Star Stories Jan 2023

Our next stargazing and storytelling session at Abriachan Forest will be on New Moon (Jan 21st) and we welcome back Glasgow Science Centre astronomer Steve Owens to guide us under the stars (or present a backup indoor talk on the planets). Our guest campfire storyteller Fiona Macdonald should also be in attendance.

If you booked for the cancelled December event your tickets will carry over and will be valid for the Jan event.

If you missed out on the last few events we have a February and March events planned so stay tuned. The February tickets links and event details will go up in the next week.

Many thanks

Happy Winter Solstice

Today the northern hemisphere of the Earth is maximally inclined away from the Sun, producing the shortest day. This is due to the axial tilt of the Earth, driving the seasons as we hurtle around our home star each year.

From here on, imperceptibly at first, our days grow longer in the northern hemisphere and shorter in the southern hemisphere.

This change in daylight is like a trigonometric Sine wave and will accelerate as winter advances, reaching its greatest rate of change near the Spring equinox in March.

The image I’ve shared was taken from inside one of the the passage cairns at Clava a few years ago on Dec 21st, a site with claimed mid winter significance. Sure enough light flooded into the back of the cairn via the south western aligned passage.

The truth is we don’t really know the real significance of these structures, and are left to speculate, sometimes more wildly than the evidence deserves. But it’s fun and captivating to imagine what could well have been ancient connections linking landscape, culture and the heavens above.

Seasons greetings everyone.

Dark Sky December at Abriachan

Join me on December 17th up at Abriachan Forest (a Dark Sky Discovery site) for an evening of stargazing and storytelling under Moonless dark skies.

If conditions are clear I’ll guide you under Abriachan’s Milky Way class dark skies (with a backup indoor astronomy presentation if clouds roll in).

Meanwhile we welcome our first guest storyteller of the season. Local gael Fiona Macdonald will lead the campfire storytelling section of the evening with tales steeped in Highland folklore.

Due to site and classroom capacity, booking via Eventbrite is essential. Admission is free for under 16s with accompanying adults but please inform Abriachan of any large booking requests.

For driections to the forest classroom please follow directions to Abriachan Forest Classroom here: https://www.abriachan.org.uk/environment/

Tickets are available on Eventbrite here.

Moon, Fox and Fire at Abriachan Forest!

Thanks to everyone who came up to Abriachan Forest on Saturday evening for our Moon, Fox & Fire event.

We had lovely clear skies for close up telescopic views of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn through our big 200m reflector. Plus naked naked eye views of Mars and many bright stars. The clear conditions also allowed me to setup my video telescope for ultra close up views of the lunar surface projected onto an outdoor screen.

Abriachan headed up the campfire storytelling section afterwards, with some stealthy stealing games with the young fire guardians! As every my wife Judith prepared the home bakes with some very popular sticky toffee pudding cakes.

Our next event is ‘Dark Sky December’ on Dec 17th. Eventbrite links will go up soon.

November Star Stories at Abriachan Forest

Waxing crescent Moon at Abriachan Forest

Join us up at Abriachan Forest on November 4th for our first event of the 2022 Stargazing season – ‘Moon, Planets and Fox & Fire!’

To kick off the winter series our first event will be a Moon and Planet special with the waxing gibbous Moon, Jupiter and Saturn on display for live binoculor and telescope observing guided by astronomer Stephen Mackintosh. If skies are poor Stephen will instead present an indoor talk in the forest classroom on the history of lunar and planetary observing, going back to the earliest ideas our ancestors had about the Moon and Wandering Stars.

In addition the Abriachan team will present ‘Fox and Fire’ storytelling around the campfire with refreshments provided.

Due to site and classroom capacity, booking via Eventbrite is essential. Admission is free for under 16s with accompanying adults but please inform Abriachan of any large booking requests.

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite HERE.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test

Two seconds before impact

Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART for short, is an attempt by NASA to redirect the orbit of asteroid Dimorphos via direct impact with a man made spacecraft.

The first image shows the final moment captured by the spacecraft’s camera just 2 seconds before impact with the asteroid’s rocky surface on 27th September. The second image shows a series of recently released James Webb stills of the asteroid at various times after impact.

James Webb images of Dimorphos post impact

The 525 foot wide asteroid is actually a small orbiting chunk of a larger ‘system’ of asteroids some 7 million miles from Earth.

This particular space rock poses no risk to Earth but provides a perfect test of our ability to potentially change the orbit of larger near Earth asteroids that could pose an impact risk in the future.

We won’t know how successful DART has been until November, when all data has been gathered and a new orbit for Dimorphos calculated. DART team members hope to change the orbital period by at least 73 seconds for the mission to be deemed a success.

Constructive destruction.

Guide to September Skies

What’s Up in September 2022 Night Sky Guide.

I hope you enjoy my short guide to September skies. Everything in this guide is calibrated to views around 11pm. Highlights include:

– Jupiter, Saturn and Mars

The Pleiades and Hyades open star clusters

– The Winter Triangle

– The Milky Way

– Lyra with the double double and ring nebula

– The Plough and its famous double star

Clear skies.