The following afternoon the cloud cleared …
Which meant another trip to the lighthouse …
Then to bed. To sleep and dream until 3.00AM for this was the peak of the Eta Aquariid meteor storm. This is debris from Halley’s Comet. This little time lapse was shot in Victoria’s Western District from about 4am until just before dawn. The sky is at it’s most frenetic just as Venus comes up behind the gum tree.
Box Flat in the Annuello reserve is a very pleasant place to camp. No reservation is required, no fee is charged and no facilities are provided. Perfect. I was the only human occupant.
I spent the morning exploring and was well rewarded with flocks of Mulga and Regent Parrots. The tracks through the reserve were in good shape, not necessarily the case after rain but there hasn’t been a lot of that lately. Annuello covers about 36,000 hectares and is well wooded mainly with Mallee eucalypts. If it had a nice sexy lake it would certainly be a National Park instead it’s even better. Quiet and with a little less over-regulation.
Leaving the reserve I made my way north to the mighty Murray and the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. At the river I was greeted by large noisy flocks of Little Corellas and entertained by Whistling Kites circling overhead.
The environment in the national park is a little more varied and it does have some sexy lakes. These were my destination in search of some more photographs of the night sky.
I found what I was looking for at Lake Mournpall.
Or Lake Tyrell revisited. This is Victoria’s largest salt lake. The other-worldly landscape provides excellent material for the photographer. I posted about a previous trip <HERE>. Here’s a photo from that trip.
This time I was after the Milky Way. Things have changed a little in the interim. It was my intention to pitch a tent by the lake shore and fall into bed once the photography was done but the scenery has grown a large number of prominent signs promising large fines for camping.
The track was dry, the trees in the photo above are unreachable if there has been rain and I did want to include them in my composition if I could.
The lights of Sea Lake, the nearest small town, are visible on the horizon.
My favourite shot of the night is this next one …
I had intended to stay two nights but that plan had to be modified. So in the wee small hours I drove north to the Annuello Flora and Fauna Reserve where I could camp without prior reservation.
Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1875) a British Naval Commander, later Admiral, devised a scale by which to record wind strength. It was initially for use at sea based on observational characteristic. It ranged from 0 -Calm to 12-Hurricane and, for example at force 3-Gentle Breeze wave crests begin to break. It was adapted for use on land correlated with other observational criteria. I can remember some representative wind strengths from my scouting days :-
- 3 Gentle Breeze – Girl Guide’s skirt begins to rustle.
- 6 Strong Breeze – glimpse of under wear
- 8 Gale – skirt over Girl Guide’s head
- 10 Whole Gale – Girl Guide stripped naked
- 12 Hurricane – retrieve Girl Guides from treetops later
In 2001 John E. Bortle came up with an observational scale to record light pollution in the night sky. Bortle 1 is a dark sky with no light pollution, Bortle 9 is an inner city sky where only the moon, planets and a few bright stars are visible. It is based on observations that anyone can make such as whether you can see M15, M4, M5, and M22 with the naked-eye which would be a Bortle 3 – Rural Sky. ( I personally have never seen these but I believe there may be an overpass just north of London where you can see all of them from one vantage point).
Most humans live in cities and unless you live in North Korea the nearest dark sky is quite a drive away. I live in a Bortle 2 area but being in other ways a typical human I hankered for something more. My trip to the desert was made while the moon was but a waning crescent in order to bask in the glow of a Bortle 1. And of course there was only a short break in the clouds on the first night.
The second night found me in the Little Desert contemplating Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea sp.) and looking for M22 where M stands for Messier
… also known as NGC 6656, is an elliptical globular cluster of stars in the constellation Sagittarius, near the Galactic bulge region. It is one of the brightest globulars that is visible in the night sky. The brightest stars are 11th magnitude, with hundreds of stars bright enough to resolve with an 8″ telescope. M22 is located just south of the Ecliptic, and northwest of Lambda Sagittarii (Kaus Borealis), the northernmost star of the “Teapot” asterism (Wikipedia)
It may be in the photos. If you find it please let me know.
The old plough had been sitting in one corner of the farm for so long that the wheels had sunk into the ground. The two hardest parts to getting this shot were moving the plough to this position and getting out of bed at 3am.
The bright object to the left of the Milky Way is Jupiter. Saturn is also visible but much less obvious. It’s lower in the sky just to the right of the Milky Way. The brightest object out to the right is a double star named Peacock which is 3328.13 light years away. I know this only because of Stellarium which is a wonderful bit of free software well worth checking out.
YouTube is a remarkable resource. As well as how to poach eggs in the microwave I have learnt from and been inspired by some excellent photographers. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that all the good English landscape photographers have north country accents. One of the best bits of advice in landscape photography is stand in front of a better landscape and the north of England is blessed in that regard. Once you’re hooked it’s not an insuperable effort to go further afield.
Richard Tatti is a local not a pom, he lives not far from me and he also plays to his strength. Not landscapes but nightscapes. He is well worth checking out <HERE> or find him on YouTube or Instagram.
In many places light pollution makes the stars hard to see. I live 15km from the nearest town which in any case is not very large. Just walking out my door at night is all it takes if the sky is clear. You can see the glow of Maryborough in the lower right corners of both today’s photos.
The Milky Way season is upon us. The galactic core is not visible in the middle of the Australian summer but we can now find it in the east in the early morning. As the season progresses it will move through the south becoming higher and visible for more of the night before shifting to the west and becoming an after sunset phenomenon.
So here’s my favourite tree again …
You can now check me out on instagram click <HERE>
The tractor is a 1953 UK built Massey Ferguson TO30 and it’s parked just a few yards from my back door. It was a clear sky last night and there was a smallish window between the Milky Way making its appearance and moon rise. I set up the camera, worked out my lighting and went to bed with the alarm set for 2.45 am.
I think it was worth it …
The bright “star” tucked in the left side of the Milky Way is the planet Jupiter.
From where I live it’s a 30 km round trip for a takeaway pizza.
This has some advantages. For one thing you learn to make your own pizzas and they knock the insipid shop bought ones for six. Among the other advantages is the night sky. A clear night is a numinous experience.
Sunset last night was at 5.30 and the moon would not be up until a little after 8. I drove up to a higher point not far from home hoping to get a photo with the milky way springing up brightly straight from the horizon. That wasn’t going to happen, the glow of the lights from Maryborough and Avoca, each about 15 km away, some smoke haze and a little cloud all conspired to make the horizon very soft. Overhead though was pretty good.
That the stars had coalesced into a large R was very exciting but not enough to enliven the composition. Fortunately, I had a foreground element with me which could be made visible by judiciously washing over it with my headlamp …
Improving but the action is really higher in the sky. Home again to my trusty windmill …
I love my windmill. When the wind blows it pumps water from an underground aquifer into my dam. Sadly the water is too salty to use for irrigation but stock could drink it. Perhaps I should get some stock. The dam doesn’t hold water very well. I like to think that it leaks back into the aquifer. My very own hydrological cycle and so immensely aesthetic.
By which time the moon could wait no longer. One day I will get a milky way photo that I can be proud of. For now I’ll settle for a moonrise …