Dark Sky December at Abriachan

Join me on December 17th up at Abriachan Forest (a Dark Sky Discovery site) for an evening of stargazing and storytelling under Moonless dark skies.

If conditions are clear I’ll guide you under Abriachan’s Milky Way class dark skies (with a backup indoor astronomy presentation if clouds roll in).

Meanwhile we welcome our first guest storyteller of the season. Local gael Fiona Macdonald will lead the campfire storytelling section of the evening with tales steeped in Highland folklore.

Due to site and classroom capacity, booking via Eventbrite is essential. Admission is free for under 16s with accompanying adults but please inform Abriachan of any large booking requests.

For driections to the forest classroom please follow directions to Abriachan Forest Classroom here: https://www.abriachan.org.uk/environment/

Tickets are available on Eventbrite here.

Moon, Fox and Fire at Abriachan Forest!

Thanks to everyone who came up to Abriachan Forest on Saturday evening for our Moon, Fox & Fire event.

We had lovely clear skies for close up telescopic views of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn through our big 200m reflector. Plus naked naked eye views of Mars and many bright stars. The clear conditions also allowed me to setup my video telescope for ultra close up views of the lunar surface projected onto an outdoor screen.

Abriachan headed up the campfire storytelling section afterwards, with some stealthy stealing games with the young fire guardians! As every my wife Judith prepared the home bakes with some very popular sticky toffee pudding cakes.

Our next event is ‘Dark Sky December’ on Dec 17th. Eventbrite links will go up soon.

November Star Stories at Abriachan Forest

Waxing crescent Moon at Abriachan Forest

Join us up at Abriachan Forest on November 4th for our first event of the 2022 Stargazing season – ‘Moon, Planets and Fox & Fire!’

To kick off the winter series our first event will be a Moon and Planet special with the waxing gibbous Moon, Jupiter and Saturn on display for live binoculor and telescope observing guided by astronomer Stephen Mackintosh. If skies are poor Stephen will instead present an indoor talk in the forest classroom on the history of lunar and planetary observing, going back to the earliest ideas our ancestors had about the Moon and Wandering Stars.

In addition the Abriachan team will present ‘Fox and Fire’ storytelling around the campfire with refreshments provided.

Due to site and classroom capacity, booking via Eventbrite is essential. Admission is free for under 16s with accompanying adults but please inform Abriachan of any large booking requests.

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite HERE.

Winter Solstice Astronomy Outreach

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A captivating Clelland in full swing over the fire

Following the fantastic summer solstice  gathering last June we decided to add an astronomy themed winter solstice event to the Star Stories programme up at Abriachan.

Instead of stargazing the event was billed as a ‘Solstice and Moon night’, as I quickly realised the almost full Moon would be prominent in the sky and wash away significant views of the Milky Way and fainter galaxies and clusters.

As it was the evening was a fantastic success, with a bright mid winter Moon powering through some scattered light clouds and offering us lovely views of its surface via binoculars and video telescope.

 

 

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Before the Moon observing I presented a short indoor talk on the cultural and observational significance of the solstice, linking in various older mid winter traditions such as Saturnalia and Yuletide and outlining the folk connections with modern Christmas.

We also examined the importance of mid winter markers for the ancient settlers of high northern latitudes, where pitifully short days and long winters no doubt motivated a collective and religious celebration of the ‘turning point’ of the Sun’s midday altitude and its rising and setting points.  We followed this with a look at various solar aligned prehistoric monuments like Stonehenge and, much closer to home, the wonderful Clava Cairns which I visited recently with my family on Christmas Eve.

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Presenting my solstice talk before we stepped outside to observe the Moon

After the talk we moved outside to observe the Moon in binoculars and video telescope, with the aid of an outdoor projector and screen I had setup earlier.  The giant screen allowed everyone to see some of the striking features on the lunar surface up close and personal, like Tycho’s crater, the Apennine Mountains and various seas including the famous Sea of Tranquility where the first Apollo astronauts landed.

Meanwhile, Clelland took the second group into the forest for some dramatic campfire storytelling.  This evening he told a solstice inspired Celtic tale involving the mythological hero figure King Arthur, who some think may be connected with Welsh folk legend.  Participants also gathered up and tied together clumps of herbs to burn in the fire as they made new year wishes, another old winter tradition practiced in the Highlands and further afield.

 

 

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Feedback on this one has been great and we may well followup with a March Equinox event.  We’re also seeing many returning families and enthusiastic youngsters, which is fantastic.  Going forward Suzann and I will endeavour to capture some film interviews from some of the keenest young astronomers, recording their thoughts and feedback on their learning experience for future dissemination.

All pictures in this piece (aside from the Moon picture) are courtesy Abriachan Forest Trust.