Night Shining Clouds

Lots of wonderful Night Shining Clouds sighted up in the Highlands of Scotland recently. These Polar Mesospheric Clouds are over 50 miles overhead and are lit by the Sun grazing below the northern horizon during mid summer. You need to be between about 50 and 65 degrees north or south of the equator to see them.

Tribute to Graham Bell – Skywatcher and Night Sky Photographer

I have some very sad news to share with regular followers of my blog and facebook page. Graham Bell, a prolific skywatcher and incredibly talented night sky photographer, passed away on Wednesday the 21st of April. He was only 35 years old and leaves behind a deeply saddened family including two young boys.

Graham posted so many images to my page and frequently messaged me with follow up pictures, time lapses and general chat about the night sky. He generously let me use many of his compositions during astronomy presentations and I suspect he inspired many people who follow this blog and page with his wonderful pictures.

He was latterly living in Inverurie but always reminded me that he was a proud Ross-shire boy, having been raised in Muir of Ord in the Scottish Highlands.

I’ve put together a medley of some of Graham’s images as a mark of respect, and I’d like to thank Graham’s dad David for calling me yesterday to share the sad news.

There’s definitely something timeless about looking up at the night sky and I’d like to think that some part of Graham will always be looking up, camera at the ready. RIP Graham.

Comet NEOWISE

Bright comet alert. Comet NEOWISE has caught many skywatchers by surprise. There’s now naked eye reports of it in early morning skies across much of northern Europe and north America. This image was snapped a few mornings ago by Paul Sutherland @suthers from Walmer on the SE tip of England.

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NEOWISE imaged by Paul Sutherland @suthers from Walmer, England

Or check out this incredible time-lapse of sunrise with Comet NEOWISE (with Noctilucent clouds) by Martin Heck (Insta @martin_heck) from Bayern, Munich

Observing Guide

A quick guide to locating Comet NEOWISE, valid for northern Europe and north America.

Time: You’ll need to stay up late or rise early and ideally be in position between midnight and 3am. Too early and the comet will be too low on the horizon. Too late the Sun will have risen too much, washing the comet out.  At the moment of writing 2am is probably a good optimal time to aim for, although this will change over the coming days and weeks.

Direction: The direction you need to look in from direct N (around midnight) to NNE (in early dawn skies). If visible you could use the bright star Capella in Auriga as a rough reference.

Equipment: Many observers in Europe claim to have see the comet naked eye. This might be possible but your best chance will be with binoculars. Any pair will do, they don’t need to be fancy astronomy binoculars. Low power and wide field is always best for viewing comets.

Clear skies and good luck.

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Changing Sunset Position

 

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Changing position of Sunrise from a fixed location over a year

The changing position of Sunrise throughout a year from a fixed location. The further north or south of the equator we live the more extreme our seasonal changes and the bigger shifts we perceive in the sunrise or sunset position during the year.  In such harsh and changing seasons it would also have been the more important for ancient cultures to mark the seasons.

Using the landscape to mark the seasons like this is called a horizon calendar. But what if your horizons are flat and featureless, or you require more accuracy, or you’re a powerful priest and wish to theatricise important changes in time?

Then ‘perhaps’ you construct an artificial horizon by placing large stones to mark the progress of the Sun – a henge.

Photo Credit: Zaid Alabbdi

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.

Solstice Sunsets

Video from the shores of Bunchrew looking over Ben Wyvis, panning from the north west to north east

The sunsets in the Highlands of Scotland are some of the best in the world when conditions are right, especially around the solstice when the setting Sun grazes just 8 degree below the northern horizon producing mesmerising night long sky glow.

On June 22nd I camped out at the Bunchrew shoreline with my daughter Violet and managed to capture some video and still images of the sunset looking north towards Ben Wyvis.  Footage captured around 10.45pm.

 

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