Saya ucapkan selamat hari raya Iedul adha untuk umat muslim di seluruh dunia.

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It’s mid November and the faithful Leonid Meteor Shower (LMS) is back. Leonid is one of the prolific seasonal meteor shower each year. Read more for spotting tips.

Continue reading ‘Heads up! Leonid Meteor Shower is back!’


After two years of hiatus (has it been that long?) I decided to start blurting random things to random people on the internet again.

Why I quit you ask?

I think it’s just a case of writer’s block.

A mile-thick writer’s block.

Just tough one less junk off the internet wouldn’t be noticeable. But hey, so does one more junk added back in right?. So here I am right back where I started ready for another dose of mild sarcasm and non-sequituurs.

Happy reading.


I am starting a small project that aims in adding spatial functionality to SQLite. SQLite is an in-process SQL database, meaning that there are no clients or servers involved, thus no IPC overheads, no administrations. I just figured, a spatial extension for in-process database would be good to have around when you are going to write a GIS app or CADs.

The first step I have to take is to extend the SQL supported by SQLite command parsers to include (basic) syntaxes that are being defined in OpenGIS simple feature for SQL spec. A not-so-eazy undertaking, I know, but hey I have to start somewhere. So I fetched the SQLite source code and skim around. Turns out, SQLite uses Lemon, a pargen (parser-generator), to generate C code necessary to handle SQL commands. Following the breadcrumb, I download Lemon, compiled it and play around with it. I only got as far as building very simple grammar. Later I shall write that.

I’m not targeting much for the first phase of this work. Just a working parser that doesn’t throw parsing error when I do

CREATE TABLE table_with_geom {
  id INTEGER NOT NULL,
  name VARCHAR(20) NOT NULL, 
  loc GEOM NOT NULL  
};

Of course there are other ways to incorporate geometry columns to table (pre-existing or new) but lemme just try this first.

Hope this not going to be another abandoned project.


August is perhaps the month sky lovers been waiting for the whole year. Reason for this is none other than the coming Perseid Meteor Shower. The Perseid meteor shower happens when earth, in her revolution circling the sun, swims through the long tail of comet Swift-Tuttle. This happens on August every year. The debris of the comet tail enters the grasp of earth gravity, burnt by the atmosphere on their way down, and become visible meteors. The comet it self will not be visible until 2126 (predicted, when scientists believe will strike the earth!).

Perseid Meteor Shower is renowned for it’s faithfulness; every year coming regularly and each time with stunning performance. The event bears it’s name from the constellation Perseus where the radiant (point where the shower originated) of the meteor shower is located. During it’s peak, the average rate is 80 meteor/hour. That’s almost two meteor every minute! An event you wouldn’t wanna miss.

Note: I live in Malaysia, (4d N 100.5d E, UTC +8) . No major changes of should be needed if you also live in equatorial region (i.e east is east, west is west, little bit to the left/right means little bit to the left/right. I think I’ve made my point).

When

The shower will have been started since August 10th when the earth enters the Swift-Tutle’s path. But the peak will not be reached until August 13th, starting from 3.oo am until sunrise. This should be the best time to observe. On this date, pray, cross-fingers, do the rain-repelling dance, do whatever you always do when craving for clear sky, cause you’ll need it.

What to do

  • Call in sick for tomorrow (which is Monday), or better still, tell your boss to watch too.
  • Put on light overcoats (for current weather in Malaysia), you don’t want to really get ill do you?.
  • Bring snacks and music. Use headphones! You’re going stargazing, not rave partying.
  • Unless you are planning to spot other objects too, you can leave your telescope or binos at home. Meteor shower is better watched with unaided eyes.
  • Find a place dark and comfy but safe, away from street or building lights. In the city, rooftop is a good call.
  • Take friends or your significant one with you to share the moment.
  • Lay back, relax and have fun!

What to expect

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Sky view towards North-East on Monday August 13th, 2007 1.30 am (click for detail)

Watching the meteor shower will be like listening to Bach orchestra (or Pink Floyd if you prefer). The meteor shower serves as the background symphony for other celestial objects joining in, adding colors to the harmony, telling their own tales.

Prelude to the symphony will be the tale of Andromeda, the chained maiden. Andromeda’s mother, Cassiopeia was the queen of Phoenecia. The vanity of Cassiopeia brought wrath of Posseidon who sent tidal wave to destroy the kingdom. Foretold by the oracles, Andromeda must be sacrificed for Posseidon to spare the kingdom from devastation. Chained to the rock, awaiting for Posseidon to send his sea serpent to do the job, Andromeda couldn’t do anything but hoping for a savior.

The constellation Andromeda and Cassiopeia will be rising around 1.30 am in north-east direction. The most notable feature in this part of sky is the Great Nebula of Andromeda, our galaxy’s closest sister (2.5 mil light years away). The nebula is quite faint (Mag 3.5) so it might not be visible in light-polluted areas.

The symphony progress in adagio while Perseus the hero rises. Perseus slay the sea serpent, freed Andromeda from her bind and later take her hand in marriage.

Following the rise of Andromeda, our central performer for tonight, the constellation Perseus will be rising at around 3.00 am, to the north-east. Find Mirfaq, the brightest star in the constellation. The meteor shower radiant will be off by a few degrees to the left of Mirfaq. This is the spot where you want to have your eyes on the entire night. Perseid meteor shower is the most prolific meteor shower every year. You should be able to easily spot a dozen meteor an hour emanating from this direction. Watch as the fireball streak across the sky.

As if not enchanting enough, expect to capture the interlude moment; the Earthgrazers. They are distinctive meteors that streaks, not downwards, but upward across the sky. Earthgrazers happen when the radiant is just slightly rises above the horizon (around 3.00 am) Its rare, about once or twice per hours. Try to spot some before Perseid radiant rises to high. It will most definitely be a rewarding experience.

Of course, the harmony will not be complete without the performance of other sky objects. Here are some of them:

The two lovers: Altair and Vega

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Sky view towards West on Monday August 13th, 2007 2.30 am (click for detail)

While waiting for the symphony to reach it’s peak, take your eyes off for a while to the opposite direction to the west. Try to spot The two lover; the bright stars Altair (in constellation Aquilla) and Vega (in constellation Lyra).

Chinese legend has it that Niu Lang, a simple farmer, fell in love with Zhi Nu, a goddess descended from heaven. Their love grew into a happy marriage. Zhi Nu’s mother, the matron goddess of heaven does not agree her daughter married a mortal. The mother tore a wide river in the sky. Separating the two lovers for eternity. Thus the Milky Way was formed. Separated by the vastness of milky way, the parted couple yearn for each other. Fly Cygnus the swan between them, bridging the gap, uniting the two lover.

The constellation Lyra and Aquilla will be setting during the time the meteor shower begin. Try and spot the to lover to the north-west before Lyra ‘re set first at 3.00 am. You should be able to spot the constellation Cygnus too. What’s more interesting is, if you are watching from a dark enough area, you should also be able to get a glimpse of our home galaxy, Milky Way. The orientation of Cygnus body helps you find the stretches of milky way.

Pleiades the seven sisters

pleiades_small_web.jpg

Pleiades (image from HST web)

The star cluster Pleiades, can be spotted from dark-enough locations in the constellation Taurus. Just pan your view few degrees to the right of Perseus. The enchanting blueish glow of the seven sister will stupefy you.

Mars the red planet

Martian Sunset

Sunset in strange planet. This picture of martian sunset was taken by Spirit rover near the Gusev Crater.

Following Pleiades, slighltly to the right, Mars will join the composition. The red planet is notable for it’s bright red glow and non-twinkling appearance. Now if you see Mars, remember that this is the only planet in this universe other than earth where man made robots still roams the surface until now. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers still faithfully supply us with snapshots of Martian landscape. Throughout the end of this year, Mars will reach its closest distance to Earth, so on August 13th the red planet should be quite visible. For astro-photographer, Mars can be a rewarding take-home gift, so get you gears ready.

As the night goes on, the orchestra will rise to a dazzling crescendo. The streaks becoming more frequent. You can expect to see a meteor every minutes or so. Orion the great hunter rises to the east about an hour before dawn breaks. Spot the Orion Nebula and your quest will be complete.

And the orchestra will be concluded by the finale: The rising sun. Just like every day the great ball of nuclear explosions will obediently rise slowly in the east failing to look fierce. Instead, looking hazy purple-orangeish and giving. Dawn break always be the time when the whole creation hold it’s breath.

Encore!

Sky image taken using stellarium 0.9. Other images courtesy of respective owners.