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!

Standing stone

It’s 50 years since a group of undergraduates from the Cambridge University Astronomical Society had a holiday surveying megalithic sites in Argyll to investigate possible astronomical alignments. It was a lot of fun, and we even wrote it up and the results were published in a paper in Nature 253, 431‑433 (1975) which was probably something of an achievement at the time, though I’m not sure that we realised how much!

We had a great time meeting up and revisiting old haunts in the area.

The Milky Way

Having dark skies in Dumfries and Galloway is great. It means that on a moonless night the Milky Way is visible, and the autumn views are best because there’s a nice bright bit almost overhead. Here’s the Milky Way in the region of the “summer triangle” of stars Vega, Deneb and Altair; I have added annotations for some constellations. This is just taken with my ordinary Nikon D3100 DSLR, and is a stack of 10 second exposures at f/1.8 with my 35mm lens, to give a total exposure of 2m 20s. The reason for the short exposures is that I was not usuing a tracking mount; the camera was simply held fixed.

Trinity College Great Court

I recently attended the Annual Gathering at my college for those who matriculated in 1972 and 1973. It was very enjoyable, and great to be back with old friends in very familiar surroundings after such a long time.