Stargazing in Manila: How, Where, When, Who

I love the actuality of space. The thought that if you go up high enough, there’s a vast expanse beyond the sky. Back then, as a kid, this was the cause for majority of my daydreaming.

I remembered the time in my high school where our teacher arranged for a stargazing session. It was an all-nighter thing with the entire science club. The only thing in my recollection; it was the first time I saw a planet right in front of my eyes. Not those planets you see in textbooks, the one rendered by artists, but a real one, as real as the pencil you have in your hand. It’s just there, reflected on a piece of glass attached to a telescope. The thought of space is amazing, but seeing that right there before my eyes blew my 14-year old mind.

Another thing I also recollected: it was the PAGASA UP Observatory in Diliman.

One night back in 2012, I went there with my wife and 3 other friends :) Long story short, they all had fun :)

No more long prose, here are some details:

  • Here’s the number for that UP Observatory - 929-1237
  • …and a map to where it is
  • …annndddd also a picture of the building (credits for the photo goes to PAGASA)
  • Upon calling the number, ask if they can accommodate you and if the place is not busy for the night. If it’s not busy, ask for the forecast before you go there, you don’t want to go there all excited only to find out no planets are visible and the skies aren’t clear.
  • Remember you can’t book the “viewing of the cosmos” in advance like some special food in your favourite restaurant. You’re just hoping that most of the things you want to see are there and the skies are clear.
  • Depending on the planets you want to see, be prepared for an all-nighter, Go there after 7pm or 8pm, prepare to stay up as late as 2am depending on the things you want to view.
  • We brought food, water, stayed in our cars, listened to music, cleaned up after ourselves and kept quiet to pay respect to the place. Noisy and rowdy people will probably get a lot of unwanted attention from the campus security.
  • You can rent their telescopes, if I recall correctly, you can rent each for below 50PHP.
  • Ask nicely, you’ll get help from them in finding a planet. Trust me, if you haven’t handled a telescope before, they’re hard to find.
  • The planets are moving targets since the earth is rotating, they’re smaller than a grain of sand compared to the entire expanse of the sky.
  • The PAGASA staff that was helping us out even gave us a friendly challenge to find the moon. It’s not as easy as we all thought.
  • I offered to pay them extra because seriously, the experience is worth more than 20PHP.

Oh, and here’s a shot of the moon from my wife’s iPhone4s pointed directly at the viewfinder of a telescope.