At the conclusion of 2011 stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere were given a magnificent Christmas gift – the Great Comet Lovejoy, discovered by Australian amateur astronomer from Brisbane Terry Lovejoy.
On the morning of December 23rd I was at Cape Schanck, Victoria and the comet rising above the Southern Ocean was as magnificent to see as it appears on these photos.
I also managed to photograph the comet when it was much fainter on December 30th, from Great Ocean Road as seen in this “Little Planet” image stitched from 12 fish-eye photos.
Recently I was involved in a very exciting project – a film crew from Japan invited me to participate in filming a documentary about Lake Tekapo starlight reserve in New Zealand.
Luckily, two nights on South Island were clear and I got some nice footage.
For the fifth year Astronomical Society of Albury Woodonga organised a spectacular star party – Border Stargaze. This year’s stargaze was exceptional in many ways. The weather was kind and we had an epic run of five clear nights in a row.
Everyone was busy observing the sky with telescopes small and large at night and I had two cameras clicking away. The result is this three minute (my longest yet!) time lapse animation. There are four galaxies – The Milky Way, Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, Andromeda Galaxy and many many stars. The changing sky colour from natural Oxygen glow in the upper atmosphere is quite startling.
The satellite weather image started to look promising around 8pm on the last Monday in January 2011 and I made a snap decision to go my favourite spot in Flinders to do a panning time lapse as well as some observing with my telescope. After 1.5-hour drive, I set up the camera to continuously take an image every 30 seconds and enjoyed a long deep sky observing session. The highlight of the night were spectacular galaxies near Large Magellanic Cloud (in southern constellations Dorado and Volans).
I also noticed quite a few meteors in the southern sky and remembered Alpha Crucids meteor shower was around this time of the year. It is named after the brightest star in Southern Cross constellation (Crux). I looked it up and it is active in the second half of January. Below is one of the brighter meteors I was lucky to capture on camera (in the upper left part of the frame).
At the beginning of January we went for a short weekend break to a place near lake Eildon in Victoria and the sky cleared one night for a change.
I wanted to test my new Orion Teletrack motorised tripod head for panning horizontally with the speed of Earth rotation. I had a few technical glitches and the result is not quite what I had in mind but is nice nonetheless. The first part of the time lapse is illuminated by the gas torches around the farm house.
Recently I read about a new star party in the North West Victoria – the “Lake Tyrrel Star Party”. At the star party on Saturday there were great lectures about Mars by Dr Victor Gostin, “Aboriginal Skies” by Paul Curnow and the “Night Sky of the Boorong” by John Morieson.
Lake Tyrrel is a special place – the area was once home to Boorong people and the name “Tyrrel” is the Boorong word for sky and space. When there is water in the lake and the night is cloudless and still, the whole night sky can be seen reflected in the water.
The Boorong identified a significant number of stars and constellations. The constellations are based on both stars and dark patches in the sky, like “Bunya” the possum that sits on top of the tree (Southern Cross) or “Tchingal” – the giant emu that eats people (the bright band of central Milky Way represents the Emu’s body, and the Coal Sack dark nebula is the head with the beak).
The Boorong clan no longer exists as a separate entity, but their descendants live in north-west Victoria and throughout Victoria.
I found the good spot on the Eastern side of the lake where the water was shallow and recessed producing mirror-like surface. So I set up the camera on the tripod and went back to the star party at the lake viewing platform to share the views of the excellent dark sky through my telescope.
In Port Campbell National Park there are some gorgeous places I can’t wait to photograph under the night skies. There is one small problem, however… The Weather. This part of the coast appears to be one of the most wet cloudy and unpredictable places in Victoria.
We travelled with the family along the Great Ocean Road in April 2010 and the day after we came back I set up the weather page for a small town of Port Campbell as a home page in my web browser. The wait for a clear night around New Moon began…
Only in July 2010 the weather forecast looked half-decent so I hopped in the car and drove some 300kms only to find thick cloud all over the sky in the evening. But around 1am the clouds miraculously disappeared and I was rewarded with brilliant views of the Milky Way from Loch Ard Gorge lookout.
Being far away from man-made lights the place was very dark on a moonless night. The centre our Milky Way Galaxy is the most significant source of light which helped to created peculiar dark reflections on the water in the middle of the frame.