This article is part of the CCA Previews for 2016.
By Li Jiaqi (16S03I), Ariel Lesmana (16S03R), Goh Shu Lin, Doreen (16S03I), Nur Amalia bte Kamal (16S06B), Teo Jia En (16S06K) and Shen Yu Jun (16S06E)
The clock strikes midnight and the Astronomer leaves his bedroom. One shoe falls, but he doesn’t turn back to retrieve it. The night is silent and everyone is asleep. He walks down the dim hallway, moonlight streaming through the windows, guiding him to his musty chamber in the Underground. A pristine, polished container stands in one corner: the drybox. He carefully selects a suitable instrument for tonight’s use. Perhaps the 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain will help him visualise the Orion nebula best. The Astronomer brings it out and sets it up in the open space. It is just him, caffeine, and the stars tonight. Cinderella might end her day at midnight, but for the Astronomer, his day has just begun.
Starting 6 pm every Friday, we delve deep into our place in the vast cosmos, learning topics ranging from relativity, cosmology and astrobiology (aliens!), to other disciplines like history of astronomy, astrophotography and mythology. There is something for everyone, from beginners to advanced! If skies are clear, we proceed for stargazing within the school using our very own equipment. While we enjoy using the telescopes and learning from each other, sometimes just lying down, dreaming into the vast night sky and chatting with our batchmates is more than enough. When it’s cloudy, we have spontaneous bonding sessions – unofficial club dinners together.
“We bonded over food, dust, and weather forecast”
– Teo Jia En (16S06K), Practical IC
Perhaps what’s most cherished is the unique Astro community that exists within and out of RI. Our club comprises Y1-6 members, creating a culture of sharing suitable for every level of experience. More knowledgeable seniors guide juniors through weekly lectures, in addition to competition training for those interested. This year, RI Astro had a clean sweep at NUS-NTU AstroChallenge, winning Junior and Senior Category, Best Stargazing and Best Project awards. 3 of our club members also represented Singapore in the 9th International Olympiad of Astronomy and Astrophysics held in Magelang, Indonesia. Sharing the same interests, members find a welcoming space, and also a platform to meet other passionate individuals in the wider community.
“Astronomy in Singapore? That’s ridiculous! We can’t see anything here with MBS.”
Well, not the milky way, nor the aurora, nor hundreds of stars, but we do see the beautiful constellations, periodic meteor showers and daily laser light show FOC. That’s not all. We also organise events like Astrigue, an introductory Astronomy competition, and our annual outreach stargazing event, Astronite. 2015’s Astronite was themed “Stardust”, illustrating how the magic of Astronomy lies in our connection to the universe, how the atoms of our body are the same ones that made up a star which exploded hundreds of light years away, how every time we look up at the night sky, we gaze upon the universe, but also while the universe sees itself in human form.
Members enjoy a first-class stargazing experience, both local and overseas. For better skies, we have an annual optional retreat to Bintan, Indonesia or Port Dickson, Malaysia. Closer to home, we make trips to Semakau Island together with The Astronomical Society of Singapore (TASOS), or simply an overnight Geminids Star Party at East Coast Park. Did you know Semakau is the only island in Singapore reserved for astronomy purposes, having minimal light pollution, and exclusive access by TASOS?
Here’s what Astronomy means to our members on a personal level:
“It has made me realize that nature is full of wonders. All it takes is a little patience and a pair of eyes to notice these little phenomena all around us, not only in the skies, but also in the society and community around us.” – Han Ruobin (3F 2015)
“Astro encourages me to go further, both in pursuing excellence in academics and out-of-syllabus interests (including Astro), while also keeping me grounded with welcoming and supportive friends and teachers.” – Han Shi Yun, Kimberly (16S03J)
To end off, here is a message contained within Voyager, a spacecraft launched by NASA in 1977 which has since left the solar system on its way far out into space:
“This is a present from a small distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilisations. This record represents our hope and our determination, and our good will in a vast and awesome universe.”
We hope one day, having resolved your doubts, you too will join our community of galactic proportions!
Do follow our instagram @rafflesastro for interesting updates and news!