Stargazing at the End of Night

Sunset over Glen Docherty

This was me on the road and heading into the western Highlands last Saturday for my final stargazing gig of the season with the Woodland Trust.  

Skies this far north will shortly be too bright to stargaze with only Astronomical Twilight levels of darkness left near midnight and no official ‘night’ again until mid to late August. So do get out while you still can.  Of course the further south you are the less impacted you will be by this ‘near’ midnight Sun.

I had an eventful stargazing session with the Woodland Trust who were based at the Torridon for several nights. We first headed outside at about 10.30pm to view the crescent Moon with binoculars during early twilight skies – still too bright to see many stars apart from brilliant Arcturus.

The spring star Arcturus ‘Bear Watcher’ was bright enough to see in early twilight during our Moon gazing session.

After heading back inside for more projector based astronomy we ventured outside once more after 11pm and were fortunate to see a decent collection of bright stars and constellations despite some hazy cloud overhead.

Vega, Capella, Arcturus and Spica were all visible, in addition to the main stars in the Plough. I’d like to thank the Woodland Trust for inviting me and wish them well in their rewilding endeavours across the Highlands.

Tales of the Moon with Catherine Heymans

Stargazing and Moon Observing with Scotland’s Astronomer Royal Catherine Heymans.

Join me up at Abriachan Forest (a Dark Sky Discovery site) for an evening of stargazing, Moon observing and astronomy with our special guest Scotland’s astronomer royal Catherine Heymans.

If skies are clear Catherine and local astronomer Stephen Mackintosh will host an outdoor Moon observing session with binoculars and telescope. Following this Catherine will present her indoor guest talk titled “Do Look up! Space Rocks and Killer Asteroids”

Refreshments provided plus binoculars for stargazing. Under 16s with accompanying adults go free. 

Catherine Heymans is the Astronomer Royal for Scotland and Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Edinburgh. She’s also director of the German Centre for Cosmological Lensing at the Ruhr-University Bochum. She is an experienced science communicator, visiting schools across Scotland, in addition to art, music, comedy, philosophy and science festivals.

Tickets are available via Eventbrite or my Facebook page.

Moon Formation

Modelling suggests the Earth came very close to having a pair of smaller Moons.

According to simulations by Canup and Ida (2014) the Earth came very close to hosting two smaller Moon’s (right) rather than the large single Moon we ended up with (left).

This fascinating ‘what if’ modelling is based on the giant impact hypothesis. A faster rate of rotation of the post impact disk is the main requirement for a two Moon system to take hold.

Of course multiple moon system are very common. Saturn for example has an abundance of them, with the most recent count totalling 82 orbiting bodies.

Colour Image: Artist’s impression of an alien world with two moons by Angela Harburn.

June 10th Solar Eclipse

Re-sharing some of the wonderful solar eclipse images posted to the community section of my Facebook page today.

Thank you so much for sharing and joining the marathon livestream earlier today, which had a reach of over a quarter of a million on Facebook.

Inverness turned out to be one of the best places to see today’s partial solar eclipse.

You can watch the livestream again here: https://fb.watch/61U_F2KS9d/

Stargazing Guide to April Skies

This took way more time than I anticipated to edit but it was great fun putting together with my friend Steve Owens. I hope you enjoy this more conversational style look at the stars.

It’s a good 30 minutes long so best grab yourself a brew or beverage of choice and get comfortable for this one.

Discussions in this episode include:

1. A farewell look at Orion and nearby stars and clusters

2. The crescent Moon in mid April

3. Planet Mars

4. Leo and the double star Algeiba

5. Northern skies and Polaris

6. The M81 and M82 galaxies

Happy April skywatching and stargazing!

Binocular Moon

Here’s a short video I edited together celebrating binocular views of our Moon. All footage was shot using a simple tripod mounted binocular setup and captured via mobile phone (so pretty low resolution). I especially love observing the Moon emerging from layers of clouds – something we’re in no short supply of here in Scotland.I hope you enjoy it. Music kindly provided by Rising Galaxy at Cosmicleaf Records

Observing the Moon

Here’s a video (with some voice over) I shot last night when out Moon gazing from my back garden.

I never ever regret the tiny effort and time investment involved in digging out my binoculars or telescope to have a look at the Moon.

Clear skies.