Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Milky Way over St Ninian's Isle

Its been a very frustrating time missing out on auroras and various conjunctions due to a combination of things, mainly the weather.

I am sure many of you will have the same problems, everything looks good, no moon and cloudless skies, but then - Its gale force winds, the cloud moves in (is any weather forecast correct in Shetland?) and no aurora appears even though it has just forecast a KP7

Astrophotography certainly tests your patience, especially when you see other people posting great photos from cloudless, wind free sites. At least we can dream  a little and when everything does come together it makes for a truly memorable night.

The other night it started foggy in Sandwick but with a high aurora predicted we decided to go to the west side on our way to an event. Just as hoped for the sky was clear and it was fairly calm. My new Gitzo tripod is a big help, it weighs a ton, very handy to stop any movement.

No Aurora activity on arrival, but it can flare up anytime, so we waited and in the meantime the Milky Way looked absolutely stunning. Although its not a true dark site its one of the best sites to visit if you only have a short time period.

I never get tired looking at the Milky way , the cloudy band of millions of stars, perhaps around 400 million  and a 100 million planets arch across the sky from east to west. The width is approx 150 million light years in diameter. It has a low surface brightness and needs a dark sky to see the best.

I set the camera up, the Nikon D7000 and the Tokina 11-16mm lens at 11mm and started to shot at 25 seconds to avoid star trailing. Instead of the normal ISO 1600 I took it up to ISO 4000 to bring out the star fields which it did. The one draw back is the noise, you wont want a lot of noise reduction as it kills the stars, so its a balancing game.

Its all down to processing and personal preference on how much you want to bring out the Milky way. I don't use Photoshop preferring Lightroom.

Well the aurora never appeared that night as it was delayed, making an appearance the following night, unfortunately for us in Shetland it was thick cloud with fog, so its back to a waiting game.

Would have been due to go out Thursday & Friday night with another high aurora predicted but having seen the forecast and confirmed by me stepping outside for a few minutes, i think it may have been too windy with a Force 10 hitting Shetland, this one called Abegail -or A BIG GALE