Astronomer snaps night of a thousand stars (eventually)

The night sky appears as a circle in the centre of the image, with the horizon forming the circumference. Details such as headlights are visible as specks.

DARK ENOUGH FOR YOU? St Helena’s night sky: the horizon appears as a circle around the edge

This is a picture of the night sky over St Helena – and it nearly wasn’t taken. Astronomer Steve Owens had travelled from Scotland see whether the island could qualify as an International Dark Sky Place, to encourage star-gazing tourism. But clouds blocked the view. VINCE THOMPSON tells the story.

Steve Owens has completed his audit of the night sky – but his job has been made very difficult due to the ever-present cloud and rain during his week on the island.

Detail of the main image, showing lights and cloud

CLOSING IN: Approaching cloud is visible in Steve Owens’ picture (detail)

He did manage to take some dark-sky measurements earlier in the week, but more were needed and the Thursday night’s attempt to collect more data was totally unsuccessful.

On Friday night he was resolved to stay out all night if needed, to get the photo and extra data that were vital for the audit.

As time started to run out we were working on a Plan B which involved Steve leaving his very expensive camera equipment behind so Stedson George and I could complete the survey. The equipment was to be returned to him by registered post. Desperate situations require desperate measures

Steve’s survey in Friday night could not start until the moon had passed below the horizon, at about 11:20pm. Some time after 10:00pm he checked the sky and saw it was clear. He immediately gathered his equipment and drove out to the Millennium Forest car park to set up his camera and dark sky meter

Steve got there just in time to take a 360-degree photo of a clear night sky. Cloud was starting to form on the horizon.

After that he took some more dark sky meter readings that were needed, and completed his naked-eye observations, which help to indicate how clear the air is between us and the stars

This is great news and we must offer grateful thanks to Steve for being so committed to his tasks.

On Monday, 30 April 2012, he set sail for Cape Town and Scotland – job done

Keep looking up!

SEE ALSO:
A star role for St Helena tourism?

LINK:
In pursuit of darkness: Steve Owens’s Dark Sky Diary

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0 Responses to Astronomer snaps night of a thousand stars (eventually)

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  2. Steve Owens says:

    I’m glad I got the picture I needed; Saint Helena is a very special place indeed, and not just because of its dark skies.

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