Chaff cutter to the stars …

I was complaining about the weather yesterday and today is no better. But last night the sky cleared and gave us a look at the stars. I put on my warmest clothes and sallied forth. Clear skies have been a rarity just recently. This was a good opportunity to complete a project that was conceived months ago.

The machine is a chaff cutter. It was built by Buncle of North Melbourne and after a busy life preparing horse feed is now retired.

John Buncle was a Scot who arrived in Melbourne in 1852 aged about 30. This was at the height of the gold rush. He was a skilled draftsman and engineer and had no trouble finding employment. After about a year as foreman at Langlands foundry he started his own business and became famous in the field of agricultural machinery.

He died in 1889 by which time he’d made a sufficient mark in Melbourne society to warrant an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Clear Sky …

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.

Hattah …

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.

 

More Salt …

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.

Of Beaufort and Bortle …

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.

 

 

Night Shift …

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.