How many ringed planets do we have in the solar system? Most would say one—that’s Saturn. Some would say five, and that’s correct. We have Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Jupiter and some astronomers say, even Pluto, that exoplanet demoted from full planet status to a mere mini-planet. Even Earth has its own ring except that its composed of man-made satellites.
This is just one of the new things about the universe that most people don’t know. If you’re asked, how many planets we have in the solar system, and some will say nine, when its more than twelve already. And why is that?
Simple, most Filipinos are not interested anymore in science.Technology, yes, science no. When I was still a kid, many of us in my hood, wanted to become scientists, doctors, astronomers and astronauts. Some even want to become mayors, as if that one is a profession.
Now, ask any kid and some want to be cops, nurses, caregivers, teachers and cooks. Nothing wrong. These are honorable jobs. Yet, what we now lack are those who want to explore both the outer and the inner universes.
Ironic is'nt that every single one wants to own the very first 4g phone or the very first 3d TV, but none is interested in the science behind these sophisticated devices. We love watching Star Wars but never had the time to explore the truths in the universe now.
Ask a kid where he wants to go and its either the swimming pool or the mall. How about going to a planetarium? Some would frown, others would even say why go to an aquarium? Its a planetarium, silly!
Did you even ask yourself why do we only have one planetarium in Metro Manila? Its the one at the Luneta. And you know its condition? It's under renovation. Any effort to even build a more sophisticated one and government has no answer.
The hunger for science is definitely not there. Go to any Toy Kingdom outlet and "educational toys" ranked at the bottom rung of sold items. Most want a PS3 but never a telescope or a microscope.
It's time to change things.
I tried several times to go to the only hotel observatory in the Philippines, the Seven Suites, at Antipolo. Last week, when I went home from Sing, I was with my family.
We ate at the Hollywood Steakhouse, beside the Hotel. The early dinner was heavenly. We were treated very nicely by the waiters of the steakhouse and I ate one of my best steaks ever. Afterwards, me and my family went up to the 4th floor of the hotel where I saw one of the biggest professional telescopes in the country.
My pesky daughter does not want to look at the telescope. Before we arrived at the hotel, I mentioned to my daughter that I will treat her to a different experience tonight. I told her that we will explore the skies with a telescope. Instead of a smile, what I got was a frown. Why not go to Star City, she says? I told her that I wanted this night to be different. Those stars out there are the real deal, not those in Pasay.
Imagine my exhilation when I saw that big telescope and imagine her chagrin when she saw one. She has never been to a planetarium all her 7 year old life, and this is her chance to actually see with her own naked eyes, the wonder of the skies.
Her initial apprehension turned into wonderment as she peered through the viewfinder and saw for the first time, the red planet Mars. She asked me why is the color of the planet red and I told her that it is iron oxide and dusts swirling around the planet that makes it like that. She then asked Seven Suites Hotel Observatory resident astronomer to train the telescope to faraway Neptune.
Before Nepture was believed to be an exoplanet and without rings. It was only in the 20th century that astronomers discovered the planet had rings. Before, it was so thin that it was nearly visible. Now, you can see it using this telescope.
That fascination with the stars is a wonderful time for us to bond. It allows one to talk and explain these things to kids. I just hope that I sparked something in my daughter to appreciate the things God made in the universe. That it is interesting to watch these planets instead of watching CSI or any other movie.
The first few minutes turned into hours of fun, excitement and wunderment. It was a perfect bonding time between father and daughter.
" My daughter, just look at the skies when I'm not around. You'll eventually find me there", says the father who, in the next few days, will leave for another country.
Yes, we look at the same skies every, single, day. Some of us wonder. While some, just ignore these jewels in the heavens. At least, my daughter now appreciates these gifts from God.
* For those who don't know how to go to Seven Suites Hotel Observatory, just turn right at the corner of Sumulong and Marcos highways in Antipolo. When you get to the entrance of Valley Golf, its at your left.