies. The second Sunset I saw from the island Koh Rong, was straight in front of the bungalow I rented. This gave me the opportunity to have all my gear at hand without carrying.  I could sit down on a chair and even have a small table where I could lay my things on. Location is everything!
The green flash can only be seen over a distant horizon that has a distinct edge to it. This makes the ocean the best place to view the green flash from.

What camera and lens did I use? What other gimmicks I used?
 I used a Canon 550D and an Iphone. For the lens I used Canon EFS18-55mm lens and an old 300mmTele-Universar lens. I also used Magic Lantern Software for timelapse shooting. A light tripod with level was very handy.

First Sunset in Krong Koh Kong
You can see Sunspots on the surface of the Sun
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
What did I photograph? What surprised me?
 I used Canon 18-55mm lens to take the Sunset in beautiful postcard landscape pictures.
The f=300 Tele-Universar was to shoot the Sun very tight on the edge of the see.
I also used the magic lantern software to shoot with interval timing, this gave me the opportunity to shoot every second when the crucial seconds of the setting Sun would come and reveal the green flash. This amounted to hundreds of pictures which I saved in small .gif animations. These animations are small time-lapses of the setting Sun.

The most surprising weather related phenomena that I encountered was a thick veil of dust just above the sea that impeded the view of the setting Sun. The Sun appeared to sink into the “fog” and therefore, we couldn’t see a proper Sunset setting on the sea. This dust veil was seen in both locations where I shot the Sunset. 6 days of shooting, 6 days of dust veil.

In conclusion this chase of the green flash on the coasts and islands of Cambodia was simply unbelievable. Even though the illusive green flash eluded me this time, this whole adventure gave me lots of experience on the Sun, brought me to white sandy beach islands and most of all started a new hobby for me: the chasing of the green flash.
Continue reading post no. 6 Cambodia 2014: Astronomy trip through PHOTOS


16 February 2014

Cambodia 2014: Southern night sky stars and Constellations. A delight for us living in Finland.


Southern Constellations with Star Canopus
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S.Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
  Follow our Astronomy club Toutatis in our travels through Cambodia. A series of 6 posts on 6 different topics related to Astronomy.
 

Cambodia lies at 11 degrees latitude above the Equator (Phnom Penh 11°33′N 104°55′E). This means that southern Constellations are seen from here. While staying on the island of Koh Rong near the coast of Sihanoukville, I took some pictures of the night sky that revealed some southern Constellations. Guided by the brightest star in the night sky Sirius, I knew that all lying below it would be southern stars and Constellations. A great opportunity for me to shoot southern Constellations.

The picture above shows us many southern Constellations. Namely the Constellations of Vela, Puppis, Carina, Pyxis, Columba and Pictor. I have to say it was the first time I saw all these Constellations and stars within. For a northern observer, this was a delight!

Also one star took over the others and shown brightly in the night sky. This star was Canopus (α Car), the second brightest star in the night sky after Sirius. Canopus's visual magnitude is −0.72. This F-type supergiant have been described as a pure white while seen with the naked eye, but some observers have perceived it as yellow-white owing to its being located low in the sky and hence subject to atmospheric effects. Canopus is known in the ancient Hindu astronomy and astrology as Agastya. Maybe some clues of this lies in the temples of Angkor Wat as the Hindu astronomy was incorporated into the building of the temples.

The same picture as above except for the Constellation lines
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S.Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
The Constellations of Carina, Vela, Puppis and Pyxis where part the same Constellation of Argo Navis before Nicolas-Louis La Caille in 1750 divided it into 4 respective Constellations. These Constellations, especially the Carina and Vela Constellations are in the middle of the Milky Way, which offers many beautiful Open Star Clusters and Nebulas. One of them is Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372) in the Constellation of Carina.

The Constellation Pyxis lies in the plane of the Milky Way, although part of the eastern edge is dark, with material obscuring our galaxy arm you can still see some good objects.
You will find an almost edge-on spiral Galaxy (NGC 2613), a planetary nebula (NGC 2818) which lies within a dim open cluster of magnitude 8.2 and three stars with confirmed planetary systems (HD 73256, HD 73267 and Gliese 317).

Stargazing on paradise island Koh Rong
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S.Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
The Constellations of Columba and Pictor are small and faint constellations. They are not particularly of great interest, except for a couple of objects that distinguish them selves from the others. Kapteyn's Star in the Constellation of Pictor, a nearby red dwarf at the distance of 12.78 light years, has a magnitude of 8.8. It has the largest proper motion of any star in the sky after Barnard's Star. Moving around the Milky Way in the opposite direction to most other stars, it may have originated in a dwarf galaxy that was merged into our galaxy, with the main remnant being the Omega Centauri globular cluster.
 
Also the Constellation Pictor has attracted attention in recent years because of its second-brightest star Beta Pictoris, 63.4 light-years distant, which is surrounded by an unusual dust disk rich in carbon, as well as an extrasolar planet.
Columba is the constellation that is at the solar antapex - the Earth (and Sun) is moving away from its direction as the solar system moves through space.

In conclusion, the Southern Constellations mentioned above are full of beautiful celestial bodies and literally a treasure for us observers in Finland. I feel very privilege to have witness these stars and Constellations. Hope I will be able to see and photograph them in the near future.

Continue reading post no.5 Cambodia 2014: Chasing the Green Flash. Catch on film the lastmoments of the setting Sun.
 
 

15 February 2014

Cambodia 2014: Ancient Astronomy, Angkor Wat, City built with astronomic measurements to mimic the Gods in the Universe.



Central tower of Angkor Wat, Cambodia
with full Moon.
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)


 Follow us in our Astronomy trip through Cambodia. A series of 6 posts on Astronomy in Cambodia. Please enjoy the posts and pictures here on Links Through Space.


Angkor Wat was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura present-day Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple.
Breaking from the Shaivism tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation. The Khmers adhered to the Indian belief that a temple must be built according to a mathematical system in order for it to function in harmony with the universe. Distances between certain architectural elements of the temple reflect numbers related to Indian mythology and cosmology.

The sheer size of the place leaves visitors in awe and the complex designs illustrate the skills of long gone priest architects.  Every spare inch has been carved with intricate works of art. The scale of Angkor Wat enabled the Khmer to give full expression to religious symbolism. It is, above all else, a microcosm of the Hindu universe. As a brilliant example of the synthesis of astronomy and architecture at Angkor Wat, the solar axes of the temple lead directly to the central sanctuary, a sanctum sanctorum devoted to the supreme solar god, Lord Vishnu. Vishnu manifests as one of the solar months, and the sun itself is thought to be his emanation.

2 picture composition: Aspara in Moon light
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
Although the Sun gains stature through its conjunction with the center of Angkor Wat, Vishnu, and the king, it is worth noting that lunar alignments are also recorded along the western and eastern axis of the temple. As the measurements of solar and lunar time cycles were built into the sacred space of Angkor Wat, this divine mandate to rule was anchored to consecrated chambers and corridors meant to perpetuate the king's power and to honor and placate the deities manifest in the heavens above.

The solar and lunar alignments at Angkor Wat were alignments with the gods, alignments that tied the nation to the heavens above, and alignments that imbued the king with the power to rule by divine association.
Here are concrete astronomical observations you can see at Angkor Wat:
1. The rising sun appears aligned on equinox and solstice days with the western entrance of Angkor Wat.
2. The movements of the moon can be observed from a variety of positions within the temple, and lunar cycles may have been recorded in the three sets of libraries.
3. The bas reliefs of the third gallery can be understood in relation to the movements of the sun, which establish their counterclockwise direction.
4. The measurements of the temple appear proportional to calendric andcosmological time cycles.

Angkor Wat temple with rising full Moon.
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
Many of these observations I haven’t seen, but I understand well the concept of making these temples an observing platform, in other words An Observatory. When you settle your feet at a specific location, the Universe, in a sense revolves around you. With some patience and time you can start to notice patterns and Recursions that you can calculate and even predict.

In conclusion for me, the most intriguing aspects of the ancient Khmer Civilization was their understanding of their place in the cosmos, and how the placement of the temples mirrored so many of the celestial movements. This same ancient Khmer civilization that brought me to Cambodia to see if the knowledge had stayed in the people of modern Cambodia. Unfortunately it not seem the case.
Continue reading post no.4 Cambodia 2014: Southern night sky stars and Constellations. A delight for us living in Finland.

Have a look at our Pictures from  the Astronomy trip in Cambodia.

Links Through Space:
Great reading about Astronomy in Angkor Wat
Subhash Kak article: The Solar Equation in Angkor Wat
Great article on topic: Sacred Angkor


14 February 2014

Cambodia 2014: Assessment of the night sky seeing and light pollution in visited places in Cambodia.


Map of places visited in Cambodia
In our trip I visited many towns and cities across different regions of Cambodia. The project was to assess the night sky seeing and to see the amount of light pollution within the cities in Cambodia. Cambodia was not what I expected. I thought it would have been clear air, moving weather and fresh dry skies, but the dry weather after the Monsoon brought dusty skies that impeded the seeing greatly.

I visited 5 different places; the capital Phnom Penh, a city on the west coast named Krong Koh Kong, Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia, Siem riep, the gateway to Angkor Wat and a paradise island on the coast of Sihanoukville called Koh Rong.

Phnom Penh by night. The night sky is dusty
and light pollution impeeds seeing.
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
Obviously in Phnom Penh the light pollution is an issue. I would say in a moonless night the stars we see are of Apparent Magnitude 1.7. In this case Alnilam in the belt of the constellation Orion (based on photographic assessment) was our star of reference. In a few words, the city centers all around the world are all the same. They are filled with light and dust that isn’t the ideal for stargazing.

In the outskirts of Krong Koh Kong, on the west coast of Cambodia (+/- 200 km from the capital) the night sky was kind of better. What I mean by “kind of better” is that the night sky was clear, but you could always discern a veil of dust in the air. Let say that even if those parts are pretty dark, it looked like what I saw in the capital.

Battambang was a large city with its own problems. The light pollution was considerable and the dust veil didn’t give up. This is where we observed the Moon with Dr. Vith and his students. We had a clear night sky for the observation session, which was good. The night sky was comparable to Phnom Penh even though we were in a darker area. Battambang was a nice city, but didn’t have the night sky charms I was looking for.

Angkor Wat with almost full Moon, Jupiter
and the Constellation of Orion.
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
The gateway to Angkor, Siem riep was another brightly led city and gave not much hope for stargazing. But the grounds of Angkor Wat was very much the contrary.  In the midst of the temples, the dark and stars ruled the night sky. Only problem was that near the horizon you couldn’t see nothing, the infamous dust veil was covering all the lower part of the sky. I manage to get some nice pictures, I would say this was probably the best night sky I have seen in Cambodia yet.

Hold your horses! The last place I visited was a paradise island on the coast of Sihanoukville. The island is called Koh Rong and you will not find any roads, any car or any street lamp for that matter. The light pollution is non existent and gives this island maybe the only place in Cambodia with this statue. This was by far the best night sky in Cambodia.

Bungalow in starry night on paradise
island Koh Rong, Cambodia
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
In conclusion, the night sky in Cambodia was very erratic. The dusty horizon was the worst. The dust veil was omnipresent. The light pollution in bigger cities took the fun out of stargazing. My assessment of the night sky in Cambodia is 4 out of 10 (4/10).
Not very promising, but if you really want to do some stargazing in Cambodia head for the paradise island of Koh Rong.
 
Continue reading  post no. 3 Cambodia 2014: Ancient Astronomy: Angkor Wat, City built with astronomical measurements to mimic the Gods in the Universe.

Continue reading  post no. 3 Cambodia 2014: Ancient Astronomy, Angkor Wat, City built with astronomic measurements to mimic the Gods in the Universe.

13 February 2014

Cambodia 2014: Is there Astronomy in Cambodia?


Phnom Penh, Cambodia city center by night
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
As we set into our journey through Cambodia, we arrived in Phnom Penh at a friend’s apartment. His apartment was on the 4th floor and had a huge terrace where I could set my camera and take pictures of the night sky.
As the camera rolled, I started to ask questions about astronomy to our friend and his family. This was to get a feeling of how much people in Cambodia knew about the subject. They had a general knowledge of astronomy. I would say high school level.

One week later we headed for Krong Koh Kong, a town on the west coast to visit his family. As the night fell, I set my camera for an observation session and drew a crowd of curious kids and adults from the neighbourhood.
I chatted up the crowd and asked them about astronomy. Once again the level of knowledge was limited. When I explained about stars in our galaxy and black holes in the center of it, they were lost. So, another set back for astronomy in Cambodia.
Dr. Cheap Chheang Vith in his class room in Battambang,
Cambodia. Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
A week later, I met with Dr. Cheap Chheang Vith at his house in Battambang. Mr, Vith is a teacher of Earth Sciences who works at the Regional Teacher Training Center in Battambang where he teaches young students to become teachers. In this case Earth science teachers.
His knowledge of astronomy was higher than the previous people I spoke to, but still lacked fluidity. He seemed rusted. He invited me for an observation session of the moon with his students. It was very nice to see so much people interested in astronomy
For a couple of hours we observed the Moon and discussed astronomy. He showed me his office and classroom and pointed out that his resources for astronomy were limited.
He had to purchase himself a telescope from Japan and rely on donations and old equipments to teach properly astronomy to his students. Let say that with more support from the global community, these student could grasp even better the science of astronomy. But wait there is hope!


Dr. Vith with his students observing the Moon.Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
A Belgian company devoted to education for development has established an education development program (Science, Environmental and Agricultural Life Skills - SEAL Program) in Cambodia since 2008 focusing on strengthening teacher training in Cambodia. This initiative is helping a lot the local training center in Battambang, Cambodia and is invaluable to those students.

Please visit VVOB’s website: http://www.vvob.be/cambodia/ for more information.


In conclusion, my question; “Is there Astronomy in Cambodia?” was really relevant.
I found that the level of knowledge was novice and what you find in high school text books. I understand that Cambodia is a poor country and there are more pressing matter on the table, like agriculture for example. So it is understandable that astronomy is not a priority. On a good note, I found that Cambodian people are curious people and are interested in the stars and the Universe. A good sign for the future. 

Follow our Astronomy trip through Cambodia!


2 picture composition: Buddhist deity in Starry night sky
Credit: Astronomy club Toutatis/S. Lamoureux
(Click on picture to enlarge)
  I traveled to Cambodia to see how much people knew about astronomy. I observed the quality of the night sky for stargazing and did some cool astronomy projects.

I explored 6 different astronomy topics that I will discuss in a serie of 6 posts here on Links Through Space. Follow us in our Astronomy trip through Cambodia and enjoy the posts and pictures.
  
As I was traveling in Cambodia with a friend to visit his family, I incorporated my hobby into the trip and had a specific question in mind: Is there Astronomy in Cambodia?

Before going to Cambodia, I made some research on the Internet about contacts and activities surrounding astronomy in Cambodia. To my surprise, the search didn’t make fruit. I literally found nothing.
After many e-mails to Universities in Phnom Penh and other institutions, I finally got a message from a teacher who knew someone into astronomy. I was excited to finally have a contact on the academic side of the matter.

This was just the first part of the Astronomy trip to Cambodia. I had in mind to do a couple of projects involving astronomy. Here are the projects I have invested in.
1) Is there Astronomy in Cambodia?
2) Assessments of the night sky seeing and light pollution in visited places in Cambodia.
3) Ancient Astronomy, Angkor Wat, City built with astronomical measurements to mimic the Gods in the Universe.
4) Southern night sky stars and constellations. A delight for us living in Finland.
5) Chasing the Green Flash. Catch on film the last moments of the setting Sun.
6) Cambodia 2014: Astronomy trip through photos