The aurora over Ceannabeinne Beach on the north coast by photographer Graham Bradshaw
Despite the stormy conditions earlier in the evening, skies cleared up beautifully at Abriachan on Saturday night for Star Stories.
Graham Bradshaw of Graham Bradshaw Photography was our guest speaker, talking about his fascinating experiences hunting and photographing aurora in some of the wildest and remotest parts of the Scottish highlands. His talk included practical advice on seeking out aurora in the north of Scotland (which is much more prevalent than you might think), as well as showing many beautiful still images and stunning time lapses captured all over the highlands and further afield.
Photographer Graham Bradshaw
Meanwhile I took two groups out stargazing and managed about 20 minutes of clear skies during the first outing until we were rained off by a very brief shower. After heading back inside I switched to my backup slide deck on the science of aurora, talking about how the differential rotation of stars causes kinks in their magnetic fields, ultimately leading to the coronal mass ejections that produce the aurora.
I got a nice capture of the Andromeda galaxy over the forest classroom (left), and a passing satellite. This giant galaxy is over 2.5 million lights years away just visible naked eye. It looks even more impressive in binoculars.
By the time Graham had finished his first talk, skies had cleared again and my second group had a much longer excursion under the stars.
As usual we took in broad sweeps of the night sky with the wonderful agility of binocular observing, hitting targets like the Orion nebula, Hyades and Pleiades star clusters, the Andromeda galaxy, Beehive cluster as well as numerous bright and massive red and blue giant stars. The Milky Way was also clearly on display, even with the presence of an enchanting crescent Moon hanging in the South West. We also saw Mars sitting above the Moon and had a go at finding Uranus (currently observable in the same binocular field as Mars).
During both streams Suzann Barr did some video interviews with some of the younger stargazers who’ve become regulars at the events, and captured feedback on our Star Stories wall chart. Overall it was another great evening with good feedback from participants.
Our next event in March will be the last dark sky observing session for this season as skies begin to brighten. The theme for this event will be galaxies, and I’ll have a backup presentation prepared on this topic should skies prove unfavourable. There’s only a few tickets left available on Eventbrite here.
Another good catch in my camera, this time the Milky Way in the region of Perseus, with the double cluster clearly visible on the left.