Tag: Pleiades

Milky goodness; Dark Sky Safari 26/02/17

by on Feb.28, 2017, under Dark Skies

Nazarra had originally booked her Dark Sky Safari for Saturday, but the weather forecast prompted a late rearrangement…and that was looking like a great idea when the weather on Saturday evening proved to be far worse than forecast 🙂

As I drove to Newbiggin on Sunday evening the rain was hammering against the windscreen but away to the west I could see the weather starting to clear and, by the time I collected Nazarra, Venus was shining bright against a dark blue background.  Patchy cloud revealed most of the sky at various points during the evening, and the only real weather we had to contend with was a bone-chilling breeze.  After a good look at the Orion Nebula (M42), Pleiades (M45), Andromeda galaxy (M31), Orion, Taurus, Gemini, the Plough, Cassiopeia, Auriga and Sirius, Nazarra mentioned that she hadn’t photographed the night sky but was keen to learn how to do that.  Choosing camera settings that would be appropriate for a widefield starscape, Nazarra pressed the shutter release as I held the tripod stable against the breeze.  That first shot looked rather orange but I couldn’t see any low cloud that would reflect light pollution…a quick change of the white balance setting did away with the orange glow and the next image had a trace of the Milky Way visible 🙂  With the cloud clearing further, the Milky Way came into naked eye visibility and several sections of the sky were imaged before it was time to return to Newbiggin.

I’ll be leading some landscape astrophotography workshops at the fantastic Battlesteads Observatory from March onwards, and I’m the lead astronomer there most Wednesday evenings and a couple of Saturdays every month too.  Do get in touch if you want to learn more about the universe and how to photograph the night sky 🙂

Here’s the Milky Way from the Holy Island causeway last September.

Milky Way,Holy Island,Northumberland,astrophotography,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours,www.newtltd.co.uk,www.newtltd.co.uk/dark-skies

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Crystal clear; Cheviot Valleys Stargazing 11/12/2015

by on Dec.18, 2015, under Cheviot Valleys

Last Friday was an event that I’d been eagerly anticipating; leading a stargazing event at Kirknewton for the Northumberland National Park Authority.

Rain and sleet on the journey north wasn’t particularly promising, so I arrived at the village hall and set everything out for a slide show (just in case the weather didn’t cooperate…).  When Duncan arrived we set up a couple of telescopes in the hall, ready to be deployed outside if the cloud cleared.  Start time arrived and it had clouded over completely so, following Duncan’s introduction to light pollution and the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, I gave a presentation on practical stargazing for beginners.  Duncan was keeping an eye on the weather and just as I finished the first section of my presentation the cloud cleared 🙂  Everyone donned hats, coats and gloves and we moved the ‘scopes outside, as well as arming everyone with binoculars.  The dazzling beauty of the Milky Way, Orion, the Pleiades, Gemini, Auriga, Taurus and the Andromeda Galaxy had everyone gripped by what can be seen when there’s little light pollution, and shooting stars were seen every couple of minutes.  Delicious hot soup and bread rolls finished the evening off nicely and there were lots of questions about how to learn more about stargazing.  We’ll hopefully be leading more events for the National Park during the winter; sign up and bring your enthusiasm and hat, gloves and plenty of warm clothing 🙂

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Jupiter; Discover Stargazing 21/04/2015

by on Apr.29, 2015, under Dark Skies, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

One of the great joys of being a dark sky guide is using good optical equipment to allow participants on our stargazing sessions to see detail in things that are only visible to the naked eye as points of light.

Venus and Jupiter were obvious in the twilight, and Sirius had vanished into the murk just above the horizon to the south, when Jane arrived for our Discover Stargazing session.  Sarah and Jodie arrived a few minutes later and we began our exploration of the night sky, starting with the Moon and the two impressive clusters in Taurus, the Hyades and the Pleiades.  Using pointers, particularly in Cassiopeia and The Plough, to locate other objects in the sky is always good fun and lets people start to make sense of what can often be a daunting amount of stars when it’s a clear evening at a good dark sky site, and the number of satellites passing over comes as shock to everyone, but the real star of this session was Jupiter.  The fourth brightest object in the solar system, more than 300x the mass of the Earth, taking nearly twelve years to orbit the Sun and with a surface temperature of -108C, Jupiter is an impressive planet.  Without going to extreme magnification we could still see bands on the surface of the planet and three of the Galilean moons.  Hard to believe but, including the four Galilean moons that are large enough to be seen through binoculars or a telescope, Jupiter has 67 moons.  There’s an awful lot of stuff up there, and we can’t see most of it!

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