Stargazing is winding down for the year in the far north of Scotland. Today is the last day with official ‘night’ this far north at 57 degrees latitude (Inverness). Between 1.00am and 1.27am tonight you can experience just over 20 mins of night. By tomorrow this will be gone, replaced by astronomical twilight. And by mid May we’ll have lost our astronomical twilight as well.
Orkney and Shetland have already lost all night and are rapidly running out of astronomical twilight.
The further south you live, however, the more darkness you still hold on to. Around Glasgow and Edinburgh you still have 2 hours 30 mins of night (currently from midnight until 2.27am). And at London latitudes you still have a whopping 4 hours and 20 minutes. (from 10.50pm until 3.10am).
As we head into the summer days I’ll be shifting the focus of the page towards the Sun, Moon, bright planets, noctilucent clouds and the near midnight Sun phenomena we experience during the long days from May until August.
Here’s hoping for lots of clear and sunny skies.
Picture: Sunset over Ben Wyvis from the Bunchrew shoreline.
*Night is defied as the Sun sitting 18 degrees below the horizon (see accompanying picture from timeanddate)
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.
In the north of Scotland we’re about four days away from losing all astronomical twilight and entering a period of sustained ‘nautical twilight’.
During this time the centre of the Sun’s disk never dips more than 12 degrees below the horizon, rendering our clear night skies a dark azure blue, with only the Moon, planets and brightest stars visible after midnight.
This will continue until mid July when astronomical twilight finally reappears.
Contrast this with London, where astronomical twilight continues right through mid summer, producing much darker night skies, but arguably less beautiful and prolonged sunsets.
We’re leaving astronomical twilight behind for several months here in the north of Scotland
Significantly darker night skies persist through mid summer in southern England. Here’s the contrasting data for London.
You might notice the nights seem to be pulling in quickly at the moment. This isn’t your imagination. We’re in a period of greater daylight change as we approach the Autumn equinox on September 22nd.
At the moment the Sun is setting around 20 mins earlier each week. Compare that to July when Sunset times were only changing by around 5 mins per week, and almost no noticable change over the summer solstice on June 21st.
Of course this is great news for stargazers, with astronomical twilight now kicking in around 9.50pm meaning your late night forays under clear skies will reveal increasing numbers of stars and fainter nebulae.
For seekers of dark skies this month’s new moon is September 9th so binoculars, cameras and telescopes at the ready.