Friday, January 29, 2010

Starry,Starry night....

In a recent survey of the distribution of dark skies throughout the U.K ,Ynys Enlli and Pen Llyn were among the clearest.The survey hilighted the difficulty of seeing the beautiful details of the night sky from areas where light-pollution is a problem.Our nearest light pollution (apart from the lighthouse!) is the faint orange glow from Dublin,about 60 miles away.
Having already had an interest in Astronomy,it was an obvious place to bring my telescope to take advantage of the stunning night skies. However,the challenge here on the island is the almost continuous sea breeze that causes the telescope to shudder and spoils the view.I managed to get permission to install a small observatory dome behind the farm that now enables me to use the scope even when there's a breeze.
Some of the fainter sights of the heavens can better be seen by taking long exposure photographs,which I have been having a go at and include here some of the far.

The image below is the Horsehead and Flame nebulae. These are 1,500 light years away in the constellation Orion. In fact the bright star in the shot is the left hand most star of Orion's belt,Alnitak.The Horse's head is a large cloud of interstellar dust outlined against red ionised hydrogen gas.

This is the core of the Andromeda galaxy,just over two million light years away. You can see this with the naked eye on a good night.Apparently it's about twice the size of our own galaxy and contains 300 billion suns! The smaller fuzzy object is another,smaller galaxy.

This next one is the Triangulum galaxy. It is only one third the size of Andromeda but of similar spiral shape,though we see it more face-on than Andromeda.

Next,in black and white,is the Whirlpool galaxy,or M51 by it's Messier catalogue number. This galaxy is 15 million light years away and sits just under the tip of the handle of the Plough. There are two galaxies here,the larger one gradually pulling the smaller one apart through gravitational forces.

The Great Orion Nebula ,located in Orion's sword,is a large area of glowing hydrogen gas and dust.The nebula is being illuminated and blown apart by a grouping of stars at it's heart called the Trapezium. This is quite an easy object to see with the naked eye or binoculars.

Finally,the Rosette Nebula. This is the largest nebula in our galaxy,about three times the size of the Orion nebula,though appears of similar size because it is also three times further away (4,900 light years).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mud,mud,glorious mud!

People are often asking us what it's like to live on Ynys Enlli through the winter.One of the consequences of being so close to the sea is that we escape the extremes of temperature. The arctic blast that has just gripped the U.K dealt us a far softer blow and we only had a few days of frost with barely a dusting of snow. The weather station only got down to O degrees C on a couple of days.However,the one thing we do get plenty of in the winter is...MUD! The situation around the silage feeders gets particularly interesting,as you can see in the pictures below .The ruin in the background is the 12th century Augustinian Abbey.

The Fulmars are back! Over the last couple of weeks we have begun to notice the fulmars returning to their nesting ledges on the east side of the mountain. Although the Winter has some way to run yet,the birds give us our earliest sign of approaching Spring.

The history books tell us that some of the caves on Enlli have been used by Saints past as dwellings. We took the opportunity of a fine day on Sunday to go and explore one or two. Ben thought that this particular cave looked promising but I wasn't convinced that we could get enough living space inside for the four of us plus three dogs...! Besides which, Rachel found a few cave-spiders already in residence and didn't fancy sharing...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Smoke signals!

Over the weekend we were burning gorse on the mountain, as part of a rotational management was a good excuse to keep warm!

Smokey Steve!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Moonlight meanders New Year's night...

Hi all...Happy New Year!
Thought you might like these pics I took around the lighthouse on Ynys Enlli in the middle of the night on January 1st 2010 with only moonlight for illumination...just past full moon.