Last week I managed to find myself in Kielder around the time of the Kielder Forrest Star Camp which is held twice a year in the spring and autumn. On the Thursday night the UK was graced with a fine show of aurora – however (as is usually the way with these things) most of the evening we covered by cloud and rain.
I did manage to get a few shots though, and the above one is the first (not focussed!) photograph I took of the sky to try and work out if I could pick anything up – and I could! However you can already see the clouds starting to come in.
Even though cloud covers most of the sky, you can really see the colour shine through the gaps in this photo. I only managed to get a few more shots before the rain kicked in, and unfortunately the next day there wasn’t a sign of anything green in the sky.
This was my first experience of the aurora, and I was thrilled to be able to capture it.
Here’s a picture I took after getting home on Christmas day 2012. You can clearly make out both the moons around Jupiter and the halo around our own moon. The photo is not optically perfect because it was taken out my window, but I thought it looked rather nice.
As soon as I arrived at the observatory I got my camera out and started taking photographs of the night sky. While it may not have been the clearest I’ve ever seen the sky at Kielder, it certainly was more impressive than the recent Autumn Star Camp which ended up being a bit of a washout.
Gary Fildes had a quick chat to us before we all set off to look through the instruments – including their 14″ Meade LX200 and 20″ Split Ring Equatorial telescopes. Both of which provided very impressive views of various deep sky objects including Jupiter and Andromeda.
Talking of Andromeda, I had to do my usual dark sky test to see how well it came out in a 30 second photograph using my Canon 7D. As you can see, there are a lot of stars in this photo.
As per usual I pointed my camera around Cassiopeia to get a nice picture of the Milky Way including Andromeda to the right.
As you can see, Andromeda is visible even when zoomed out, and at full size you can make out even more detail than previous attempts back home in Thorner or light polluted Scarborough.
At the weekend myself and a few other members of The York Astronomical Society journeyed over to Scarborough for an evening of astronomy and good times. As well as looking through my friend’s telescopes – I also positioned my camera skyward to see what the dark skies of suburban Scarborough had in store for me.
As you can see there are still a large amount of stars that are visible by using a 30 second exposure, even tough there is a distinct orange glow when compared to roughly the same photographs taken from the dark skies of Thorner – my home village.
With Andromeda being my new favourite benchmark for dark skies, I performed my usual routine of pointing my camera towards the bright stars of Cassiopeia – here marked with the green lines. Andromeda is just to the right located inside the green circle.
In the full resolution picture you can see that Andromeda is clearly more than just a regular field star, even with the increased amounts of light pollution when compared to the streetlight-free Thorner image below.
I think this really goes to show the difference that street lights and other forms of light pollution has on astrophotography. Thankfully, it’s dark enough back home for me not to need an expensive filter for my camera.
After the rain at the Kielder Forest Star Camp I came back home to Thorner to get a good night’s sleep. When I had a look outside I saw it was really dark, so I thought I’d take the advantage and take a picture of the stars.
Aiming my Canon 7D at Cassiopeia, I took a 30 second exposure with ISO set to 800 to see what I could capture. As you can see, there are plenty of stars, and you can even make out the Milky Way going through the middle of the picture.
Though the focus of the picture was Cassiopeia and the Milky Way, I couldn’t help but notice that the great galaxy in Andromeda is also fairly visible. This is not quite as clear as the shot I took at last year’s Kielder Forest Star Camp – but it’s still pretty good.
This year brought the 10th Autumn Kielder Forest Star Camp, and I decided to head along to camp with astronomers from all over the country with the hope of getting a clear dark sky. Before I arrived, my friend Martin Whipp from The York Astronomical Society managed to take the above picture of aurora seen from the Kielder Observatory – so my hopes were high that I would get a glimpse of the truly dark sky for myself.
I arrived on the Wednesday to clouds and fog, and ended up spending most of the evening in The Anglers Arms with good food and good company, and by the time we got out we managed to get about five minutes of clear sky before the clouds set in.
Thursday brought rain, and the wettest Kielder Star Camp that I have been to so far. Unfortunately, the rain did not stop, and a number of us ended up getting a little wet inside our tents – including my sleeping compartment. So after a quick nap in the car, decided to head home on Friday morning to get dry and get a good night’s sleep.
Not wanting to miss out on the adventures, this was not the end of the Kielder Star Camp for me. A number of fellow astronomers from The York Astronomical Society decided to head up to Kielder for the main events on Saturday, which included a number of interesting talks at Kielder Castle.