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Astrophotography in the Pyrenees?


Steve789
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I've got 2 weeks off work, a campervan ready to go and the Plymouth to Roscoff ferry booked for Weds evening. The intention is to drive to somewhere in the Pyrenees for a week of nightscape/landscape astrophotography (call it what you will I'm talking about photos of picturesque mountains with the Milky Way in the background).

I've never been to the Pyrenees and have very little knowledge of the area so any advice or location suggestions would be much appreciated.

Currently my only thoughts are to visit the area near Pic du Midi de Bigorre purely because I know there's an observatory there and so hopefully dark skies.

My main concern is obviously about the weather but the forecast for the end of this week is looking good. Any longer term forecasts quite frankly I don't trust.

Anyone with any tips or advice I'd love to hear from you.

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41 minutes ago, Steve789 said:

I've got 2 weeks off work, a campervan ready to go and the Plymouth to Roscoff ferry booked for Weds evening.

Can't help with the Pyrenees I'm afraid, but for some reason the above sentence just reminded me of this :)

James

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24 minutes ago, JamesF said:

Can't help with the Pyrenees I'm afraid, but for some reason the above sentence just reminded me of this :)

Lol, that reminds me - pack sunglasses.

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Just picked this up so hope I'm in time.

We have a second home about an hour's drive from La Mongie where you would pick up the cable car that takes you to the observatory on the Pic du Midi.  Damian Peach took some great pictures from there a couple of summers ago.

The weather can be problematic.  The area around the Pic du Midi is kind of on the cusp between Atlantic and Mediterranean weather systems.  In the last few years it has been predominantly Atlantic meaning not a high proportion of clear skies.  When they are clear they can be stunning.  If you time it right the electrical storms raging around the mountains can be equally stunning.

There are many ruined castles and ancient churches that might make a good foreground for Milky Way shots, not to mention the mountains themselves but every village in rural France seems obsessed by putting in street lights every 50 metres to meet the demand of any local resident who thinks he needs one.  Needless to say if anyone goes out at night they use the car even if they are going to a party just down the road.  No one walks at night except the occasional ex-pat.  Our village is also blessed with a floodlit football pitch.  Match nights and practice nights always seem to coincide with clear skies.  Two kilometres from my front door, though, I can escape to a 360 degree dark sky with just distant glow from towns about 20 kms away.  You may need to do some daytime exploring to make sure you're going to be happy driving up steep, narrow, precipitous roads in the dark.  One suggestion I could make is close to the Cirque de Gavarnie.  There is an excellent caravan park there but also a good road leads up to a car park at the Col de Tentes.  From the car park you can walk higher until you get a view of the Breche de Roland.  It's unlikely you'll be troubled by anyone else lumbering up hill with a telescope once you've left the car park.

There is wild country in the Baronies near the castle of Mauvezin where you might get unpolluted skies.  The lakeside at Lac de Gery near Saint-Béat might also be a good spot.

One of my favourite places in all the world is Artiga de Lin just over the border into Catalonia.  From the N230 travelling south turn right at Es Bordes, through the village and follow the road until it runs out into gorgeous countryside.  Huge car park but probably littler used at night and, once again, you'll be the only one lugging a telescope away from the lights of any other campers.  Rimmed by mountains there should be little light pollution.

I hope this helps.  No matter what, you've chosen to go to a beautiful part of the world.

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Thank you so much for your reply it's come just in time.

I'm actually in the Pyrenees now. I've spent the last couple of nights at a place called Lac de Bious Artigues in the Laruns area. Crystal clear skies so far but the forecast is for it to turn soon.

You've given me lots of great info just when I was wondering where to go next, thank you.

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I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay.  I'm in UK until the end of June, otherwise I might have suggested we meet up somewhere.  In the meantime I must check out Lac de Bious Artigues.

Cheers

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I'm late, too, but have cycled and motorcycled extensively in the Pyrenees. If the weather clags over, as it often does on the French side, the Spanish side is often still clear and sunny. Several times I've hacked up the French side in drizzle and cloud and soared down the Spanish in glorious sunshine. Worth taking a very local view of the weather forecast.

Olly

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14 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

 If the weather clags over, as it often does on the French side, the Spanish side is often still clear and sunny. Several times I've hacked up the French side in drizzle and cloud and soared down the  Spanish  in glorious sunshine. Worth taking a very local view of the weather forecast.

Olly                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

 In June a few years ago the weather on the French side was persistently cold and wet for two weeks.     Friends, seeing the depth of our depressed state, recommended no more than two hours drive away is the delightful village of Ainsa.  Just like Olly we entered the tunnel in, seemingly, mid-winter, and emerged in high summer.      Good luck.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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