Have you looked up in the sky recently? If you look carefully, you’ll slightly get a view of the Milky Way galaxy from the city—which previously was only visible away from Metro Manila.
The Philippine Astronomical Society recently shared a photo of the galaxy taken from Manila. With “some minor enhancements,” the galactic center was slightly visible over the city lights of Makati and Quezon City in the photo taken by PAS president Kashogi Astapan using Fujifilm X-E2 with Samyang 12 mm f2 lens.
According to the organization, the visibility was due to the clear sky, new moon, less air pollution, and less light pollution.
PAS’ statement has been confirmed by experts, saying that the air quality in Metro Manila has improved after the Luzon-wide, government-imposed enhanced community quarantine.
Citing data from Airtoday.ph, the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology at the University of the Philippines Diliman reported a 180 percent decrease in PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers) since the first day of the ECQ.
Aside from causing shortness of breath and aggravating pre-existing respiratory conditions, high levels of PM2.5 can also reduce visibility in the sky.
Records from Airtoday.ph showed decrease of PM2.5 in various areas in Metro Manila. For instance, the air quality at the monitoring station located at the Lung Center of the Philippines during the first week of the ECQ (March 16-22) has improved by 80 to 180 percent from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. versus data two weeks before the quarantine (March 2-8).
The same trend was observed at Airtoday.ph’s monitoring station in Edsa Muñoz which showed a 70 to 90 percent reduction of PM2.5 since the ECQ.
The improved air quality was attributed to the imposed road restrictions, according to UP Environmental Pollution Studies laboratory head Dr. Mylene Cayetano.
“Majority of the air pollution comes from vehicle emissions. Cordoning off East Avenue and Quezon Avenue, both hospital zones, brings positive feedback of cleaning the air,” said Cayetano.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources likewise confirmed the air quality in Metro Manila has improved based on data from their monitoring stations.
Citing records on March 22, the DENR said, “The 24-hour average level for PM10 in Las Piñas and Marikina went down to 31.67 and 27.21 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm) from a high 57.81 and 31.28 ug/Ncm, respectively, on March 9.”
“The acceptable threshold standard level of PM10 is 60 ug/Ncm,” said the Environment department.
Meanwhile, the PM2.5 levels in Muntinlupa and Parañaque on March 22 were 10.78 and 14.29 ug/Ncm, respectively, which the DENR said were much lower when they were recorded at 28.75 and 27.23 ug/Ncm, respectively on March 10.
“This explains why our sky now is clear and looks clean,” said Undersecretary Benny Antiporda in a statement.
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