Astronomical Society of Penang

The dark sky site of the Astronomical Society of Penang

In my previous posts, I mentioned that the Astronomical Society of Penang held its observing sessions in two locations – an observatory in Komtar in the centre of the main city in Penang, George Town. Observing here was aimed at going where the public is found, to show them the night sky, John Dobson-style. Other events were held at their dark sky site, such as the meteor observing session on 12/8/2017. I have pasted below details on the location of this observing plus some other information about the group, including their Facebook page (it appears most people use Facebook in Malaysia and so this is preferred medium for hosting websites) and details of an astronomy shop set up by two members in Penang “Perseid astronomy” – these two members also own the dark sky site and its observatory.




More photos of Andy teaching at Astronomical Society of Penang event 12/8/2017

The following pictures were taken by members of the Astronomical Society of Penang and sent to me. It is an exciting experience to tell so many new people to astronomy about the night sky – if you are feeling jaded or your interest in astronomy is waning, I can recommend it! Look out rather than in!


Perseid meteor observing session report 12-13/7/2017 with Astronomical Society of Penang (Lim Choon Kiat Observatory in Pulau Betong)

Notes and photos below from the Perseid Meteor Shower Observing session in a very dark site at tip of island of Penang, Malaysia, on 12-13/8/2017. The event was hosted by the Astronomical Society of Penang.

Observing Notes:

12/8/2017 @ 19:00.

At 19:00, the sky looked poor – completely clouded over. In addition, the 7-timer astro predictions had now changed to cloudy all night, although BBC Weather for Penang still held up some hope of some breaks in cloud later on.

12/8/2017 @ 01:00.

So far the sky has remained cloudy with intermittent rain. However, the turnout has been incredible with around 150 or more members of the public coming along and stauomg for hours hoping for clear skies.

The Malaysians believe that people attending their outreach events need to enjoy their experience even when it is raining and continue to learn about the night sky. Hence, I was asked, together with others, to give ad hoc talks at various points during the night. Thank goodness for aĺl of Damon’s great stuff on meteors in previous RAG talks. I could remember enough to give short talks on what is a meteor and where does it come from, solar flares, radio detection of meteors, and a basic primer on telescope design and set up.

In typical fashion for myself, I opened a window i  the observatory to find a snake staring back at me – photo below – although so far I haven’t dropped anything! I was also suprised at hoe noisy observing in a Malaysian rural village (Kampong) was in August. A constant cacophony of noise accompanied us throughout the night from crickets and frogs calling for mates.

13/8/2017 @ 03:00.

The session ended. Skies remain cloudy – just like the UK! However, it has been fantastic spending a night with such an enthusiastic group of amateur astronomers who really want to teach other people about the night sky – and mere cloud will not stop them!!


Photos from the event:


Article published online by The Star newspaper (Malaysia) who sent a reporter and photographer to the Penang observing event:

Saturday, 12 August 2017 | MYT 10:45 PM

Rain spoils Perseid meteor shower watch in Penang

by logeiswary thevadass

Image: Chong (left) with the stargazers at the Lim Choon Kiat Observatory

BALIK PULAU: Drizzle and cloudy skies prevented stargazers from watching the Perseid meteor shower at the Lim Choon Kiat Observatory in Pulau Betong.

The drizzle, which started in the evening and went on until 10pm, blanketed the sky, creating unfavourable viewing conditions.

The annual Perseid meteor shower, which can be seen with the naked eye, was organised by the Astronomical Society of Penang and was well received by enthusiasts last year.

However, the crowds on Saturday were smaller due to the weather.

Society president Dr Chong Hon Yew said that the best time to watch the Perseid meteor shower is after 1am.

“The Perseid meteors are caused by streams of cosmic debris known as meteoroids entering the earth’s atmosphere. They become incandescent as a result of friction with the atmosphere as they travel at about 58km a second and appear as streaks of light,” he said.


Visit to Tech Dome and the PIXO observatory at Komtar in George Town, Penang

Visit to Tech Dome and the associated PIXO observatory in Komtar, George Town, Penang.

Rhys and I visited Tech Dome and the PIXO observatory there today at the personal invitation of Dr Chong Hon Yew, the president of the Astronomical Society of Penang. He gave us a guided tour of the observatory and we also spent several pleasurable hours in TechDome itself. Tech Dome is a science discovery centre with plenty of excellent educational exhibits, which cover relevant science concepts up to GCSE level. It really is a good resource and worth its rather exhorbitant entry fee of RM 50 per person (around £13 each). I personally preferred to it our own ThinkTank in Birmingham.

A fair number of the exhibits were relevant to astronomy and I have included some photos of these below.
Dr Yew played a key role in setting up the observatory – he is quite inspirational, following in the footsteps of people like John Dobson in the states, believing that the best way to encourage the public to get interested in astronomy is to take large telescopes to where they are, rather than expect them to come out to dark sky sights – and give them a wow experience they will next forget. So, to this end, he has raised funds for some excellent scopes and mounts (see photos) covering day and night, and actively encorages young people to take on leadership roles in the group. The observatory has a magnification space with roll off roof and seminar room and a view of Komtar rising above it. They also have a large Lunt solar telescope and CCD imaging facilities and Rhys and I were fortunate to observe a number of excellent images taken by one of their members. These included one that they believe is to largest (pixel-wise) ever taken in Malaysia and there is a picture of Rhys and Dr Yew standing next to this photo below as well.

If you ever come to Penang, do take the chance to visit the observatory and Tech Dome and to contact Dr Yew and say Hi – you will be welcomed with open arms and perhaps have a chance to see the southern sky in all its glory!


Penang PIXO Observatory’s large Officina telescope on Paramount mount:

A view in the PIXO Observatory (below):

The observatory’s roll off roof:

Dr Yew explains solar photography to Rhys:

The sign outside the observatory:

Dr Yew and Rhys stand next to (probably) the largest (in pixel size) image of the Moon ever taken:

Rhys stands next to the observatory computer:

Dr Yew and Andrew/Rhys next to the inauguration plaque for the observatory:

The observatory’s seminar room:

Members of the Astronomical Society of Penang observe from this paved area next to the observatory. It is four stories high. They use this for night time observing and also for daytime solar observing.

There is also a dark sky site owned by one of the members where we will be going tonight to observe the meteor shower.

The following pictures are from Tech Dome and of relevance to astronomy.

Rhys plays old style space invaders on an arcade machine, like those we grew up with in our youth!

They are yellow bugs – but they are also programmable robots and Rhys is programming them here to get around a maze. Future space missions with be increasingly dependent on autonomous machines.

I am standing next to an information poster on the Astronomical Society of Penang:

Other astronomy-related astronomy exhibits at Tech Dome:

The following is a very effective exhibit – using many compasses and a central bar magnet it demonstrates magnetic fields like those around the Earth or Jupiter, that deviate solar wind away from the Earth and towards its poles, creating the aurorae:

Some hope for Perseid observing in Penang tonight

There is still a small amount of hope that I will get to observe the Perseid Meteor Shower tonight with the Astronomical Society of Penang – if they don’t cancel their event. The screenshots below are from 7-timer Astro website and they show some chance of clearer sky in early hours of tomorrow morning.


Added 12/8/2017 @ 17:15 (Malaysian time) – look at these picture of low cloud over Penang Hill – does not bode well for tonight’s observing! Dr Chong Yew is still keen to go ahead and intends to pick me up at 8pm.


Rain and observing in Penang in August

This post is designed to cheer you up about observing in the UK. Yes, we have light pollution and cloud and rain in Lichfield and Burton. However, look at this video below – at the point I videoed this tonight, it had rained for SIX hours with no sign of stopping or slowing down. In fact, it had largely been raining like this since we came to Penang two days ago and I am told for most of the month before that. On the good side, this is one of the coolest trips back to see relatives in Penang. On the negative side, there are a lot of mosquitos and any astronomical observing is impossible. There is a lot of cloud even when it is not raining……..perhaps Staffordshire and Derbyshire aren’t so bad after all!


E-mail received from the president of the Astronomical Society of Penang

Dear Andy,
It is great to know our fellow astronomy enthusiasts from the UK! We welcome you and Rhys to join us in KOMTAR and in this Saturday night’s public observation of the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower 2017. I am the president of the Astronomical Society of Penang and our Society also run PIXO (Penang’s 9th Observatory) which is located in the Tech Dome Penang science centre in KOMTAR. This society was formed in 2016 but had its beginnings in the Astronomiy Club of University of Science Malaysia, Penang. I was the advisor of this club since its formation in 1986 until 2015 when I retired from the university as a physics lecturer. Since 1986, our astronomy club has conducted numerous activities in primary schools, kindergartens, secondary schools, universities, private universities, government departments, non-governmental organizations, mulitnational companies, large shopping complexes and public areas in Penang and all over Malaysia. Many of our big evernts have attracted thousands of astronomy enthusiasts from Penang, Malaysia and neighbouring countries. I and our Malaysian astronomy enthusiasts have also been on many astro-tourism trips to countries in Asia and Australia to observe total solar eclipses and other rare celestial events. We also have contacts with fellow astronomy enthusiasts in Singapore and other Asian countries.
We now have 9 observatories in Penang, PIXO being the latest. The main telescope in PIXO is a 16-inch OFFICINA STELLARE Ritchey-Chretien Telescope on a PARAMOUTN ME II Mount running on SKY X tracking software. The main solar telescope is a 6-inch LUNT APO Hydrogen-Alpha Telescope on an EQ6 Mount. Some secondary schools in Penang also have built their observatory. Heng Ee HIgh School has the best school observatory in Malaysia. Its main telescope is a 9-inch APM TMB APO F9 Refractor on a PARAMOUNT ME I Mount with SKY X software. A Chinese primary school in Bukit Mertajam, which on the mainland of Seberang Perai has also built an observatory and is very active is its activities. After many of doing astronomy outreach activifies in Penang and Malaysia, there is currently tremendous interest in astronomy among the students, teachers and members of the public.A regular activity is the weekly Saturday night star-gazing session held in Karpal Singh Drive, a nice promenade in Penang that is just next to the sea.
I and some members of the Astronomical Society of Penang usually will be in PIXO on Saturdays and Sundays between 2.00 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. to conduct observatory tours for the visitors of Tech Dome Penang. We will also be conducting the public observation session this Saturday night, beginning 9.00 p.m. to observe the Peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower 2017. The venue is Lim Choon Kiat Observatory in Pulau Betong, Balik Pulau.This observatory is located on the south-western part of Penang Island with the coordinates:
5 degrees 18 minutes 27 seconds North
100 degrees 12 minutes 13 seconds East
Dr. Chong

Notice from Astronomical Society of Penang about Perseid Meteor Shower observing session on Saturday night

FIRST ANNOUNCEMENT of “Public Observation of Perseid Meteor Shower 2017”

The Astronomical Society of Penang will be organizing a public session to observe the Peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower beginning 9.00 p.m. on Saturday, 12 August 2017. The expected Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) during the peak is 150 Perseid Meteors per hour. The venue of the observation is Lim Choon Kiat Observatory, Pulau Betong, Balik Pulau. This observatory is located on the south-western part of Penang Island with the GPS coordinates:

5deg. 18min. 27sec. N
100deg. 12min. 13sec. E