The Cygnus region of the Milky Way at Abriachan Forest on the Winter Solstice 2019
We had a great Solstice gathering under starry skies up at Abriachan Forest this evening.
A big thanks to author John Burns for presenting a trio of captivating tales around the campfire. John was still under the weather with a bad cold on the night yet soldiered on to deliver two sessions of engaging storytelling.
Best selling author and storyteller John Burns took some of his books along to the evening.
We also enjoyed a mesmerising display of fire dancing from Lesley Brown who kicked off proceedings and provided more entertainment during the changeover. Suzann’s mulled juice and mince pies were also greatly appreciated.
Fire dancing with Lesley Brown
Skies were so good I decided to sideline my talk on the astronomy of ancient architecture, and was instead able to deliver outdoor stargazing all evening long, Highlights included zipping meteors, the Orion constellation, the Andromeda galaxy, numerous star clusters and a bright and vibrant Milky Way overhead.
Star Stories continues in the new year. Look out for the next set of booking links on my Facebook site.
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.
Solstice celebrations up at Abriachan tonight. We had a nature walk and talk up to the Shieling above Loch Ness, with Suzann, Christine and Clelland imparting plant and flower lore at various points up the trail. From the top we learnt all about Shieling life, dairying and got to sample some simple crofting fare.
I then presented a short talk on the Solstice and its astronomical significance, culminating in a human henge to illustrate the changing seasons, rising and setting Sun points and how the ancient Celtic people marked off their Wheel of Time.
We just managed to catch a lovely sunset from the top of the hill before making the trek back down.
The Star Stories events will be resuming in October with another event in collaboration with the Highland Archaeology Festival. Look out for programme details as they emerge.
Happy Solstice! Official time off the solstice today is at 3.54pm GMT when the north pole of the earth is maximally inclined towards the Sun.
In the north of Scotland we currently experience over 18 hours of daylight and no true night at all, as the Sun dips a mere -8 degrees below the horizon at its lowest point at 1.20am.
Official sunset time today is 22.20pm when the Sun will be at its greatest setting extremity towards the North. This is where the term Solstice comes from, Sol -Sistere, or Sun Standstill. The point when the Sun reaches its maximum declination in the sky or its furthest rising and setting points north of east and west on the horizon.
The situation is reversed for out friends in the Southern hemisphere of the planet who are currently marking the winter solstice.
Clear skies if you head out to take in the setting Sun!
Come and join us for an outdoor walk and talk to the Sheilings above Loch Ness. Learn about summer plant lore and old dairying activities from Abriachan’s Suzann and Christine as we walk up the hill.
Once we reach the Shieling local astronomer Stephen Mackintosh will give a talk on ancient astronomy and how many cultures would mark the solstices in days gone by.
Some traditional refreshments will be available at the top after the walk (30 mins uphill).
Meet: Friday 21st June after the Abriachan Highland Games at 8.30pm.
Park at the fank carpark NH559348. For detailed directions please advance email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01463 861236. All ages welcome.
Tickets available via Eventbrite.
Due to the outdoor nature of this event it may be cancelled due to very poor weather. Please check the ‘Abriachan Community ‘or ‘Highland Astronomy’ Facebook pages for details on the day. This event is part of the Star Stories Astronomy and Storytelling programme, part funded by the STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council).
Event image rights: Karl Normington.
A few weeks either side of the summer solstice is the best time to observe ‘noctilucent’ or ‘night shining’ clouds.
These wispy collections of ice crystals are the highest clouds on Earth, located in the mesosphere up to 50 miles overhead. They’re too faint to be seen in daylight and best observed when the Sun is between -6 and -12 degrees below the horizon.
At the moment at Highland latitudes this gives you an approximate window between 11.30pm and 3am in the morning.