Lunchtime Photo

As you know, one of my goals for the trip to Ireland was to see the Milky Way. And I have good news! It turns out that we were living smack in the middle of the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, the only Gold Tier reserve in the northern hemisphere. So dark skies have not been a problem.

Unfortunately, dark skies are only useful if they’re also clear skies, and we had very few of those. Overall, we had great weather, but the nights were generally overcast at best and stormy at worst.

However, our very first night in Kerry was mostly clear, so I went out to see the Milky Way. And I did. But I suspect the skies still weren’t super clear, because even after letting my eyes adjust I wasn’t able to see very much. Neither was my camera. The picture below was the best I got.

I imagine that the poor result is partly a result of subpar conditions and partly just the best my little camera can do. A DSLR with a faster sensor and a sharper lens would do a much better job. Overall, I was disappointed that this was the best I could do, but on the bright side, I have taken a picture of the Milky Way now.

But wait! On our last morning in Kerry, I woke up at 5 am and didn’t feel like going back to sleep. When I looked out the window, it was full of stars. A clear night! So I hustled out of bed and went out to take more photos. I couldn’t find the Milky Way at all. It might have already set by that time, or it might have been obscured by clouds to the north. I’m not sure. But since it was only a couple of hours before I sunrise, I did get this:

The bright spot on the left is Venus, glowing even more brightly in person than in the picture. If you squint, the tiny dot near Venus but just below the cloud is probably Mars. In the long exposure, you can see a bit of sunlight already starting to appear. On the right, I have no idea what the orange glow is. The bright star is Sirius. Here’s another view:

Above Sirius at the top of the frame is Orion, with its famous belt of three stars. This is literally the only constellation I know, since you can see the belt even in the Southern California suburbs.

Thus ends my astronomy outing. I’m not sure if this will be worth it, but when I get home I think I might try again in some nice, dry desert with crystal clear skies. That should provide a better view of the Milky Way. Whether my camera is up to the task of getting a good picture is another question entirely. I suspect it isn’t.