Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 1 of the First National Astronomy Convention

Hortelano, N. & Quinto, J.

              “Enticing Filipinos through Visions of Astronomical Progress” was the theme of the very first National Astronomy Convention that was held at the Plenary Hall, ITC Building of the Rizal Technological University on the 20th of February, 2014. Astronomy students, faculty members, and delegates from different fields of science gathered around for the said event.

                The convention started with the opening remarks of Dr. Merlene Bernal, RTU Convention Chairwoman, who said that the convention should serve as sound waves in inviting Filipinos to the field of astronomy. Dr. Bernal’s opening remarks was then followed by a welcome message led by Dr. Jesus R. F. Torres, President of RTU. “Astronomy started through small observations–the statement that opened his message which tackled the history of astronomy in RTU. According to Dr. Torres, his very own observations turned into research and publishable materials that inspired Dr. Bernardo Soriano, former chief of the Atmospheric, Geophysical and Space Sciences Bureau of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, to open up a course in astronomy. Moreover, Dr. Torres stated that astronomy is the mother of all sciences, since it doesn’t deal with astronomy alone but also with many other sciences. “You study astronomy and you become fruitful individuals”, he remarked as he closed his message. Afterwards, Dr. Catherine Castañeda, the Director-IV of the Commission on Higher Education, National Capital Region gave her keynote address. She tackled general problems in education that are also affecting the establishment of astronomy in educational terms. According to Dr. Castañeda the main element of a university to flourish in academic standards is research.

Dr. Bernal delivering her opening remarks
Dr. Jesus Rodrigo F. Torres, President of RTU
Dr. Catherine Castañeda, Director-IV of CHED NCR
                Moving on to one of the speakers of the event, Dr. Jett Aguilar, Vice President of the Astronomical League of the Philippines, began his discussion on solar observation with the question “Why should we observe the Sun?” He gave several reasons: first is that the Sun is the only star for which surface details are observable, second is that the Sun is dynamic, and lastly, one can observe the Sun in the comforts of his own backyard. Next, he focused mainly on explaining sunspots and how to observe the Sun with different filters. He then finished his discussion with a quick summary and asked the audience for some questions.

Dr. Jet Aguilar, Vice President of the Astronomical League of the Philippines
                The second speaker, Mr. Michael Bala, a weather specialist from PAGASA, did his talk entitled Stellar and Planetary Atmospheres. In his discussion, he compared the atmospheres of the planets in the Solar System. He also discussed the Goldilocks Zone-the habitable region of the Solar System or any planetary systems. Mr. Bala then discussed things about stellar atmospheres before closing his discussion. The audience were then allowed to ask him for questions.

Mr. Michael Bala, weather specialist from PAGASA
                Lastly, Ms. Johanna Erika Valdueza, Msc Geomatics Engineering (candidate) from the University of the Philippines, Diliman deliberated a talk about planetary geology. She started first by defining what planetary geology is. Moreover, she occupied the time discussing the relevance of planetary geology, formation of the Solar System, and comparative planetology. She then finished her discussion by giving an update about an intriguing apparent discovery of flowing salty water on the surface of Mars. An open forum proceeded.

Ms. Erika Valdueza, Msc. Geomatics Engineering candidate, UP Diliman
                After the convention, the participants and the delegates proceeded to the Astronomy Gallery Room of the Research and Development Building for the gala night.

    All in all, the first day of the First National Astronomy Convention was a huge success. May it further advance what RTU and other groups have already started—promulgating the wonderful science of astronomy throughout the Philippines.

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