Calum’s Road is on Raasay, leading from Brochel Castle to Arnish. This last week we were on Raasay, and drove to the end of the road at Arnish. From there we took the path over the hills to Torran, then on over the ridge of the island to Umachan, a hamlet that is now deserted but was home to three families in the early 1900s, where they had a very hard existence.

Donald Shaw wrote a lovely tune called “Calum’s Road”, and I was determined to play by the roadside. So here’s a video:

Marwyn’s father was born in Umachan, along with all his older siblings. We now realise just how hard it was to even get there, let alone manage to eke an existence out of the poor ground; the fishing must have been crucial.

As I finished playing the tune, I realised that I had a small audience. Thanks for the appreciation!

Crater Clavius and surrounds

In celebration for being on this planet for threescore years and ten, I upgraded my astrophotography armoury, firstly with an equatorial “goto” mount (Skywatcher Star Adventurer GTi), and secondly with a new camera, the ZWO ASI715MC. The equatorial mount solves the problem of field rotation in long exposures, and also the occasional glitches in tracking that I have with the alt-az telescope mount (which will have a continuing use both for astronomy and for amateur radio). This first image taken with a reasonably good sky (I have waited for ages; I took some images a few days earler, but they were through cloud and not as good!) is of the area of the Moon’s south polar regions centred on the crater Clavius.

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Queen of Northanhumbra

On a trip to Northumberland we visited the early mediaeval palace site at Yeavering, and also the new museum, visitor centre and distillery (!) in Wooler, Ad Gefrin.This is a superb place, with a great couple of video presentations to watch, as if in a mediaeval hall. With my ancient scandinavian / north germanic ancestry I felt right at home! Continue reading

Orion nebula M42

I return to the Orion Nebula, M42, because it is one of my favourite subjects. When I first used my new telescope (100mm aperture f/5 Skywaycher Startravel 102) and pointed it at the Orion Nebula, I was so surprised to be able to see so much of the nebula by eye in the dark skies of Dumfries and Galloway. Then when I took some photos with the Nikon DSLR, I was simply amazed by what appeared on the screen with only a 20 second exposure. This is another attempt; it’s a stack of 33 ten second exposures, a total of 5m 30s, with a flat field correction applied. The focus was set up properly using a Bahtinov mask on the bright star Rigel, and I think this shows in the improvement in quality from the previous image.

M31 galaxy

For a while I have wanted to take an image of M31 using the new(ish) telescope. It’s a great target, and has always impressed me because I know its real size on the sky – it’s really about 3 degrees – or six full Moons – across! We can just about see the tiny brightest part of the nucleus with the naked eye in a dark sky; with binoculars it’s a bit bigger, and in a photograph you start to see its true size. To me it was most spectacular on a thin glass plate image taken with the Schmidt telescope at the Palomar observatory, when I was using photographs like that as a professional astronomer.

This is very much a first try. It is a stack from just three 30 second exposures at prime focus of my 500mm f/5 telescope, ISO 1600. It’s cropped to square, and has a bit of colour curve processing to increase the colour saturation. I had real difficulty getting the alt-az mount aligned (not helped by bright lights at eye level around the field where I was working) and from a sequence of nearly 50 images only a few were untrailed (even though quite a few had very small trails). Next time I will do better!