Sunday, 28 June 2015

Missing stars

The other night I was speaking to a friend in Sheffield who had not noticed the stars until he went camping to Galloway forest Park Scotland early in the year. He said he just stood looking up at the stars for hours he was just amazed with what he could see, but since getting back to Sheffield he has started to miss these really dark skies.

It's difficult for some people, those moving from a dark sky in Shetland to a city swamped in artificial light, they really miss the stars. Looking the other way, people don't miss something they have never seen, and this is where many thousands of people fit

I wonder what Shetland was like 75 years ago this would have been a true dark site with many areas without electricity, the stars would have been amazing, but you wouldn't want people to have been with out power. they had small lights/lamps which would have just been sufficient to light the house.

During WW2 areas had to be dark otherwise they could be bombed, people managed although some people did die as a result of being knocked down etc. People's eyes did get used to the dark and although the slogan ` eating carrots make you see better' didn't really work, it was a nice thought.

Although our eyes adjust to the dark after about 10 mins just think how better it would be if we had to do it longer, some people seem to develop a 6th sense of where things are.

We missed out on an alert of a aurora at KP 8 a few days ago this came about mid afternoon when it was too light, but a few people managed to see it after midnight down in the south of England, it looks like we will have to wait until September comes along to see another Aurora as it gets lighter and lighter

I was talking to Robbie Brookes the other day, who is lucky enough to live in Unst a very dark site, or so you would  think, he still has to travel to Lamba ness above Haroldswick to ensure a completely dark sky, he has some great Aurora photos as a result.

On another occasion I was chatting to a visitor to Shetland who lived in the centre of London but couldn't drive (but who would drive in the centre of London) he cannot ever remember seeing a dark sky. His holidays are in the summer and work keeps him in London most of the time so doesn't come across dark skies. He moves from one light source to another in London, he said he is drawn to the bright lights and has never though about the dark - or what the attraction is !
                                                                                               Great Skies over Lerwick

Lights and brighter lights are an attraction in cities, but in Shetland they could easily cut out unnecessary light by turning half the street lights out after midnight, a lot of jetties are lit all night -whats the point. Shetland could gain a lot of tourists if it became more of a dark site then advertise this, yes we do get a lot of cloud , but winter tourism has been neglected except for up Helly Aa.  In America lots of people travel many miles to get to a dark site, i am sure it could be done here

Shetland remains the best dark sky site for me, the large open spaces & large skies make watching easier, we even get still clear nights sometimes. It must be a good place for space watching as Doctor Who and Darth Vader have settled in Shetland, what better recommendation.

                                                                                     The Tardis near Sullom Voe

We have now turned the corner and move away from the Simmer Dim and head towards autumn we can start to think again about dark skies, in the meantime its all about cloud gazing here, no problem with the wide vistas in Shetland.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Cloud and rainbows

We are so fortunate in Shetland in having large skies, not restricted by buildings or trees. This allows you to see a sky full of superb clouds. The weather is always changing and as a result it brings great cloud formations, you just have to keep looking up.

After the showers we also get many rainbows, some very strong colours. This makes up for not being able to see any Auroras at this time of year, normally it doesn't go dark until after 11 pm. They don't even turn the street lights on until 10.45 pm, this is the land of the simmer dim.