Dark Sky Burns 2022

Starry skies over Abriachan Forest

On Saturday the 29th January, join me up at Abriachan Forest (a Dark Sky Discovery site) for an evening of stargazing and astronomy with a Burns night twist

If conditions are clear I’ll be guiding you under the Milky Way class dark skies of Abriachan Forest (with a backup astronomy presentation if clouds roll in).

Meanwhile the Abriachan team will host an outdoor Tam’s Trail to find signs of Meg and a cutty sark! Plus Haggis hand warmers and refreshments for a simple Burn’s supper fare.

Booking in advance via Eventbrite is essential due to site capacity. Ticket links here.

2022 Hebridean Dark Skies Dates

Please see confirmed dates for my stargazing tours next February for the 2022 Hebridean Dark Skies Festival. I hope to be hosting a walk and talk under the stars from each location with an indoor fallback in the event of poor weather (so please book with confidence). Ticket links below:

“Astronomer Stephen Mackintosh will host stargazing events at Calanais Standing Stones and Visitor CentreScaladale Centre and Grinneabhat (Bragar and Arnol Community Trust) as part of the 2022 Hebridean Dark Skies Festival. #hebdarkskies

Tickets are on sale now – book here:
Calanais, 17 Feb: https://lanntair.com/…/highland-astronomy-at-calanais/
Grinneabhat, 18 Feb: https://lanntair.com/…/highland-astronomy-at-grinneabhat/
Scaladale, 19 Feb: https://lanntair.com/…/highland-astronomy-at-scaladale…/

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival runs from 11-25 February. Look out for lots more programme announcements in the next few days – and for our printed festival programme, available at An Lanntair and across the island from next week! Full listings at https://lanntair.com/events/category/dark-skies/

#hebdarkskies is supported by CalMac FerriesHighlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Culture Business Fund Scotland, in partnership with Lews Castle College UHIGallan Head Community TrustCalanais Standing Stones and Visitor Centre and Stornoway Astronomical Society.”

November Star Stories

Stargazing next to the round house in Abriachan Forest

Thanks to everyone who braved the subzero temperatures up at Abriachan Forest last Saturday for Star Stories. Our guest storyteller John Burns delivered a captivating one man play and storytelling session up in the forest round house, and even succeeded in ushering out a few stars at the very end.

Afterwards the skies opened up beautifully and we had clear views of the Milky Way and many circumpolar constallations during our outdoor stargazing session. Special thanks to Gretchen for the Jupiter biscuits!

That’s a wrap for this year. Our next event will be the Dark Sky Burns at the end of January 2022 before our guest speaker events in February and March. You can read more details on the full programme here.

The Milky Way glowing through some light cloud and haze at Abriachan.

Star Stories Astronomy Guest Speakers

Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Catherine Haymens, will visit Abriachan Forest in March 2022.

I’m delighted to confirm our guest speakers for the 2022 Star Stories programme. Following a ‘Stargazing Burns’ event on January 27th we’ll have a dark sky event in February with guest speaker Martin Hendry, Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Glasgow. Martin is a regular visitor to the forest and will be updating us on the latest discoveries on dark matter and dark energy followed by naked eye and binocular stargazing under Abriachan’s Milky Way class dark skies.

Then in March we’re very excited to welcome Scotland’s new Astronomer Royal, Catherine Haymens. Catherine will be joining us on March 14th for a special Moon night with a talk all about the Moons of our solar system. This will be followed by a live Moon observing session and Q&A. Catherine is Professor of Astrophysics and a European Research Council Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. She’s also director of the German Centre for Cosmological Lensing at the Ruhr-University Bochum.

Where possible, and understandably, all events will be setup for outdoor learning so please bring plenty of warm clothes and wrap up. Storytelling and other family friendly activities will also be delivered by the Abriachan team and guests. Ticket links will go live about 4 weeks prior to each event. Please follow my Facebook page for the latest.

Meanwhile the November 27th event has now sold out. This will be a dark sky evening with stargazing or astronomy talk presented by yours truly. Best selling author John Burns is our guest storyteller in November.

2022 Hebridean Dark Skies Festival

A fantastic programme of events is coming together for the 2022 Hebridean Dark Skies Festival. I’m really looking forward to delivering stargazing experiences for the festival again, from various dark locations across the Hebrides. The festival programme is directed by Andrew Eaton-Lewis and is always wonderfully eclectic with The Sky At Night’s Chris Lintott rating it “A highlight of the last few years”.

Art, Music, Cinema and food frequently accompany the astronomy and stargazing components and more than this I think it’s just a great opportunity for a winter break under some of Scotland’s remotest and best dark skies.

You can read about my previous experiences at the festival from my 2020 and 2021 posts. This year I hope to once again present in person astronomy and stargazing from various dark places across the island.

You can read more about the 2022 programme on An Lanntair’s website here.

Strong Northern Lights

Here’s a slightly shaky camera image I took from my home in the west of Inverness late on Saturday night. This is the strongest I’ve seen the Aurora from suburban Inverness. The glow was clearly visible naked eye with a bright arc and scintillating movement over the Black Isle.

There’s some speculation this display was connected to a large CME that erupted from the Sun on Thursday. While this is possible events like this are notoriously hard to predict with huge uncertainty in the transit time and direction of these high energy particle ejections from our home star.

Northern lights are not as rare as people think, especially in northern Scotland. The main impediment to seeing them is the simple fact that many people spend the winter evenings indoors. If you go for regular extended walks away from city lights and can find a good vantage facing north your chances of seeing aurora will increase significantly.