An amateur astronomer inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope has taken advantage of Northumberland’s inky black skies to peer half way back through time!
Robbie Ince has he has recreated the image called The Hubble Deep Field – a famous NASA photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995. It is considered to be one of the greatest astronomical pictures ever taken. The Hubble image was taken over ten days and revealed even a seemingly barren tiny patch of sky is brimming with distant galaxies.
What’s remarkable about Robbie’s achievement is that while NASA had multi-million dollar hardware, Robbie had only his own modest telescopic gear which he uses at Keilder Star Camp. It is amazing that he could see so far away! The fact that he could is down to the very dark skies we have in Northumberland.
Robbie’s sleepless vigil was rewarded with one of the most striking images ever taken in the forest, which has become a magnet for stargazers. It depicts the feeble light of scores of galaxies – ancient star cities – up to six billion light years away!
“I am a big fan of Kielder’s superb dark skies and always wondered how deep I could image from there – even with my own relatively modest equipment,” explained Robbie, who grew up on Ashington and now lives in Preston.
“To see such a distant object was a big surprise – it’s very much like looking back in time to when the Universe was scarcely half its present age. Northumberland is very special place and there are few parts of England where I could have taken this image.”
Robbie has been visiting Kielder Water & Forest Park for six years to take part in the bi-annual star camps, the next of which runs between 10 and 15 October, and which has once again been over-subscribed.
Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Northumberland National Park Authority and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society are working to have 400 square miles of Northumberland designated for the quality of its starry sky and to help combat light pollution.
An audit of external lighting in parts of the proposed dark sky area will get underway over the next few weeks as part of the application process which will be judged by the Tucson-based International Dark Skies Association.
If the bid is successful Northumberland would gain the largest area of protected night sky in Europe. The move has drawn support from tourism and wildlife bodies, parish councils and astronomical organisations.
Emma Marrington, Rural Policy Campaigner with the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Northumberland offers exceptional dark skies with very little light pollution to detract from the tranquillity and pristine night skies of the area. The designation of these areas would help ensure that their unique dark sky qualities would remain protected for future generations to enjoy.”