Saturday, August 28, 2010

Astronomy from Galloway Forest Park

Just come back from a great week in Scotland, specifically Galloway Forest Park which is noted for status as Britain's First Dark Sky Park.

Another picture here represents the same area with statistical observing information all year round

The night sky observing from this part of the world was absolutely amazing, as it offers some of the darkest skies in the world  ie very near Bortle Scale 1

The above diagram shows the gradation of night sky observing as one moves outwards from inner city areas towards suburaban and eventually to rural landscapes.

In Galloway Forest Park one can actually see The Milky Way background with the naked eye, giving the observer the opportunity to see up to 7000 stars.  A Dark-Sky Park is one where the darkness level reaches it’s lowest point on land, recorded as Bortle 2 (darkness levels of Bortle 1 are only recorded on the ocean). The result is seen in this photograph: around 7000 stars are visible from Galloway Forest Park compared to the few hundred you can see from most cities.

I can vividly remember seeking the dark lane called the Great Rift that separated the milky way galactic disk starting from the Cygnus Rift and broadening out into the galactic center near Sagittarius and tailing off into 2 separate bands, into Serpens Cauda and Sagitta respectively.

I spent most nights viewing from a Cottage in Laurieston, just on the edge of the Forest Park, with either

Naked Eye Vision
Aid of my x80 Binoculars
and once with the aid of
Jim's TAL-2 6 inch Newtonian Reflector (observational data here)
Observing the Night Sky with Jim and Astro my German Shepherd Puppy.
The night sky viewing was assited with the aid of some Old Pulteney Single Malt Scotch Whisky, from the highest mainland distillery in Wick,Scotland, a much needed dram, the early morning before our hike up Scotland's 2nd Highest Hill The Merrick

The views were splendid, and we got a clear view of the Andromeda Galaxy similar to the image shown here

An amazing sight considering it is one of the furthest objects humankind have been viewing with the naked eye, a phenomenal 2.2 Million Light Years away!
What was also amazing was chance to view some of the remaining meteors from the Perseid Meteor shower, which had already peaked a few days before our arrival

and finally some of the many satellites available to see with the unaided eye, moving against the backdrop of the fixed stars.

A great piece of software for identifying which satellites will flyby your observation area is

Location: Wolverhampton, WolLatitude: 52.6Longitude: -2.1
All times displayed are local.
SatelliteRise timeDirection to lookTransit timeMax elevationMagnitude
SL-16 R/B02:18:24 amNNW02:22:4428°3.9 (dim)
SL-16 R/B04:02:13 amNNW04:07:2481°2.0 (visible)
SL-16 R/B08:44:02 pmW08:49:0331°3.6 (dim)
ISS09:18:27 pmSSW09:20:3226°-2.0 (very bright)
Idefix and Ariane 42B10:25:20 pmSSE10:30:2861°2.3 (visible)
H-2A R/B11:11:28 pmE11:15:4145°2.8 (visible)

Note the visibility of the ISS
The International Space Station is the biggest, brightest object orbiting Earth. The station's solar arrays span 240-feet from tip to tip, almost as wide as a football field. The ISS outshines Venus; only the sun and Moon are brighter


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Everglade tours said...

Those are indeed sights to behold. It's great that this brings awareness to people of how beautiful and nice our place is.

NiteSkyGirl said...

You really have a fascinating page!! And nice scope! I'm a dobsonian user myself. clear skies!