The night sky is starting to become more and more impressive down in Antarctica as we move further into winter – which is good because in not too long a time that’s the only sky I’m gonna see for quite a while. Last week we got the first auroras, shinging green, away to the south. We can see Mars glowing orange in the sky in the evening and Venus and Mercury in the morning. The Moon is pretty awesome too, shining all orangey last night it was.
I’m just about getting to grips with the constellations down here, so many of them are unfamiliar, though some of the northerners show their faces down here too – so constellations I’ve seen at home make appearances like Orion which can be seen quite often in the northern hemisphere and others like Scorpio which I’ve not seen too much of back home but have seen further south in the northern hemisphere like Spain. Then there are the true southern constellations like the Southern Cross or Crux which is probably the most famous group of stars in the southern hemisphere. The south is also home to lots (most of the top ten I think) of the brightest stars in the night sky, including the brightest of them all Sirius.
Whilst I’ve not seen the perfect night sky yet – with the whole sky shining bright and the whole expanse of the Milky Way visible, there have been a few nights, when, once you’ve been outside for five or ten minutes and your eyes have adjusted, the dusty strip of our galaxy crossing the sky becomes visible and the stars begin to look countless.
Now, seeing, and then getting pictures of said things is not the same! For a number of reasons I’ve not yet got the hang of taking pictures of the night sky. First among those is that I’m just not that good yet, it takes quite a bit of know-how to get a good picture of the heavens (who knew!). Secondly, not too sure if you were aware, but it’s a bit nippy down here of a night-time. Stood outside with gloves off, in the dark, trying to focus and press buttons on a chunk of metal and plastic can be a bit painful when you are doing it for any amount of time, once you go beyond five minutes you have to get back in and re-warm yourself before the pain goes away – because when you stop feeling the pain in your fingers bad things are starting to happen! The wind doesn’t help either to be honest but enough excuses, I’ll post some astronomy pictures I’ve taken – not because they are good photos but because they are photos of amazing things. Point the camera at the sky for thirty seconds and the picture shows the millions of stars and galaxies in that bit of space. The pictures I’ve taken look more like Jackson Pollack than Hubble telescope but I like em.
In the centre of this is the Southern Cross – the four stars making an upside-down crucifix.
It is fun playing around with the camera, trying to get the right amount of exposure, getting the most amount of stars without them looking all smeary (still not managed yet)- especially in the wind. Hopefully in a few months I’ll have some really impressive shots of the galaxy above Halley VI with an aurora thrown in too! And a comet, why not?
Here’s what I think is Mercury in the morning sky – shown a bit brighter in the picture than in real life.
Here’s Venus, a bit higher in the sky, also in the morning and shining really bright down here
Mars in the evening
And some shots of the moon looking funky. The same atmospheric effects that cause a sun-dog, but happening at nighttime
When the weather permits I’m going to get outside and learn how to get some really good pictures of the Antarctic Sky, not always the case as some nights you may as well be inside a ping-pong ball. I would say even if it kills me but seeing as buggering about outside can actually kill you I wont. But,when I can, I’m going to try to get the full majesty of the Milky way, startrails auroras and all the other good stuff. Even if I never get the hang of it I love being out-side looking up. I saw a shooting star last night that streaked across most of the sky, must have been lit for a good few seconds. The quiet is pretty cool too-I’ve never ever heard such a lack of sound anywhere. Ever. This is once you get a bit away from the base and the hum of its generators of course.
All in all it’s a grand old place to be, staring at the sky- right until the point where your hands and/or fingers start making you want to scream anyways.