Friday, 10 February 2012

Tranquility Base

Physics and astronomy are cool again.

Thanks to Professor Brian Cox it is trendy to stargaze, fashionable to point wistfully at the night sky and wonder if we are all alone in the Universe.

Well, we fancied a piece of that pie too.

So it was off to Hilbre for a spot of astro photography....


After a little practice we decided that we had the ideas sorted, we just needed some dark sky. There is so much light pollution from our urban connurbations that we are unaware of, I only really saw how much as we embarked on this project. I say we, I was not alone on this trip. My Dad took nearly all of the pictures you are about to see. Here we are with the lights of Liverpool in the background. This picture was taken at 8.30pm-ish in the evening. Long exposures revealed that I can stand stiller than my father!


We had a few ideas, the main one being a time lapse series of the stars circling Polaris, the north star. We ended up with 5 cameras deployed around the deserted island. As people were settling down to tea and soap operas behind closed curtains we were setting up our time-lapse kit. A true Ronny Thomas special, it was full of home made interval-ometers and cameras run off modified car batteries.


Settings set, we wandered back to the main island to allow the time lapse session to start. We figured we had around 3-4 hours before we had enough images to produce a star trail image.

So we wait, and to fill the time we get a few pictures of the night sky. The moon rises over the old buoymasters house....


The sky is cloudless and the moon is actually quite dazzling if you stare at it for a while. I notice my moonshadow and get Dad to photograph it.


A 30 second exposure makes the picture look like it was taken in the early afternoon, but a look over my right shoulder reveals the night sky. This trip is turning out to be a whole lot of fun!

I get the big lens out and aim it at the moon...


It doesn't look like it is made of cheese (not any I've ever had anyway!) nor can I see the man in the moon. It is stunning though. Pock-marked with craters of eons-old impacts it hangs silently in the tranquil sky.

We return to our base for a bowl of hot chilli. As we finish our grub there are still a couple of hours to go before the time lapse is done. Things get a bit silly at this point. More long exposure shots are staged, this time I don't try to stand still for the whole shot, moving around to create ghostly images....

We are having a lot of fun with this, I have pictures of me sitting next to myself on a bench and some of Dad standing next to himself. Time is flying by, and so are the stars. It is easy to start thinking of the wonder and majesty of the planet, solar system, galaxy, universe. Time, distance and speed all seem too much to comprehend. The vastness of it all is almost overwhelming. Petty earthbound squabbles seem so pointless gazing towards the stars.

So we ended up getting all wistful like Prof Brian, and we couldn't resist a signature Cox shot, I point to the stars and stare as wistfully as I know how. We are taking the mickey now, but it is a beautiful scene.

The time-lapse is up and we have to move on. The moon we were contemplating earlier is exerting it's influence on the tide and we must leave before we are stranded. Time and tide wait for nobody, and we are on our way.

The stars shine on.....


I have total respect for this universe....

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