Here’s a small piece I wrote for the South Loch Ness tourist website on stargazing in the Highlands.
“For me stargazing is about reconnecting people with the night sky, not just the raw science which is fascinating enough, but also the star lore, mythology and human connections with it. That’s something we’ve undoubtedly lost in recent times not only in terms of light pollution but also our tendency to inhabit virtual spaces within our phones and gadgets. As a people we seem to be increasingly looking down rather than up!
‘In the Highlands we’re still fortunate to have access to some of the darkest skies in Europe, and it’s something I hope we’ll do our best to preserve for future generations. Visitors from populated areas of England and the central belt of Scotland are always blown away by what they can when they get into the wilds under a moonless sky. Under the right conditions you can see over 5000 stars out here, compared to just a few hundred from urban areas. ”
“For visitors to the South Loch Ness area I recommend just heading out to some high vantage points, killing your lights and letting your eyes dark adapt. You’ll be amazed when you look up. You can also head up to Abriachan where there’s good access and parking for larger groups of stargazers”. “When the moon is new you can see breathtaking views of the Milky Way galaxy soaring overhead – a humbling reminder that we’re just a tiny part of a giant spiral galaxy surrounded by billions of other stellar companions.”
“Because of our northerly latitude (57 degrees north) we also have the privilege of witnessing many circumpolar constellations – stars that are always above the horizon. This lets us become more familiar with specific groupings like the two bears Ursa Major and Ursa Minor and rich constellations like Perseus, Draco, Auriga and Cassiopeia. During the winter months the shorter days up here also lend themselves to extended opportunities for observing. It’s a rewarding pastime that makes the cold and long winter nights much more inviting.’