One of the objects we observed was the star forming nebula in Orion’s sword, imaged here by local aurora hunter and photographer Chris Cogan.
I had a fun astronomy outreach session with pupils and parents from Aldourie Primary near Loch Ness on Friday evening. At 6pm kick off we saw some captivating glimpses of dazzling Venus before it set below the tree line.
Due to initially changeable weather we moved between my indoor presentation and outdoor stargazing, but ended up getting a brilliant spell under the stars mid session.
Despite its relative closeness to Inverness skies are dark enough out here to see the Milky Way very clearly.
Lots of the youngsters (and parents) tried their hand at binocular stargazing for the first time, peering at open star clusters, double stars, the Orion nebula and Andromeda galaxy.
If you’d like to book an outreach session for your school please message me on my facebook site, Highland Astronomy.
The main constellations were visible over the Merkinch nature reserve in the west of Inverness, and even a hint of Milky Way.
We had a great evening at the Merkinch Urban Astronomy gathering tonight. Big thanks to Dr Anthony Luke for delivering a fascinating talk on the chemistry of stars and supernovas. We learnt all about the synthesis of elements and compounds forged in the heart of stars.
Afterwards we were rewarded with clear skies, so I led a group up to the nature reserve for a blustery stargazing session over the Beauly Firth.
Overlooking the water we had lovely views of Orion, the Pleiades and even a hint of the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy.
The next event is an Aurora Special on Feb 20th with guest Graham Bradshaw.
I’m looking forward to delivering my guest talk on Island Universes for the Highlands Astronomical Society on Jan 7th. This is a repeat of a talk I presented at the 2019 Inverness Science Festival.
Start time is 7.15pm at the Smithton-Culloden Free Church, Murray Road, Smithton, IV2 7YU. Open to all members of the public and free entry for new visitors.
Please find full event details here.
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.
Just before lights down. Ready for our journey into the multiverse with astronomer Steve Owens tonight at Abriachan Forest.
We had another fantastic Star Stories session up at Abriachan Forest on Saturday evening, with guest astronomer and author Steve Owen’s taking over my normal astronomy duties with a captivating talk on the multiverse.
Massive thanks to Steve for driving all the way up from Glasgow and delivering two back to back talks due to the fantastic turnout.
Meanwhile Clelland captivated young and old with his dramatic stories up in the Round house. Helpfully, we now all know how to spot a Kelpie!
My wife Judith also put on a great display of creative baking (with help from my younger girls Violet and Nellie) – producing a wonderful array of multiverse inspired cakes. I wonder if Kip Thorne would approve the final product?
We’ve got two further events in December to look forward to. Dec 11th is Astronomy from the Moon with guest Pof. Martin Hendry, followed by our dark sky Solstice special on the 21st with best selling author and guest storyteller John Burns.
With binocular stargazing and outdoor astronomy if skies are clear.
Please click for Dec 11th ticket link and Dec 21st ticket link.
One of the most stunning images ever take of Saturn by the Cassini space probe – the planet backlit by the distant Sun, with the normally faint E ring glowing in a blue halo of light.
At the kick off for the new Merkinch Nature Reserve astronomy programme tonight, I got to talk about one of my favourite planets of all time – Saturn and its mind blowing ring system.
The dynamics of the rings are so subtle and complex. Some of the gaps in the rings are made by moonlets clearing paths, whilst other moons are actually replenishing the rings.
The small moon Enceladus is a fascinating example. It’s spewing out frozen ice from its south pole due to tidal heating, effectively generating Saturn’s faint E ring (the faint blue outer ring pictured above).
Enceladus, a small icy Moon with a salty internal ocean. Tidal stresses imparted by Saturn produce great jets of water from the southern pole of Enceladus, which instantly freeze, adding icy material to Saturn’s E ring.
You could sit on a moonlet of Saturn and watch the rings forming little wavelets in real time around you. Some of the larger rings actually wash back and forth like waves on a giant ocean.
Many of the smaller moonlets orbiting Saturn have a polished or smooth aspect to them. This is due to fine particulates from the rings being drawn towards them due to gravity, effectively power coating the surface and covering over any craters or blemishes. This accretion of material onto the moons has been imaged by Cassini.
We had great turnout for the kickoff. The next event is a Moon special on Nov 7th. Look out for eventbrite links here on on my Facebook page.
The tiny moon Pan, clearing a path through Saturn’s rings. Its gravity is strong enough to produce beautiful ripples within the rings. As it orbits, Pan receives a fine power coating of frozen dust from the rings lending the moonlet a smooth, polished appearance.