Tuesday, 12 March 2013

In Search of a Comet

Yesterday evening the new moon should have been low in the western sky at sunset.  With the scientific media saying that the first northern hemisphere sightings of Comet PANSTARRS would be with the new moon, we set off for Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse at six, armed with camera, tripod, binoculars, a bottle of wine, bombay mix, thick coats (it was already -1C), and a lot of hope, to enjoy the spectacle.

As we approached the Sonachan Hotel we stopped briefly to admire the sunset, and...

....stopped again just by the entrance to the lighthouse as the sun touched the horizon.  To the left of the picture are the Cairns of Coll, a small group off islets off the northeast coast of the island of Coll; there's a picture of the lighthouse which guards them here.

We parked by the lighthouse engine room and settled to watch a spectacular sunset.  We see lots of sunrises as our house has good views to the south and east, but sunsets are a bit of a treat.

By half past six the light had come on - the fact that the sky seems lighter in this picture than the last is a trick of the exposure.  The sky was, by this time, darkening and clearing nicely, and all ready for the new moon to show itself.

The stars came out, and steadily spread across the sky.  The light from the lighthouse kept sweeping across the car and lighting the rocks around us.  The wine was good, so was the bombay mix, but the interior of the car became colder and colder, and we still couldn't see a new moon.

Finally the western sky was sufficiently dark for any self-respecting new moon to be visible - but this one wasn't, and nor was the comet.  So, at a quarter to eight, we gave up.  "Never mind," said Mrs Diary brightly. "It was a lovely sunset and we're bound to see some wildlife on the way home."  We didn't.

But what we did have was snow overnight.  No-one else in Kilchoan has reported snow, so perhaps this was our consolation prize.

This morning, the scientific sites such as EarthSky, are saying that we'll definitely see PANSTARRS tonight.  They even have a picture of the comet, taken by someone in the northern hemisphere.  The very depressing article is here.

1 comment:

  1. Stunning pics.

    Do hope you and Mrs Diary will be successful this evening.

    Maybe a flask of hot soup might be better than chilled wine!