In case you haven’t heard the BBC are running another series of Stargazing Live starting on Monday 16 January for three nights. Each hour long programme will be presented by Professor Brian Cox and comedian Dara O’Briain, and will feature a wealth of information about what’s visible in the night sky.
This series will focus on light pollution, and the benefits of a dark sky.
On Wednesday 18 January, Dulverton in Somerset [in Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve] will attempt to become one of the first towns in the UK to have every single one of its lights turned off at the same time, as part of a Stargazing Live demonstration showcasing the beauty of a night sky free of the effects of light pollution.
There are 177 street lights in Dulverton making the night sky significantly brighter and making it much harder to see the stars. At roughly 8.15pm on Wednesday (or at the sound of a unique set of church bells), the Stargazing Live team want every single person in Dulverton to turn off every single light in the town, giving people in the area the unique chance to take in the wonders of the night sky free of the effects of light pollution.
To support this series, and encourage people to get out and look up, the BBC are sponsoring hundreds of events around the country, from planetarium shows to star parties, from lectures to observatory visits. You can find out what’s on near you on their events page.
To find out more about the shows visit their website, where you can view images, download their excellent star guide and activity pack, listen to some audio guides, watch “how to” videos, and take part in live web chats. You can also follow the series on Twitter using the hashtag #BBCstargazing.
The filming that I did a few months ago for BBC Countryfile, in Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, has just been shown as part of this week’s episode. You can watch it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006t0bv and skip forward to 44:10. It lasts about 7 minutes.
Had a great day yesterday filming with the BBC. We started out in GSC‘s planetarium, filming for a couple of hours as I “tought” the presenter Katie Knapman how to find her way around the sky. Filming in the planetarium was tricky, but the cameraman Rob’s normal job is filming the Sky at Night, so he was an dab hand.
The presenter was very enthusiastic, either genuinely so or good at faking it. After two and a half hours we were ready to head off to Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. I always enjoy the drive south, but the prospect of a very clear sky made me more excited than normal.
Stepping out of the car at Clatteringshaws Loch car park, I was greeted by a stunning view of thousands of stars overhead. The sky was more or less cloudless, but the local landowners had been burning back the heather all day, and so a faint haze of smoke make everything a little bit less dark and clear than it might have been.
We had to wait for half an hour or so until the end of astronomical twilight in order to get a properly dark sky, so in the meantine, and as the film crew faffed about with their equipment, I shot a few pics of the night sky. It was the first time that I’de ever used my DSLR Nikon D50 and my new tripod to image the night sky, so I only got a few good pics (see above).
Best of all though, the International Space Station was due to pass overhead again, and this time I was prepared for it. On cue it began increasing in brightness, heading towards Orion from the west. I took a two minute exposure of the ISS moving through Taurus and Orion, which turned out rather well, with the exception that the stars are a bit blurry as a result of the Earth’s (and my camera’s) rotation.
Just finished filming the first of two evenings for BBC’s Countryfile programme. This evening was just some footage of me taking Sky Quality Metre readings in a brightly lit urban environment; in fact just outside the BBC Scotland building and Glasgow Science Centre.
It was, amazingly, a clear night, but even with no clouds we could only make out a few dozen stars through the glare of the local lights and the glow of the light pollution from the whole of Glasgow. If you’re interested, the SQM read 17 or so.
I set my DSLR camera up to take some pics of the filming, just for posterity, and in between I took some scenic shots of the viscinity, like this nice one of GSC and Glasgow Tower, showing the skyglow.
The best part of the night though, by far, was seeing the ISS flare up towards the WSW and having just enough time to set my camera up to capture this shot of it passing through Orion! Didn’t have enought time to figure out exposure times to get the best possible shot, but still, my first attempt at astrophotography paid off big time!
Off home now, chuffed with my pic, and looking forward to tomorrow night’s filming in Glasgow Planetarium and then later in Galloway Dark Sky Park.