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Astronomy Olympiad Resources

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Message from the Organising Committee of the 6th SAO

20 Apr 2018

The following are resources, software and other references that you may find useful in your preparation for the SAO and/or IOAA. The Organising Committee will keep this page updated from time-to-time. If you encounter any issues accessing these resources, or would like to request or recommend a resource or piece of software, please send us an email at sao [at] astronomy [dot] sg.

Please note that past-year IOAA papers and soft copies of reference books are not intellectual property of the SAO nor Astronomy.SG. Hence, we will not release nor disseminate these resources for participants to peruse.

Resources for the 6th SAO

Last updated 22 May 2018
Changes: Re-wrote the solution for Q9 in the Specimen Paper. Thanks to all who have brought errata to our attention!

All rights reserved. The 6th SAO Organising Committee recommends you attempt the specimen paper under timed conditions (3.5 hours).

6th SAO (2018) Constants Sheet 6th SAO (2018) Answer Sheets

6th SAO (2018) Specimen Question Paper

6th SAO (2018) Specimen Full Solutions 6th SAO (2018) Specimen Graphing Solutions

Past SAO Papers

Last updated 20 Apr 2018

All rights reserved. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in the documents below (question papers and full solutions), the respective SAO Committees will not entertain any requests regarding questions, solutions and marking. By accessing these documents, you agree to the above.

5th SAO (2017)

5th SAO (2017) Question Paper

5th SAO (2017) Full Solutions 5th SAO (2017) Graphing Solutions

4th SAO (2016)

4th SAO (2016) Question Paper 4th SAO (2016) Full Solutions

Past IOAA Papers

Last updated 20 Apr 2018

The organisers of the following IOAAs in past years have graciously uploaded the question papers (including translations) and/or the full solutions on their websites. Please follow the links below to access them. You are strongly encouraged to download these resources promptly as these websites may be taken down at any time without prior notice.

11th IOAA (2017) @ Phuket, Thailand

10th IOAA (2016) @ Bhubaneswar, India

6th IOAA (2012) @ Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

5th IOAA (2011) @ Silesia, Poland

Recommended Books

Last updated 25 Apr 2018

As these books do cost money, you are strongly encouraged to source for pre-existing hard copies from libraries, friends or astronomy clubs, before opting to purchase them.

Astronomy Today - $$$
by Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan
This book is a great introductory text to astronomy, and is a refreshing read even for those with more experience. With many coloured diagrams and images to supplant concepts, it covers with brevity the huge diversity of topics and research that make up modern astronomy and astrophysics. Updated and relevant, this book will help aspiring amateur astronomers develop a broad qualitative appreciation of astronomy.
Turn Left at Orion - $$
by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis
One of the most popular astronomy books, this field guide is a great introduction to practical observation. It covers hundreds of interesting observation targets across both celestial hemispheres, with a distinct star-hopping and clustering approach that minimises time spent planning and searching for new targets. Furthermore, it provides astronomical information about each target, along with detailed sketches and descriptions of their appearance through binoculars and telescopes of sizes up to 12", helping to correct often over-inflated expectations. Additional sections on telescope techniques and observation planning cement this as one of the best investments an amateur astronomer can make, no experience needed.
Sky and Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas - $
by Roger W. Sinnott
This book is the quintessential sky atlas - every self-respecting astronomer owns or has used it before. Its compact size makes it the perfect travel companion; the crisp, immaculately detailed and intuitive sky charts covering the entire celestial sphere hasten the process of locating and identifying constellations, stars and deep sky objects in a binocular or telescope. Strongly recommended for experienced astronomers and beginners alike, especially those who enjoy long observing sessions. Completely overkill for astronomy competitions.
Problems and Solutions: International Olympiads on Astronomy and Astrophysics (2nd edition) - $
by Aniket Sule
This book is authored by the current Secretary-General of the IOAA, Dr. Aniket Sule, and is officially sanctioned by the International Board of the IOAA. It is a compilation of problems from the first eight IOAAs held from 2007 - 2014, sub-divided by topic and difficulty, with accompanying annotated solutions for clarity. This is recommended for astronomers with a firm qualitative grasp of both theoretical and observational concepts, who are seeking to practice and refine their quantitative understanding of astronomy and astrophysics. Those without, will aptly struggle with the problems.

Recommended Software

Last updated 22 Apr 2018


Stellarium (PC) - Free
A free open-source planetarium software; a great introduction to the night sky, including planets, stars, constellations and deep sky objects, even in Singapore's erratic weather! Advanced features include celestial sphere markings, catalogue and light pollution controls, other sky cultures and inbuilt scripts for astronomical events.
Celestia - Free
A free open-source 3D space visualisation software - just point and click to explore scales from spacecraft up to galaxy clusters! Additional features include orbit tracking and modelling, extreme HD textures and surface features, audio support and extensions built by an active user community.

ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator 3 - Free
A free open-source image-processing software jointly produced by ESA, ESO and NASA - allowing amateur astronomers to easily and quickly create high-resolution colour images of stars and deep sky objects using raw observations (in FITS and PDS file formats) from a range of telescopes.

Android devices

Sky Map - Free
A free simple handheld planetarium app with a small inbuilt photo gallery - useful for locating and identifying planets, stars and common deep sky objects. Completely ad-free and originally developed as Google Sky Map.
Night Sky Guide - Free
A free field guide app to assist those with binoculars or telescopes to locate deep sky objects (DSOs) in the Messier and Caldwell catalogues. Provides physical data, observing information and a constellation chart for each DSO - great as an observing list and for planning long observing events! Completely ad-free.
NASA (Android) - Free
A free app released by NASA filled with the latest images, videos, mission information, astronomy news and other featured content - including the popular Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). Also provides tracking and notifications of sighting opportunities for satellites including the International Space Station (ISS).

iOS devices

Star Chart - Free
A free and clean handheld star chart app - provides basic physical and observational data for planets, an extensive catalogue of stars and the Messier deep sky object catalogue. Ad-free but with extensions as in-app purchases.
Ad Astra Star Atlas - Free
A free star atlas app - great learning tool for those with binoculars or telescopes. Provides annotated IAU constellation star charts and short write-ups for each constellation and interesting observation targets, including double stars and variable stars - so you know what to expect when looking for them. Ad-free with an in-app option to upgrade to the Pro version.
NASA (iOS) - Free
The iOS version of the NASA app for Android devices; see above for write-up.