One of the promo films we have made for our Year of Adventure in Carmarthenshire was on stargazing. If you haven’t already watched it here it is again http://bit.ly/2iEx1mp
And what a place it is to view the stars!
Although the Brecon Beacons was designated a dark skies reserve back in 2012 (rightly so it has some amazing stargazing spots) Carmarthenshire is a fantastic place to see the stars too. Carmarthenshire as I’ve mentioned previously has such a varied landscape. It’s rippling green hills flanked by dark emerald woodlands are a distinct feature of the landscape from Llanelli and the Gwendraeth valley in the South to the deeply creviced valleys of Cilycwm and Rhandirwmyn in the north.
This means not much light gets in there, and not only that many parts of the county are remote and sparsely populated so no light pollution. Vast swathes of the county contain more sheep than people! Places I’ve remembered where I can’t see my hand in front of my face on the those deep winter moonless night are the backroads of Talley, (check out Capel Carmel) Brechfa, Abergorlech, and anywhere up near the Llyn Brianne dam and of course the amazing cottage we filmed near Meidrim. Those darkest of nights are of course cloud covered and that’s certainly not what we’re looking for here. And luckily enough Carmarthenshire is one of those incredible counties where it hardly ever rains at night and the clouds disappear when the sun goes down!
For the best stagazing conditions its best to be moonless or at least when the moon is not in the sky. And of course cloudless which as I say is very very, very, common in Carmarthenshire! There are a number of apps which give you the moon phases which is really handy to work out the best conditions. A good one is www.deluxemoon.com .
You can see great stars in Summer of course but some of the best stargazing is to be had in the depths of Winter. And this is for a somewhat surprising reason. Nope nothing to do with cold air and the closeness of the sun!
Here goes! In Summer, our night sky is facing toward the centre of the Milky Way galaxy, some 25,000 to 28,000 light-years away. But, as we peer, in Summer we are looking in to the really combined light of billions of stars in the direction of the galaxy’s centre. In Winter, we’re looking the opposite way in to the outskirts of the galaxy and beyond – into the spiral arm of the galaxy. The Winter stars tend to be closer to us. Their bigger stars too some truly gigantic ones. So we’re seeing far fewer stars, and we’re looking more deeply into the space beyond our galaxy’s boundaries. That’s why the winter sky has a clearer, sharper quality than the summer sky. Gerrit? Phew!
When we filmed the promo its was a mesmerisingly clear night we could easily see the Milky Way stretched out across the sky like a giant brush stroke. Orion and other major constellations, and a number planets which I am still trying to work out what they are.
I worked with my talented colleague Rhian Mai Photography who has done a lot of timelapse of stars. Filming the stars is a technical challenge that takes a bit of practice. The shots that you can see were filmed on Canon EOS 5D mk3 over about 4 hours. it’s takes a bit of knowledge and practice especially with exposure.
The challenge is exposure, to capture the light of the stars and expose enough for cottages and even more difficult people in the foreground. However I think the results are quite lovely! Check out the next blog to find out what settings we used to capture the timelapse shots…