Aurora Borealis display from Inverness

I got lucky the other night and snapped the northern lights from my house in Inverness looking over towards the Black Isle. I was out filming for a stargazing video and noticed the bright glow naked eye.

Many people living in the north of Scotland wonder why they’ve never seen the northern lights because they’re more common than you might think.

Three of the main problems:

1. We hardly ever go outside in the cold of winter and spend so much time indoors.
2. Too much light pollution.
3. Looking in the wrong direction.

And here’s some simple solutions:

1. Get outside more and go for night walks – something I’ve been doing even more during lockdown.
2. Walk somewhere local but away from street lights. Try to get elevated – a local wood or hill perhaps.
3. Look North.

The Inverness Courier shared the image with a short story here.

2021 Hebridean Dark Sky Festival

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.

“Watch the skies! The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is to return to the Isle of Lewis in February 2021. The two-week programme will include an exhibition by astronomy-inspired artist collective Lumen; music by Kathryn Joseph and Renzo Spiteri; talks by award-winning TV presenter Dallas Campbell and renowned climate scientist Tamsin Edwards; stargazing with Highland Astronomy; a night swim with Immerse Hebrides; and lots more to be announced. Find out more by reading our news story. Thanks to CalMac Ferries and Outer Hebrides LEADER for their continued support, and to festival partners/supporters Lews Castle College UHI, Callanish Stones & Visitor Centre, Stornoway Astronomical Society, Outer Hebrides, VisitScotland, Gallan Head Community Trust, Hebridean Hopscotch Holidays and Loganair.Please note that An Lanntair has put in place stringent systems to help mitigate risks from COVID-19 in its building and across its activities to keep staff and the public safe. Details can be found at https://lanntair.com/visit-us-safely/. A Coronavirus Risk Assessment specific to the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will be in place for the event. Stornoway Gazettewelovestornoway.comEVENTS: what’s happening in Lewis + Harris

Milky Way Images

117816607_2674469136123355_8845601533957390690_n

The Milky Way over the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis.  Jupiter and Saturn can be seen in this shot low above the horizon. By Emma Rennie of Callanish Digital Design.  www.callanishdigitaldesign.com

117707107_2674469192790016_589110737947079557_n

Another stunning Milky Way shot by Christopher Cogan taken from Muie in Sutherland in the far north of Scotland.

Two stunning Milky Way images taken last night from the Scottish Highlands (and Islands). Both show the bright region of the Milky Way in the vicinity of the Summer Triangle, looking south.

If you imagine our Milky Way as a vast disk of stars, these views are peering further ‘into’ the disk, where the density of stars and stellar matter is greater, and hence brighter. Contrast this with the fainter regions we see in Winter near Orion, when we peer ‘out’ of the galactic disk.

The dark lanes you can see are part of the Cygnus Rift – a region containing vast clouds of dust that obscure some of the light from the billions of stars in the background.

With the Moon well out of the way and proper darkness returning late at night, now is a great time to go out and see the Milky Way for yourself.

Stargazing at the Torridon with Giles and Monica

Screenshot 2020-07-22 at 16.43.11

Discussing the dark skies in the west of Scotland with Giles and Monica in the hotel lobby

There’s a short section at the end tonight’s Amazing Hotels on BBC 2, where I take Giles Coren and Monica Galetti out into the dark skies near the Torridon to go stargazing. 🌟🌟

DSC_0022

Star fields galore from the grounds of the hotel

The skies that evening were incredibly vibrant with the Milky Way clearly visible. The night time camera footage doesn’t really do the views justice, but I think the BBC team captured the magic of our night under the stars really well.

What you won’t know from the footage is that Giles laced the hot chocolate with a generous dose of single malt whiskey!

Screenshot 2020-07-22 at 16.29.22.png

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.

The Astronomy of Ancient Places (Livestream talk)

84610105_2901007936645966_7945854819481157632_n.jpg

In view of recent developments my contribution to this years Inverness Science Festival will be a free live streamed talk.  Please visit my Highland Astronomy facebook page for more details:

Astronomer Stephen Mackintosh will take you back in time to discover how our distant ancestors used the Sun, Moon and stars to track the progress of time and the seasons. Looking at ancient monuments connected to the night sky, we’ll go on a tour of Egypt, Central America, southern England and back home to Scotland where some of the finest concentrations of neolithic structures exist anywhere in Europe, not least the wonderful Clava Cairns. Plus advice on sky watching and naked eye observing you can put into practice yourself.

Note: this event is free and will be live streamed online as part of the Inverness Science Festival’s adjusted programme.

Stephen Mackintosh’s blog: modulouniverse.com
Image by Callanish Digital Design: callanishdigitaldesign.com