Introduction to Astronomical Society of Penang

Its formation and its current status in the astronomy community in Malaysia

Amateur astronomy in Penang in modern times has a rich history. It all began because of two events in the important year of 1986, that is, firstly the formation of the Astronomy Club of University Sains Malaysia and the reappearance of Halley’s Comet in the Malaysian skies. As a pioneer, this astronomy club which was under the guidance of Dr. Chong Hon Yew (a physics lecturer in USM) was able to build up a network of astronomy clubs in schools and organizations in Penang. With the help of this network of astronomy clubs and organizations, the Astronomy Club of USM was able to create tremendous interest in astronomy and space exploration among the students and members of the public in Penang.

Dr. Chong retired from USM in 2015. The Astronomical Society of Penang (ASP) was formed in 2016 with Dr. Chong as its first president. The society continued promoting Astronomy for Everyone in Penang and Malaysia through stargazing sessions in public areas, talks, exhibitions, astronomy conventions, astronomy quizzes for Penang schools, workshops, observations of special events like meteor showers, comets, solar and lunar eclipses, lunar occultations, etc. Since the imposition of MCO in March 2020, most of the activities of ASP have gone online with weekly talks, interviews, Virtual AstroCafes on many different topics on astronomy and space exploration. Since 2016, the society has also been involved in many activities in Tech Dome Penang and Penang Science Cluster. Before MCO, the society also runs the weekly PIXO Observatory tours for visitors to Tech Dome Penang. The society is encouraging and training secondary school students to participate in the International Astronomy Olympiad 2022. There are members of the society who are keen on astrophotography and many high quality images of the Moon, Sun, Jupiter, Saturn and Deep Sky Objects have been captured. In particular, Michael Teoh who is a member of the society has captured high quality astro-images using the APM-TMB 228/2050 APO Refractor and the 6-inch aperture LUNT Hydrogen-Alpha Telescope in the Heng Ee High School Observatory in George Town. The society will be soon be submitting a proposal to Tech Dome Penang to convert the OFFICINA STELLARE 16-inch aperture Ritchey-Chretien Telescope inside the PIXO Observatory into a robotic telescope that can be accessed through the Internet by our ASP members and other astronomy enthusiasts.

The journey is not over and a lot more needs to be done to spread the astronomy excitement to everyone in Penang and Malaysia. More secondary schools and organizations in Penang have approached the society to help them set up their own observatories. Currently there are nine (9) observatories in Penang.

Astronomical Society of Penang