Wooler, Camera Club

The deep sky

Friday, 18th March 2016, 5:00 am
Noctilucent clouds seen by Jane Coltman in the early hours of Sunday morning above Alnwick. Noctilucent clouds are very different from normal weather clouds and shine only at night, after all the other clouds have left the skies. Their name literally means 'night shining'. Best seen in dark twilight towards the north, they are part of a very high polar cloud layer in the Earths upper atmosphere. Like conventional clouds, they are made of water ice but heres where the resemblance ends. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds hovering above our planet: forming at altitudes of up to over 80km, they touch the edge of space itself. They appear in the northern hemisphere between late May and early August and shine with an eerie, bluish, almost electric glow.

“It is amazing what can be photographed in the night sky with a modestly priced digital camera. No telescopic equipment is required.” This was the advice given to Wooler and District Camera Club by Graham Relf at its latest meeting.

Mr Relf, from Tynemouth Photographic Society, is an enthusiastic amateur photographer with an interest in “deep sky” photography, picturing stars, constellations and nebulae that are a long way away.

He explained that to get good pictures the biggest requirement is to get away from light pollution. We are fortunate that areas of Northumberland have designated “dark skies” status.

Selection of a long exposure time, a wide lens aperture and multiple exposures should get pictures that can be combined by software into very pleasing images.

Mr Relf went on to explain more advanced techniques of astronomical photography, using motorised tripod mounts and telescopes.

The talk was illustrated with a selection of his photographs, ranging from the surface of the moon to light from a distant galaxy that began its journey to us from a time before our universe was formed, truly breathtaking.

His website at www.grelf.net and book The Dark Skies of the North Pennines – An Amateur Photographer’s Delight are available. The next meeting of the club is tonight (March 17) in Glendale Hall, Cheviot Street, Wooler, at 7.30pm when there is a competition evening. All welcome.