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An amazing evening’s observing…

I had a really memorable evening’s observing here in Kendal tonight. All day the TV and radio news programmes were full of End Of The World accounts of the plume of volcanic ash that was spreading across the UK from Iceland. By lunchtime the UK was effectively a No Fly zone, with every single plane, domestic and overseas, grounded. While that was bad news for travellers and businesses, obviously, skywatchers and amateur astronomers spent most of the day looking out the nearest window and crossing their fingers that the sky would be clear after dark to allow them to see a “volcanic sunset” – a sunset stained red and gold and orange by the volcanic ash churning about high in the atmosphere…

Of course, here in Kendal, after almost a whole day of clear skies, by teatime the cloud had returned and absolutely covered the sky, so it looked like any hopes of seeing a volcanic sunset were dashed. But by 8.30pm the clouds cleared, revealing clear sky, so up I trekked to Kendal Castle, set up my new camere, looked to the west, and saw…

Well, not much, to be honest. No splashes of fiery red; no swathes of gold or crimson. Just sunset. But looking more closely there was, perhaps, a hint of richer colour down at the horizon…

Soon I was able to see Venus and a beautifully slim crescent Moon shining low in the west, and binoculars revealed a smaller, paler Mercury shining close to the Moon, too. But the most striking thing about the sky was the complete lack of vapour trails. Usually the sky above Kendal is criss-crossed with vapour trails, in all directions. But tonight, with all UK air traffic grounded, the sky was pristine and pure and unblemished, a dome of deep, deep blue studded with jewel-like stars. It was very, very beautiful.

As the time passed I took more photos… and more photos… Here are some of the best ones:

I’m HUGELY pleased with those photos; they were taken with my New Camera, and showed me for the first time what it’s really capable of. I’m getting the hang of it now, definitely! Some of those pics show the Moon, Venus AND Mercury. Others show “Earthshine” too. Yes, I’m really pleased with them! 🙂

So, no volcanic sunset.. probably… but still an amazing evening’s observing! @-))


5 Responses

  1. nice camera,lol. did you see the sky about 1 1/2 year ago in kendal and there was an small upside down rainbow?? i was working there and i thought it was amazing. im looking from workington and i cant see any red sky or ash yet.

  2. Beautiful shots! I just came in from watching the trio set into the horizon. Can’t wait to see how my pics turned out. Looking forward to the crescent Moon between Venus and Pleiades tomorrow night!

  3. […] pretty cloudy at the time of sunset, but then everything rapidly cleared. Stuart Atkinson then had a good evening’s planet watching, with a little hint of the vaguest bit of ashen sunset, but none of the golds and greens associated […]

  4. Saw the same sky here in Savannah about 5 hours later. It looked identical to these pictures. Oddly enough, I saw no contrails either even though we have no flight restrictions here for volcanic ash. Venus was a brilliantly flashing strobe light (reminded me of Sirius) compared to the moon’s feeble sliver. I didn’t know Mercury was there or I would have tried to find it. Memo to self, always peruse Stellarium before star gazing.

  5. Nice pictures, well done. No sign of any volcanic sunsets here in High Wycombe, either. I tried for a few similar shots but they weren’t particularly successful (Mercury is just about visible on one of them) but it’s a lot to ask of a cheap pocket camera.

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