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He has a front-row seat to the galaxy

STAR-STRUCK: Mr Tan, 54, spends about four hours at his makeshift observatory daily. Building it took him six months and cost him about $6,000.


    Apr 14, 2014

    He has a front-row seat to the galaxy

    IN AN open area atop a terrace house in the west sit four telescopes, a canvas awning and solar filters.

    The 25 sq m space is Mr Alfred Tan's makeshift observatory, where he hones his art.

    The 54-year-old office administrator spends about four hours there daily. He once stayed there for a record of 12 hours in one session.

    He takes photos of the sun, observes it through a special filter that protects his eyes, and researches the star at the centre of the solar system.

    His research is uploaded on an online database, which university professors tap on for their astronomy lessons. His contributions even bagged him an award from the Institute of Physics Singapore this year.

    The father of three's foray into the world of astronomy began about five years ago, when he went for an astronomy talk at the Singapore Science Centre. He was fascinated by how vast and "majestic" space is.

    He decided to build himself an observatory in 2012. It took him six months and cost him about $6,000.

    But it was worth it, he said. He was able to start recording and analysing data from his observations.

    His research includes work on how sun spots, created by intense magnetic activity, develop. Astronomy, he said, has given him a perspective on life itself.

    "We grow to appreciate what we have here on earth, to treasure life better," he said, adding that the telescopes cost him between $400 and $2,000 each.

    His hobby has become a family affair. "They enjoy the nice pictures and we also talk about special celestial events, like eclipses and solar flares," he said.