Back in the Valley

The wonderful Elan Valley.
An astronomer’s paradise. At the visitor’s centre they even give you a map showing you the best observing spots on the estate, astronomy is welcomed and encouraged. Trouble is, when you’re there and the Milky Way is overhead, you really feel a bit silly looking for deep sky stuff when our own galaxy is there. It’s just as much fun recognising the various dust lanes and star clusters that you can see with the naked eye. Jupiter and Saturn were both low, (Jupiter bottom right in this photo), but still offered up some sharp viewing. I took this with a 50mm lens, and it wasn’t even astronomically dark yet. This shows you the quality of the skies at Elan.


I took with me a pair of Helios 15×70 which proved to be fantastic for wide-field viewing of the Sagittarius star-fields. I was pleased to see the Lagoon Nebula (M8) show up on my photo. I also took my 8″ Skywatcher reflector. With so much to see, I didn’t make notes on my few hours there, though it wasn’t a Messier marathon. I was an hour from the camp site and decided to try and get some more observations in back there, and was pleased when I saw the skies were wonderfully dark also, from where my caravan was in Shropshire. I spent quite a while star-hopping with my bins. Around 1am the Pleiades rose in the east, and there was Taurus later.  The week before, I’d sat in the same field and watched the Milky Way slowly move. The whole band of bright star clouds seemed to head westward, and I’d never felt the spin of the Earth so absolutely as when I realised my view along the plane of our galaxy was slowly changing as the Earth spun round.