On 19th January half a dozen DPS members took advantage of an offer of a visit to Dundee’s Mills Observatory on Balgay Hill. The highlight of a hugely interesting evening was the opportunity to photograph the surface of the moon, about which more later.
We assembled at the appointed time and proceeded upstairs to the telescope which was directed at Jupiter. It was a beautifully clear night and Jupiter and three of its moons where clearly visible, even though they were over half a million miles away. Some telescope! We were all amazed at the clarity of the planet, given that the moon was full and very bright, creating a bit of light pollution.
Following this, we were invited in to the Planetarium room where the astronomer in residence gave us a “show” of the night skies we would be able to see from here at different times and at different seasons; what constellations would be visible and where they would be found in the heavens. This was an amazing insight into a small part of our galaxy.
Next we were given a short Powerpoint presentation about the Universe. The astronomer gave us a multitude of facts and figures, illustrated by some great images, all in an accessible way. There’s a whole lot of Universe out there! Inspiring stuff, and by now were we fired up and dying to get up to the telescope to take pictures of the moon. We were provided with an adaptor for Nikon and for Canon DSLR cameras which allowed us to attach our cameras to the telescope lens, giving us the ultimate telephoto lens!
Once we got the hang of attaching the camera and adjusting the focus, and directing the telescope properly, some great images were there for the taking. However, the moon was incredibly bright, possibly too bright for photography. The astronomer advised us that it would have been better if the moon hadn’t been full, and if there hadn’t been some wispy cloud in the sky, but what the hell – we’d take pictures anyway! It’s not every day you get the chance to indulge in astrophotography and despite the cold inside the dome, we had a great time.
The Mills Observatory is a great place to visit, and I would recommend it to anybody interested in taking a close view of the heavens. Entry is free – donations are welcomed. Go, and do some star gazing!
(The photograph was taken by Karen Johnstone)