Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category
What an amazing night! After a few days of muggy, misty, cloudy and damp conditions, the forecast was for a clear night, the temperature perhaps getting down to freezing. I began looking forward to taking some photographs of some planets, perhaps some star trails and other possibilities. After much thought I decided to head out to Burra because I wanted some interest in the landscape and I knew just the place to get some domestic lights and streetlights as well as some nice areas of sea that I hoped the quarter moon would illuminate. But before I left home I was pleased to see Mercury above the hill at the back of us. Later, I also had a good view of Mars in the opposite direction, its distinctive red colour making it an easy sight.
Wow, I was not to be disappointed at my chosen spot in Burra! Not only did the moon help to illuminate the sea and the landscape but I could also see Foula on one set of photographs. That was the set that I hope will make a nice timelapse of Venus and Jupiter. But, more than all that, no sooner than I was there but I could sense the aurora and, as my eyes adapted I could see it too. So I set up my other camera facing over Lang Sound and was delighted to get some nice aurora shots and a cool green reflection in the Sound. As you can see it was mostly the auroral oval but there were also some beams and rays and a very brief period where the oval folded into a curtain. I also now see on some of the photos that there were some overhead forms too, though I didn’t notice at the time. As you can see, the lights were not very strong tonight and, of course, the camera sees much than the human eye but they still inspire me and I’m really glad I was in a great position to see them – I never tire of seeing the mirrie dancers.
Some landscape shots taken this month, together with a couple of flash mobs for good luck! First, are 4 shots of the Moon and Jupiter from early in the month. Next, a couple of snow scenes in Lerwick, followed by the Moon, partially eclipsed. A sunset and the Moon again, this time just before dawn, are followed by the Sandyburn Singers, who “flash mobbed” the Toll Clock shopping centre, and shoppers rushing to get their Christmas shopping completed just before Christmas. The calm before the storm at St Ninian’s and Breiwick are followed by another “flash mob” of young people from all over Shetland putting on a dance act at the Market Cross on the last late night shopping night before Christmas. Christmas Day raged a wild storm that caused some damage throughout the Isles, this garden was wrecked at our friends’ house in Nederdale. Off over to Burra for the next and all but the last photo. A rope at Meal, follwed by the sea washing over the coast at Lottra Minn and the Kame of the Riven Noup. Last one is the sun, showing (from L-R) sunspots 1389, 1388 1386 and 1384.
I posted these photos on my Facebook page earlier this week and they generated a lot of interest and a request from my dear friend Marjolein that I post them here to make them more widely available – so here they are! Most of them are on my main website but they aren’t yet together as a group yet! Anyway the story behind this post follows and I tried to pick an appropriate image for each “Wonder”.
There has been quite a lot of positive publicity about Shetland at the moment and the Auld Rock is riding high and I thought “why not put together a 5 wonders of Shetland album?” “Why 5?” you may ask. Well, I’m sure I could have made it 7 but that might come later! So here goes. It’s already well known that Up Helly-Aa is Europe’s biggest fire festival; with the growth of the internet this fame has spread far and wide and it’s regularly featured and recommended in the media worldwide. The most recent accolade is in Up Helly-Aa being chosen as the best winter festival in Europe, according to Wanderlust. Also last week Islesburgh Youth Hostel was chosen as the best youth hostel in the world by Hostelling International; that’s an exceptional achievement in itself but comes on top of coming runner up last year! Talking of last year, the Shetland Folk Festival was crowned Event of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards. This year will be the 32nd Shetland Folk Festival and plans are already well ahead to make it another fantastic festival
Moving to natural wonders, anybody who has seen a television over at least the past decade must know by now that Shetland has some of the best opportunities for viewing wildlife anywhere. When, 20-odd years ago I started telling folk that Shetland is of worldwide importance and a global destination for landscape and wildlife eyebrows were raised. When I said it was as important as the Galapagos I found few who openly agreed. But pose that question today to Promote Shetland, or any of the highly successful companies providing wildlife and visitor experiences to Shetland and they will all tell you that’s precisely what their clients think and why they come. Whether it’s orcas or marine wildlife generally; stunning seabird cities or mega-rare vagrants; or the humble mountain hare, there’s always something to see. Also on the natural wonders front is that elusive phenomenon Aurora borealis, aka northern lights, or “Mirrie Dancers” in Shetland. Perhaps less well known outside Shetland is the fact that this is one of the best places in the UK for viewing the northern lights! Wow – it’s just awesome! And there are loads more things to see and do too. Have a look at some of the wildlife, landscape and night galleries over at my main website Austin Taylor Photography for some inspiration or just browse the stock images gallery to get an overall flavour.
Here again are the 5 photos I posted to my Facebook Page in celebration of these wonders.
Shetland was the only place in the UK where it was theoretically possible to see today’s total lunar eclipse. I say “theoretically possible” because, here in Lerwick there was just 4 minutes from moonrise to end of totality and keen moon observers will know that is a challenge in ideal conditions – i.e. dark; but sunset was at almost exactly the same time so it was still quite light. One could have gained a few minutes by travelling to Shetland’s northernmost point (both earlier moonrise and earlier sunset) and I would have considered doing that but for one other factor – rain and cloud, both of which were in plentiful supply during the day! However, forecasters were suggesting a “50% chance” of a clear view – a suggestion that was heavily reported by local and national media.
I set up my camera in a place just outside town with a view of the horizon down to sea level in good time but wasn’t optimistic – it was still fairly light but, more importantly, there was quite thick cloud on the horizon – though there was a patch of blue sky above. Sure enough, from just before three till well after there was no sign of the moon – so I didn’t see totality. However, about 3:20 PM I caught a tiny glimpse of the moon and, over the next half-hour or so I was given increasingly good views of the advancing partial lunar eclipse until it again disappeared, first behind hazy clouds and then a more dense blanket, rapidly followed by rain. Not a patch on last year’s total lunar eclipse but nonetheless a very nice sight.