Starry, starry Singapore night: Best spots for stargazing

Left: The celestial sphere. Top: The Omega Centauri cluster. Above: The planet Saturn.
(From far right) NUS Astronomical Society vice-president Tan Hong Kiat, 21 , and president Clarence Liu, 24, with some of the stargazing equipment they use. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Left: The celestial sphere. Top: The Omega Centauri cluster. Above: The planet Saturn.
The celestial sphere. PHOTO: COURTESY OF REMUS CHUA
(From far right) NUS Astronomical Society vice-president Tan Hong Kiat, 21 , and president Clarence Liu, 24, with some of the stargazing equipment they use.
The Omega Centauri cluster. PHOTO: REPUBLIC POLYTECHNIC AND WOODLANDS GALAXY COMMUNITY CLUB
Left: The celestial sphere. Top: The Omega Centauri cluster. Above: The planet Saturn.
The planet Saturn.PHOTO: SCIENCE CENTRE SINGAPORE

Despite light pollution, stargazing here can be rewarding - if one knows where to look

With its bright lights and skyscrapers, Singapore seems far from the ideal destination for stargazing.

But the aficionados know that despite the light pollution, one can get a glimpse into the cosmos and beyond with just the naked eye - if only they know where to look.

All that is needed is a good spot in a dark location, such as at East Coast or Pasir Ris parks, and lots of patience. A mobile application that maps out the stars and planets can also help to guide the eye, astronomy enthusiasts here told The Sunday Times.

"While it is true that light pollution can affect the clarity of the night sky, there are still a lot of bright stars and planets that are visible in the Singapore night sky," said Republic Polytechnic (RP) student Cass Ng, 21, who is in the executive committee of the school's Astronomy Interest Group.

In the coming week, for instance, those who turn their eyes skywards can expect to see the full moon around Wednesday, when it is at its brightest.

Some will mark the occasion - celebrated as the Mid-Autumn Festival - with mooncakes and good cheer, but other events have been lined up to help people here learn more about the celestial sphere.

On Wednesday, the Singapore Polytechnic (SP) Astronomers will be organising an open skygazing session that allows members of the public to look through the school's telescope.

The Science Centre Singapore, which hosts free stargazing sessions attended by between 150 and 200 people every Friday at its Observatory, will also be organising a space exhibition from this Wednesday to Oct 15. Visitors can walk through an exhibition about outer space, or watch a digital movie and live planetarium show.

Mr Clarence Liu, 24, president of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Astronomical Society, said another misconception about astronomy is that expensive equipment is needed.

"It is possible to appreciate and identify constellations with the naked eye," he said.

This week, the planet Jupiter, as well as the brightest stars of various constellations, such as Aquila and Scorpio, will be visible to the naked eye, said RP's Mr Ng.

Singapore's unique location on the Equator allows stargazers to see constellations in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, such as the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross respectively.

"People in Australia would not be able to see the Big Dipper, and likewise people in the United Kingdom would not be able to see the Southern Cross," said Ms Mok Li Hui, a master science educator at the Science Centre.

Geospatial consultant Remus Chua, 41, has been skygazing for almost 30 years. The founder of SingAstro, an online forum for astronomy in Singapore, said there were fewer than 100 active enthusiasts back in the late 1990s.

"But now, with Internet pervasiveness and social media, the forum has grown to more than 2,000. Recent movies on space-related topics, such as Interstellar, helped too. Universities also have modules catered to astronomy."

SP student Humayra Jeba Mohd Habibur Rahman, 19, the immediate past president of the school's Astronomers club, became interested in astronomy about four years ago, when she looked up to the night sky and found it glittering with stars.

"Skygazing makes me feel like we are so small out there in the universe, it helps me forget my problems," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 01, 2017, with the headline 'Starry, starry S'pore night'. Print Edition | Subscribe