Friday, 31 October 2014

Lights in the sky

If you believe every weather forecast you would never get out. For the last two days it has forecast overcast nights with showers but when i looked out it was completely clear with the stars shining brightly.

So Wednesday night, same sort of forecast but the weather during the day had been good, contrary to the day forecast. I decided that tonight was the night and prepared to go out somewhere around Sandwick . The weather was more that perfect for Shetland, clear, cold and very still only 2 mph. It was colder than forecast as the car dashboard warned of ice, so below 3 degrees.

In addition to the weather the moon was only a sliver and the cloud that was about, dimmed the moon light. While I set up i could see a pocket of cloud drifting in but as luck would have it it moved west and missed Sandwick.

I always do a test shot first at a high ISO just to check what will be in view. Pointing north would always catch some lights from nearby houses but I wanted a star trail shot of the church at Sandwick It was becoming cold and the dew point was low, enough that you could see dew on the car within the time I had set up. This required my new dew buster kit which had arrived from various points around the world.

The battery from China, the dew wrap from America and a connecting lead from Australia. I charged the battery prior to going out but I don't know whether it is fully charged or not as the colour and intensity of the red light does change, even after six hours- the recommended charge time is one hour.

Connecting up the new kit i slipped the battery pack into a small pouch and hung it over the tripod. Setting the Tokina 11-16 mm lens to 11 mm i started taking 30 second exposures at F/4 ISO 500. I rattled off 68 frames and combined with dark frames to produce the following shots. Still not fully happy so will try again soon.

While the camera did its own thing I got the binoculars out and scanned the sky, three meteorites shot passed all very bright. This is from the Taurid meteor shower visible from the 20 Oct - 30 November (around 10 per hour) with its peak on the 5 November.

 I picked out the milky way without any aid, the dusty lane of stars stretching across from East to West, I wouldn't have been able to see this in Sheffield. Pleiades looked inviting, its is a very bright cluster of stars easily picked out in the south east sky. Cassiopeia , the distinctive M shape could be seen directly over head, all good targets for future night sessions . Around 9.30 pm when the clouds had reduced in the north, a faint aurora was seen for around 5 minutes.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Weather or not !

If you look at any weather forecast for Shetland you often find a black cloud, sometimes with rain stuck over the islands. It doesn't matter how many different one you look at the all seem to say the same. This goes for the night forecast, overcast with showers have been indicated for the past few nights yet its been clear for the most part, the stars shinning brightly.

The aurora forecast for last Tuesday was only 3 kp at the best yet by 8.30 pm a number of people had made comments on face book that they were seeing traces of the aurora. I headed down to Leebitton the nearest dark location, the moon was small so only the Cunningsburgh lights to contend with.

I could see a green glow between the clouds, and the light seem to be pulsing and getting stronger, photos confirmed that this was our first Shetland aurora, we did see one in Sheffield in February. Cloud started to thicken to the north which was a pity as we wanted to see more, but this is how auroras are here one minute gone the next.

In this case the aurora continued but we couldn't see it, about an hour later it cleared again but we were back home then and found out that in fact the forecast had been upgraded to a 4.67 kp (Shetland is normally around 4.0 kp),this continued into the early hours. At least we have seen one and are hoping for a better view next time.

                                                                              UFO's or they could be reflections

I am looking for a dark site within a 15 min drive, so the search continues I have a few sites I want to check out in the next few weeks.

I was surprised how closely the sun then the moon rises in Shetland. recently the sunrise was 7.52 am the moonrise at 12.25 pm,
                                                                                 Night sky above Sandwick church

Typically when a high aurora alert comes through the remnants of the Hurricane started hitting Shetland. Around 10 pm on Monday at least a 5 kp came through, but no chance of seeing it with thick cloud and rain which would only get worse. Again this weekend, with no moonshine, severe gale force winds prevented any photography

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Milky Way

It was great to at last get out under the stars the other night. At last a clear night but a very windy one with guest up to 27 mph , difficult for photography. We went down to a more sheltered and darker location than where we are staying as the streetlights are very bright.

Finding a sheltered location proved a bit more difficult than expected but a horse box provided some cover. Deep Sky photography was out of the question so i concentrated on photographing the Milky Way which was showing very well.
                                                                                             Still prefer colour, what do you think?

Its just amazing how clear it is in Shetland, thinking back to earlier in the year when we lived in Sheffield it was just impossible to get away from the bright lights of Sheffield and Manchester. Even after an hours drive to a remote spot in Derbyshire the glow could still be seen.

In Sandwick some glow was visible but it was 100 times better than down south, I am sure that a better dark sheltered site could be found so I will set about looking for one close by. No aurora was expected with only a KP of 2 (Shetland is around a 4.5 KP) and the moon was only around 1/2 lit .

Setting up my Nikon D7100 with the superb Tokina 11- 16 mm wide angle lens you can get a fair bit of sky in view. With the wind gusting i limited photos to around 8 seconds on ISO 3200 and shielded the tripod as best i could with my body.

When you eyes have adjusted to the darkness more and more stars become visible and the definite cloud of the milky way showing well stretching east to west. These photos have been processed in Lightroom 4. Noise is always a problem at these high ISO speeds but you need this to bring out the stars, leaving the lens wide open.helps to draw in as much light as possible.

I use Topaz De-noise which helps while keeping detail in the photo.

While i was dismantling things a satellite passed over. If you want to know whats going on and coming over then the new website will help, you can even set Shetland as your location.
The Milky Way covers around 120,000 light years across the sky.  It has between 200-400 billion stars although from any one point you can only see around 2,500 stars. You need a dark site with no moon to see the best of the Milky way, the dust makes up 10-15% of the total area, the rest are stars.

If the sky is clear on the 21/22 October it may be worth looking out for the remnants of Halley's Comet, this is just cosmic dust the size of coffee granules which will burn up in the earths atmosphere. The real comet doesn't return until 2061 when i will be long gone. It will be no where near  as good as when it past by in 1985/86