Sunday, 11 September 2016

London vs Cambridgeshire

This week the Widescreen Centre, the last surviving telescope shop in Central London, announced that they are relocating to Cambridgeshire. The reasons they cited for the move are "[t]he current economic climate, changing retail patterns, and critically a major rent review due imminently".

I only visited their shop once, to buy a solar filter to observe the transit of Mercury. The Widescreen Centre folk graciously answered some questions I had about telescopes, although I'd made it clear that I wasn't looking to buy one. They are also among the core members of my astronomy club (their announcement says they will continue to come for our monthly meets in London).

Rent is not the only thing that makes Cambridgeshire more conducive to astronomy than London. I took this photo last month when my friend Rohini and I went stargazing in Hampstead Heath in London. If you hover over the image, you can see the names of major constellations as well as two Messier objects: the Pleiades Star Cluster and the Andromeda Galaxy.

Try as we might, we could not see the Andromeda galaxy with the naked eye (the photo above was a 15-second exposure, so the camera captured about twice as many stars as our eyes could see).

For me, the most striking thing about the photo is the light pollution. Long after sunset on a clear night, the light from thousands of buildings and streetlamps gives the London sky an unsightly orange cast. Compare this with a photo I posted earlier this year of the International Space Station over Cambridgeshire (hover to see constellation labels):

Relatedly, the photographer Nicholas Buer has a wonderful video simulation of what London would look like if there were no light pollution.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

some cities have started turning off some of their lights..