A sky full of stars is a very rare sight in Singapore. However, during my internship with the help of SAYES, I had the chance to observe a sky full of stars with a telescope at the Science Centre Singapore Observatory. Being an avid amateur astronomer, I have loved looking at the stars since very young. Finally I had the chance to experience being atrueastronomerduring my short stint as an intern at the Science Centre Singapore.
When I first signed up to be an intern, I did not know what to expect. I walked into the hexagonal staff complex of the science centre on the 4th level. I was introduced to Li Fei, who is in charge of all the space astronomy related matters. I was briefed about what we were to do for the next few days, but it was a very dynamic schedule.
In a bid to highlight the importance and significance of the Observatory, I was asked to digitalise old films of significant events at the Observatory. I was honoured to have played a part in this. Using a camera, I took pictures of over 100 films. It was a rudimentary but necessary method to digitalise the films.
Following that, I went to the main observatory where I was taught the basic operation of the various equipment. Li Fei kindly explained to me briefly how each procedure was critical for the telescope to operate, for example locking on the position of the stars to counter the rotation of the earth.
The telescope was humungous and truly an amazing sight. It was awesome learning how to operate the dome, move the gigantic telescope to the desired mark, storing it etc.
I also learnt how to put on the solar filter on the sub-scope and carefully view the sun in the afternoon. The next day I was told to explain some principles of phases and sundials to people walking along Fibonacci steps outside Science Centre. I met quite a few people and with an aid of the telescope and filter let visitors view the sun and take activities sheets home. It was truly an eye-opening experience for me as I got to talk and explain concepts to people. Following that at night I got to use the telescope. I took some pictures of the sun while it was setting and attempted to take pictures of various stars. I managed to take a quick picture of Saturn before it was obstructed by various clouds and other weather elements.
I realised that using the big telescope at night was especially tricky as clouds were completely unpredictable. Also the moment the star crosses the dome, you had to move the dome which added another layer of complexity. The stars, given the haze and clouds, were hard to spot and there was a time when it was down to only one visible star visible. This was especially tricky when maneuvering the telescope around.When it was low, you needed a stool to climb up. When it was high, you had to bend down.
On the last day, I met kindergarten teachers and taught them about the hydrogen filter and solarprominence or flares on the sun (the particles ejecting from the surface of the sun). They were really fascinated and I helped them take some pictures with their phone through the telescope. I operated the telescope and set up the filter for the teachers to have a look at both of them. Following that I brought the smaller scope to the entrance of Science Centre covered walkway and explained the same thing to interested visitors.
All in all, I truly enjoyed my few days at Science Centre learning and sharing my passion for science. Thank you SAYES and Science Centre for such a great opportunity!