Join me tomorrow evening for the launch event of the 2021 Hebridean Dark Skies Festival, where I’ll be offering some tips on what to see in February’s night skies. You can pick up your free tickets to the online stream from An Lanntair here.
I’ll also be featuring in a live discussion about the festival and Scotland’s dark skies this Sunday morning on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland Radio show. Tune in from about 9.30am.
“Hebridean Dark Skies Festival online launch event is tomorrow night at 7pm! If you’ve already booked a free ticket we’ll be sending you a weblink shortly. If you haven’t, reserve your place now for a guided virtual tour of our Lumen exhibition, Highland Astronomy on what to see in the night sky in February, musician Renzo Spiteri on his festival commission, and more.” – An Lanntair
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.