It’s been a while since my last post and due to one thing and another, least of all COVID, my walks on the Moor have been few and far between over the last year. I’m hoping to rectify that in the near future and get back on track.
In the meantime last week inspired by comet C/2020 F3, otherwise known as Neowise, I decided to find a dark sky spot out on the Moor and try to capture this once in a lifetime sight. Neowise is only with us for a short time and wouldn’t return for around 6800 years. As the days were passing, she was getting more spectacular as her tail was getting longer and brighter and although she was sitting at a relatively low longitude and appeared low on the horizon, I was confident that I could find a spot to photograph her.
After studying the maps, looking at dark sky maps, weather predictions and astrophotography ‘seeing’ predictions (yes they do exist!), I decided to venture back out to Combestone Tor which I visited last in January 2019. I knew the spot and also knew that it had an almost clear 360° view with good views to the NE (where Neowise current was) and the Milky Way in the S. I’ve never caught a decent photograph of the Milky Way and thought this would be a good opportunity. Believe it or not Dartmoor has very few really dark areas and with the councils fitting white LED street lamps, the night sky over the moor isn’t really dark anymore. I knew that Combestone Tor was pretty well centred in the moor and so would be one of the better places to go.
Luckily for me my best mate, also into photography, was up for the long drive down from Bristol to join me and we met at Combestone Tor at just after 2130. The place was packed with astronomers, photographers, holiday makers & locals alike but we found a perfect spot away from the masses and setup our ‘camp’ for the night. Just after 2300 I was able to bag my first shot of Neowise and so evening began. We’d not seen each other for a while and so there was lots of talk & laughter as well as long periods of quiet as we were both mesmerised by the truly beautiful mesmerising view unfolding above our heads. The Milky Way was so clear and defined, I am not sure I’ve ever seen it look like that outside of the Highlands of Scotland. By about 0130 Wayne and I had taken several hundred photographs of the comet, the stars & constellations and of course the Milky Way. It was time to head home, for one of us a warm bed awaited, for the other a long drive followed by the realisation they’d forgotten their front door key and a long night’s sleep in the car…..
We are already planning our next astro session and also looking forward to the winter months which will offer a far more cool & stable atmosphere meaning clearer, sharper shots.