I’m very much looking forward to partnering with Callanish Stones & Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust and An Lanntair to deliver a live stargazing talk from the famous Callanish stones on the Isle of Lewis. This event is part of the 2021 Hebridean Dark Sky Festival
Join us from the comfort of your own home – or outdoors – for a fascinating insight into the night sky.
Stephen Mackintosh (Highland Astronomy) is a freelance astronomer, night sky photographer and STEM educator based in the Highlands of Scotland. He delivers public outreach astronomy talks, tours, and private stargazing events at select dark sky locations around the Inverness area and wider Highlands.
Stephen will be on hand to answer any questions you have, from ancient astronomy to what you can see in the night sky right now.
I’m very much looking forward to a return to the inky dark skies over the Isle of Lewis next February for the Hebridean Dark Sky Festival. The full lineup and details are available from organisers An Lanntair.
I’ve been reminiscing about last year’s festival, when I toured Lewis delivering outreach to a collection of remote communities under some of the best dark skies you’ll find anywhere. You can read my short account from last February on my blog page here. I look forward to more of the same in 2021, travelling to some new locations on the island.
“Thou lingering star, with less’ning ray,
That lov’st to greet the early morn…”
After last night I’m convinced Rabbie Burns did all his stargazing with a delicious wrap of haggis in hand.
Haggis hand warmers and Clelland’s address from last night’s sellout Dark Sky Burns event. Big thanks to the Abriachan team for the Burn’s supper fare.
Due to inclement skies the astronomy moved indoors I got to talk in some detail about the planet Venus and its harsh environment. A fascinating place that surely deserves more attention in the future, not least for its potential to harbour microbial life in its more clement upper atmosphere.
Why not try looking at Venus through a telescope or a pair of stabalised binoculars? You should be able to make out its phase, just as Galileo did when he first gazed up at it back in 1610.
I had the privilege of visiting Snowdonia this summer for a family camp in a beautiful river valley near Maentwrog. During the evenings I managed a bit of stargazing before moonrise and captured a few bright constellations over the Welsh hills.
Cassiopeia over the Welsh hills
I also captured a lovely close pairing between the Moon and the planet Jupiter.
Jupiter sits serenely below the waxing gibbous Moon
The highlight, however, was witnessing a beautiful partial eclipse of the Moon on Tuesday evening at around 11pm.
I took these pictures and a short video using my smartphone anchored to a simple pair of 8×40 binoculars (mounted for stability). The eclipse was already underway when the Moon rose into view and continued until well after midnight.
Amidst a very busy schedule last month I managed to head out to Roseisle (along the Moray coast) for some observing and a wild camp. My original mission was to try and catch a geomagnetic storm predicted by the MET office space weather forecasts. As it happened the promised aurora didn’t arrive but I did manage to get some photos of the starry skies that opened up on Saturday night, starting with the International Space Station.
Not the most fantastic ISS shot but I only had about 20 seconds to set up after running down the dunes to capture the pass!. The station is actually travelling from west to east here, towards Sirius (bright star on left)
From there I took a number of pictures hoping to capture some aurora, but instead imaging the crisp starry skies. I’ll let the photos do the talking from here – please read the caption notes.
This image of the Plough (minus Alkaid) was snapped while I was still under the trees, on my approach to the beach. You can clearly see the naked eye double star Mizar-Alcor at the bottom of the image. The main stars in the Plough are roughly 100 lights years away. Our Sun would not be visible naked eye if placed this far away which tells us something about the scale and luminosity of these titan stars.
Looking north towards Burghead where I hoped to capture some aurora. Instead I picked up the rich star fields within the Milky Way near Cassiopeia.
One of many passing satellites.
An interesting shot looking north west. The bright white light is the Portmahomack lighthouse and the orange light pollution on the right is likely from Helmsdale. Perhaps the most interesting feature in this photo is the faint smudge of light in the top left. That’s the Andromeda galaxy – a separate spiral galaxy (larger than our Milky Way) over 2.5 million light years away.
A lovely crescent Moon hung in the West for most of the evening
We enjoyed another superb evening of stargazing and storytelling up at Abriachan Forest last Saturday – the last dark sky session until stargazing returns in October 2019.
There were beautiful crisp skies all evening long, allowing me to guide both groups outside for views of the Milky Way and numerous open star clusters like the Hyades, Pleiades, Beehive and the stunning double cluster in Perseus.
We also studied the Orion star forming nebula, the great spiral galaxy in Andromeda and some fainter galaxies in Ursa Major (M81 and M82), and even had a go at sighting the triplet of galaxies in Leo, which some of the keen eyed youngsters successfully glimpsed in the 8×40 binoculars.
Clelland was also back in action with the story of Arden and the birth of Merlin in the roundhouse.
Thanks to everyone who came along. Please check my Facebook site for details of future summer events.