Dark skies at Langdale

Last weekend I went to the Lake District with a few friends for a couple of days walking. On Saturday evening - the first night of the UK's Spring MoonWatch week - the sky cleared and I saw a brilliant thin crescent Moon hanging low in the west. Later in the night I was reminded just what I miss from Manchester due to light pollution. In fact, there were so many stars visible that I was initially a little lost in what should be the familiar territory of the night sky. Thankfully, trusty Orion was setting over in the west so I was able to get my bearings.

Orion The Hunter
Constellation Orion seen from Langdale, Lake District on 28th March 2009 CREDIT: Mike Peel
Using Orion I quickly found Canis Major (The Big Dog), Gemini (The Twins), Leo (The Lion) and Auriga (technically The Charioteer but I call him The Hobbit). Leo was looking particularly nice in the south with Saturn sitting below the main body. Here is an exposure showing Leo and Saturn's "star trails" framed by the trees.

Leo and Saturn
Leo and Saturn 28 March 2009 CREDIT: Mike Peel
Between Leo and Gemini is the constellation of Cancer (The Crab). Usually this area of sky looks totally empty when observing by eye from Manchester but in this dark site we easily spotted the Beehive Cluster (M44).

Beehive Cluster
The Beehive Cluster (M44) 28th March 2009 CREDIT: Mike Peel
Apart from Orion, one of my other standard helper constellations is Ursa Major (the Great Bear). Ursa Major contains the famous asterism of The Plough (or Big Dipper in the US) which helps you find the north star using the two "pointers". I told Mike about following the arc of the handle of The Plough to Arcturus ("arc to Arcturus") and then remembered the "speed on to Spica" addition that I heard from Twitter (I think it was from @etacar11 but can't find the tweet). Here you can see The Plough peeking through the trees.

Ursa Major
Ursa Major (The Great Bear) seen through the trees 28 March 2009 CREDIT: Mike Peel
Mike and I moved down the road to get a better view of the skyscape of Orion, Taurus and Cassiopeia. Whilst taking pictures, we were passed by some rather confused people on their way back from the pub. They wondered why we were taking pictures in the dark and I heard one person say "Are they from the BBC's Springwatch?".

It was getting quite late (especially considering the move to British Summer Time that was approaching) so we decided to round things off by including ourselves in a picture. Here is the result with me pointing at Cassiopeia. It looks like we may have caught a satellite too.

Looking at Cassiopeia
Mike and me looking at Cassiopeia CREDIT: Mike Peel
I had a great time. Many thanks to Mike for providing the camera to record it.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 02nd Apr 2009 (12:21 GMT) | Permalink
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