How to photograph the night sky over Lancashire

ByDavid M. Conte

Feb 2, 2022

Published:
6:00 p.m. February 2, 2022



Stunning photographs of the night sky taken by astronomer Robert Ince from Bamber Bridge.

For generations it was expected in mining villages that sons would follow fathers into the mine, but Robert Ince always looked up, not down.

His father was an electrical engineer in mines in the North East and Nottinghamshire, where Robert recalls his first stargazing experience.


Robert with one of his telescopes
– Credit: Robert Ince

“My fascination with the night sky started when I was knee high,” he said. “I got my first book when I was about five and one of my earliest memories is of sitting in the garden of the pit village where we lived, Blidworth, and looking up at the stars.

“We were only about 150 yards from the pithead, but the skies were dark and there was so much to see.

“My parents saw my interest and bought me my first telescope from Tesco, a 60mm telescope which I used in the garden and from my bedroom window.”

Robert went on to study physics and astronomy at the University of Sheffield, then worked for the MoD, but always had a passion for the night sky. He moved to Lancashire when he took a job with BAe in 1998 and now lives in Bamber Bridge.


Light pollution means the Milky Way is visible much less often than before

Light pollution means the Milky Way is visible much less often than before
– Credit: Robert Ince

He now hosts astronomy events where he shares his passion with astronomers of all ages and offers one-on-one astro photography sessions to help others take the kind of photos you can see here.

“My interest in the night sky never left me, although it waxed and waned as I got older and my family settled in,” Robert said. “At first it was very male dominated and the few girls were much more, but that has really changed and there is also a much younger population now.”

He has also seen the changes brought about by the Covid lockdowns. “In many ways, this time made people reevaluate how they spent their free time,” Robert added. “They had to stay close to home and they started noticing things they hadn’t seen before and it seems like a lot of people started looking up.

“People walking around in the evening could see more than usual because there were fewer plane contrails in the sky, so the sky was clearer. Many people were searching online and posting on social media asking what certain objects were in the sky.

But the biggest change he’s witnessed since he first looked up in wonder has been decidedly less positive for astronomers.


Star trails above the Orme Sight sculpture on Beacon Fell

Star trails above the Orme Sight sculpture on Beacon Fell
– Credit: Robert Ince

“Light pollution levels have increased dramatically over the past few decades,” he said. It is the bane of an astronomer’s life. The light we use serves a purpose, but it is largely poorly designed. I used to see the Milky Way from my backyard in Blidworth, now I can see it maybe one night out of 100 and that’s a problem that could be completely eliminated.

“People who use lights for entertainment are fine, as long as they can be turned off, but often they are allowed to shine on all night when no one is going to see them. There have been some improvements in street lighting since the old sodium lamps started to be replaced by LED lighting which is more controllable and consumes less energy, but because of this local authorities often install them. more.


The Milky Way above Beacon Fell

The Milky Way above Beacon Fell
– Credit: Robert Ince

Learn more

Robert’s stargazing sessions are for anyone interested, from complete beginners to people who know what they are looking at. They are organized for groups of around 30 people in dark sky areas such as national parks or on Beacon Fell. He provides all the equipment and will point out some of the key things visible, anyone attending just needs to wrap up warm and bring a torch.

For more information, visit stargazingevents.com.


Robert uses a laser to point out objects in the night sky above Beacon Fell

Robert uses a laser to point out objects in the night sky above Beacon Fell
– Credit: Robert Ince