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My experience at a very dark Bortle 2 ish site in The Highlands last week. WOW!


MKHACHFE
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And I'm not just talking about the night sky...

I thought some of you fine folks might like to read about my 6 days spent in a cottage by the Loch shore in Onich, near Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands.

To say I was excited to go to my first truly dark spot in an understatement. To say that I was expecting the worst with regards to the weather would also be true. I guess the universe liked me that week as we got 4 out of the 6 nights crystal clear.

So, what was the sky like? Well, I would say that the milky way was a bold presence and not just a fuzzy, dim patch. I could clearly see structure in the Cygnus area by eye and it was pretty much horizon to horizon (well the mountains got in the way on one side)

I was outside from about 11pm to 3.30am and spent most of the time just admiring the view and watching the meteors.

The constellations were a bit harder to identify, but only for a second or two.

It was so dark that I could clearly see the MW within seconds of walking out the front door of our brightly lit cottage.

My wife and I drove there from the South East of England and so I had brought along my star Adventurer Mini, lenses and camera on the offchance the skies were clear.

The problem I had was that I hadn't planned what I would image. And found myself changing my mind so many times after aligning the camera, focusing and taking a few subs. I started with the Iris Nebula as I really want to image that and everyone says it needs very dark skies....after taking about 15 30s exposures, I thought that I should really take a widefield milky way, so swapped lenses, re targeted and set the timer...after about 40 mins I decided to try the Veil, blah blah blah...then noticed Taurus was high up and figured I would probably get a better result with the Pleiades, so changed again.

Long story short, the same thing happened the other nights too and eventually I just decided to take what I could and just experiment on targets I'd images from home, to see the difference. I also took a few of the horse head nebula (10 30s I think), just to see if it would come out. It was just a quick test. I was astonished to find that yes, the HH nebula could be seen in a stack of 10*30s exposures.

Sadly, the majority of the last evening, major dew defeated me early in. It appeared again within seconds of me wiping the lens dry. So I gave up and just looked through my binoculars.

We had spent one night in a small hotel in the middle of nowhere in the lake District on the way up north, where I was also blessed with clear skies and spent the night in the car park of the hotel, unable to even see my feet, but I struggled with my equipment and didn't get much that night.

To be honest. Yes, I guess some might call me silly for not planning better and taking advantage better of a B2 site, but I really don't regret anything. I had stunning views and had fun. So what if I only got 3 images out if the week. I completely understand now why you guys say that the best way to improve images is to go to a dark place. I was astonished at how much more detail came through.

Here are the three images I took. I don't have stats for each one on hand now, but all three were about an hour total exposure time each. I know that's not nearly enough of course, but considering that and the fact that I only have an f5.6 70-300mm lens, a cheap 4000d and a star Adventurer Mini, I think they are decent.

Sorry for the rambling post.

Cheers

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9 hours ago, SkyJamie said:

It sounds like you had a great time! Scotland is awesome, you got some lovely pics too :)

Thanks mate Yes, just jaw dropping part of the UK. Of the world in fact. Astounding.

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Ability to see the MW immediately after stepping outside a bright room is utterly magical. You don’t even need a scope to get a mesmerizing night. So much to see and learn and recognize. As you intimate, main constellations drowned out by stars, M31 and M13 easy naked-eye objects, soooo beautiful. But when you mention this to the locals, they often have no idea what you’re talking about, that’s what it’s always been like. You only miss it when it’s not there and then it’s too late.

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3 hours ago, Captain Magenta said:

Ability to see the MW immediately after stepping outside a bright room is utterly magical. You don’t even need a scope to get a mesmerizing night. So much to see and learn and recognize. As you intimate, main constellations drowned out by stars, M31 and M13 easy naked-eye objects, soooo beautiful. But when you mention this to the locals, they often have no idea what you’re talking about, that’s what it’s always been like. You only miss it when it’s not there and then it’s too late.

Funny you mention this about the locals...its absolutely true. We were renting the cottage from a lovely older couple living next door and when i mentioned that i planned to do some AP and that i would be outside till 3-4am, the guy says "oh yes, i suppose we do get some lovely night skies here" 😶

Same with the guy working behind reception at the small hotel in Grasmere that we stayed in on the way to scotland...no interest or anything whatsoever to say about the (absolutely incredible, coming close to The highlands) night sky they get there.

I don't think its that they are not interested, because they are all amazed when i show them the images i've taken, i think its just they don't realise. To be fair, i grew up living in Saudi Arabia and camping in the desert a lot, but never thought to look up that much. I was interested in space for sure as a kid, heck, i remember when SN1987 appeared and being only 9 at the time, i still found it fascinating. Same with Halleys Comet, my dad took me to see it in the desert...even so, i have absolutely NO recollection of the night sky in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert even though it must have been spectacular. My point is that people are interested, they just need to be shown what to look for/at. Just my 2 cents.

 

Cheers

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Brilliant. 4/6 clear nights. That was probably the best week in Scotland this year! 😉

True about the locals. A pleasant chap who worked at Kielder said the same about taking the sky for granted.

Also true about times in the past. There's been plenty of occasions over the years under dark skies, but was too busy or engaged in other stuff to look up...

If I lived somewhere rural these days a permanent stiff neck would ensue and I'd be so pale if sat still for a couple of minutes during the day in town, people would try to resuscitate me! 

 

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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