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Skye has the darkest possible night skies for the UK and Waternish is the darkest part of Skye.
Thank you to Dr Simon Hodgkin of the Astronomical Survey Unit, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge for this very interesting article.Artist’s impression of Gaia14aae. Credit: Marisa Grove/Institute of Astronomy
Gaia is the European Space Agency’s mission to map the Milky Way, measuring positions, distances, velocities and spectra for 1 billion stars spread in our Galaxy and throughout the Local Group.
Gaia began mapping the sky in August 2014 with its two telescopes, and billion-pixel CCD camera. Right now we are working hard to produce the first catalogue, which will be publically released to the whole world late this summer.
A small team in Cambridge is also using the Gaia data to discover transients. Transients are objects that suddenly appear in the night sky and then fade away to nothing. If you stare at the sky with a large enough telescope, you would see that there is a population of these eruptive variable objects constantly coming and going. We made a movie of the history of Supernovae to illustrate that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv8HtH-O3uQ.
Examples of transients are Supernovae and Nova. A Supernova is one of the most dramatic events in the night sky, and results from the massive explosion of a star (see https://gaia.ac.uk/science/guest-stars-gaia/exploding-stars for more information).
Night skies on Waternish help us to understand why the daily lives of our ancestors were so influenced by the passage of the stars and the moon. Looking up at the sparkling canopy on a clear night cerainly puts into context our existence as tiny creatures stuck on one small rock in the midst of billions of other pinpricks of light.
This spectacular picture shows the lack of light pollution in our area of Scotland which means that we are a fantastic area to visit to see Dark Skies.
Please click on "Full article" to read further information on Dark Skies prepared in a personal capacity for us by Dr Simon Hodgkin, Cambridge.
A wonderful photograpgh taken by Angus McGhie of the Stein Inn here on Waternish, very early one morning on his way back home after closing the Inn.
Waternish Peninsula - home to three Dark Skies viewing sites has been the perfect location throughout our stormy winter from which to view the Aurora Borealis. When the skies have been clear we have enjoyed numerous light shows that have been on display since October (even when there have been no aurora warnings). However nothing has been able to compete with our latest spectacular on Tuesday 17th March 2015.
Many thanks to Gill Williams (of Brae Fasach) for the words and wonderful photographs.
A Nasa Astronaut (Terry Virtis) photographs the aurora borealis over Scotland from the International Space Station. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-31440059
Absolutely fabulous - if only it could be as clear as this from Waterish (and with the naked eye)
The Hubble Space Telescope is producing pictures on a daily basis which are just wonderful and awe-inspiring. They recently shared this picture on Facebook.
Hubble spots a galaxy smiling at us
An event run by Destination Skye & Lochalsh
Scroll down to see details, click on "Full article" to see planned events on October 25th 2014.
Please phone 01599 577 219 for further details including tickets
A very interesting lecture was held at Waternish Hall earlier this month, given by Dr Simon Hodgkin of the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge. The lecture was very well attended so thanks to all those who supported it.
Simon began his lecture by telling us how he got into astronomy at a very young age and finds it incredible that he has found a job doing something he loves.
The GAIA Project aims to map out the stars in our Milky Way, which is an absolutely huge undertaking. It was launched last year from French Guiana and run by the European Space Agency. It has taken over 10 years to get to this stage. It is planned that the capsule will send back data for at least 5 years, hopefully 7 and possibly even 10 years, assuming no damage from space detritus or any other mishap.
Go some place dark. August is a really good month for meteors with the return of Perseid Shower. See earthsky.org/tonight/the-radiant-of-the-delta-aquarid-meteors And of course after weeks of light skies and short nights, the nights are 'fair drawing in". We would love to hear of any of your experiences of meteors or Dark Skies whilst visiting Waternish.
Noctilucent clouds (NLC’s) are the highest clouds in Earth’s atmosphere and are visible in a deep twilight, mostly observed in the summer months at latitudes between 50º and 70º north and south of the equator. They are made of crystals of water ice. They can only be seen when the sun is below the horizon.
From Andy Stables of Glendale Skye Aurora’s: "On Skye, they can only be seen during June and July. They are not present every night. One recent night was clear but there were no NLCs. I usually see them only less than six nights per year on Skye. You need to wait until the darkest part of the night here to view them, so between 1am and 2am BST. Towards the beginning of June or end of July you can see them as early as midnight but you need to wait till 1:30 BST to absolutely rule out their presence.
Unlike auroras, they are excellent viewed with the naked eye. They are more difficult to photograph than auroras, as it is necessary to under-expose the shot to bring out the contrast of the bright NLCs against the twilight sky."
On the 27th February the country experience a very widespread aurora. Waternish was part of that, for at least half an hour. There was some colour in the sky to the naked eye, but through the camera the colours were staggering. To the naked eye the shimmering effect was incredibly clear and at times covered the whole sky. It was a night to behold.
Our thanks to Gill Williams of Brae Fasach Gallery for use of this photo, taken from the Dark Sky Discovery site at Trumpan
Visit Waternish would like to extend our warmest congratulations to the Isle of Coll who this last weekend were awarded the status of Dark Sky Community. This will have entailed a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve this - it truelly is a dark place! However don't forget that Waternish have its own Dark Sky Discovery Sites in which to view the heavens - when the weather permits
Starting on Tuesday 15th October, the first of a six week programme being shown by Gill Williams at Waternish Hall from 7pm. It will feature another 'Great Courses' Course called 'Experiencing Hubble - Understanding the Greatest Images in the Universe.'
Comet Ison could produce one of the most spectacular natural sights ever witnessed in the night sky this November. MIke Russell's article in the West Highland Free Press (click on link below to read full artice) describes why this is such a special event and why Waternish has the best seats in the house when the comet, flying through space at over 100 miles per second, is expected to graze the sun's outer atmosphere, outshining the moon as it glows in the intense heat.
Picture of Visit Waternish enthusiasts, Clive Hartwell and Teresa McGhie, at one of Waternish's three Dark Skye Discovery sites at Trumpan, is by Willie Urquhart, WHFP.
What a fabulous week we have had for Dark Skies. For once everything seemed to come together this week. We had a new moon which made the night sky really dark. But who needs the moon when Jupiter is dazzling the night sky. We had some clear nights which meant spectacular viewing. This all coincided with the Geminid meteor shower. I was lucky enough to see some of the streaks in the night sky on Tuesday and Wednesday but sadly we had a cloudy sky when they were at their height the following night.
I am told that Venus was also spectacular this week but you had to get up at 6 am for that experience!!!
This could all have been seen at the three Dark Skies Discovery Sites we have here on Waternish
This is so exciting. For the only time in our life time there is a transit of the sun by Venus early on the morning of June 6th. If the clear skies that we have had recently continue it may be possible to see the transit from Waternish (if you are up early enough). The next time it will happen wil be in 2117.
Please though be careful and do not look directly at the sun!
The transit of Venus, 8th June 2004. Photographed by Frans Snik in La Palma, Canary Islands. Courtesy of NASA web site.
Skye has three Dark Sky events coming up in March 2012.
The first is at the Broadford Hotel with Professor John C Brown (Astromer Royal for Scotland) on March 9th 2012 - Dark Skye Launch Event.
The second is in the Breakish Hall with Professor John Brown on March 10th 2012.
The third is in Portree Library with Professor Martin Hendry of the University of Glasgow on March 13th 2012.
A significant core group of Waternish residents have completed a basic course via DVD called 'Our Night Sky'. The youngest member of this group, Murdo MacGilvaray, received a very personal letter of congratulations from the course tutor, Professor Edward Murphy of the University of Virginia, and a certificate. The picture shows Murdo with his proud father and his certificates.
Waternish has been getting a few clear nights over the last few days - well, probably not clear ALL night, but for long enough for us keen Dark Sky watchers to get out there and see stars, planets etc.
See details under "Full Article"
Next Night Sky lecture starts at 7:30pm on Monday, January 30th 2012 in Waternish Hall, everyone welcome, there is no charge, but donations to the Hall would be welcomed. You even get a cup of tea / coffee at half time!
About 20 local residents attended the first in a series of DVD lectures in the Waternish Hall last night on 'Our Night Sky'. It would be fair to say that the audience was fascinated by the lecture although a little shocked by the amount of information. Nonetheless this has continued our interest in the heavens begun by the Dark Skies project and our Dark Skies Discovery Sites at Trumpan, Stein and Knockbreck. There are to be a further 5 evenings in the coming weeks until 13th February, usually on a Monday at 7.30 although enquire of us for confirmation of specific dates. Lectures are free but donation to Hall funds is welcome.
Dark Sky Discovery, a pioneering new national and regional partnership of astronomy and environmental organizations, has just unveiled a series of Dark Sky Discovery Sites throughout the UK. Visit Waternish and Destination Skye & Lochalsh submitted nine applications for official Dark Sky status on Skye. These include Trumpan, Knockbreck and the Stein Jetty in Waternish; Kinloch Forest, Kylerhea and Camas na Sgianadin in the Broadford area, and three sites at Clan Donald Land Trust. All nine sites were granted Dark Sky Discovery Site status on 18th October.
With Skye having the darkest possible night skies for the UK, and Waternish being the darkest part of Skye, by promoting these safe and accessible areas local residents will be able to enjoy stimulating stargazing sessions and add another dimension to their visitors’ experience.
The project is being mounted in partnership with the hugely popular BBC ‘Stargazing Live’ which will be broadcasting its second series on 16 - 18th January, 2012.
Photo of Lorgill on Skye with Constellations courtesy of Ray Reeder www.rayreeder.net
For more information
about the Dark Sky Discovery project visit www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk.
For more details of the Dark Sky Discovery sites visit www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk/dsdsites.html.
Anyone seeking further information about Dark Skies on Skye should visit www.visit-waternish.co.uk/wild-waternish