Evening Stars Over the Red Deer River


Evening Stars Over Red Deer River

Mercury and Venus shine as “evening stars” over the Red Deer River in southern Alberta.

What a fine night this was for nightscape shooting. Mercury and Venus are both now about as high as they will get for the year in the evening sky from my western Canadian latitude.

Venus is easy to spot as the brilliant object in the west. But Mercury is more elusive. You can see it here low in the twilight glow and much dimmer than Venus.

The photo illustrates how far each of the two inner planets swings away from the Sun in our skies, and why Mercury has its reputation for being difficult to sight. Also, it appears at its best for only a couple of weeks at a time. By mid-May it will be gone.

Venus, however, continues to dominate our western sky for the next two months.

I shot the main photo from the deck of a rickety wooden bridge over the Red Deer River near Dorothy, Alberta, just off Highway 10 east of Drumheller in the Badlands.

The image is a high-dynamic-range “HDR” stack of five exposures.

Venus over the Atlas Coal Mine

Shortly after taking the lead photo, I drove west to the Atlas Coal Mine to shoot it by the light of the now high and nearly Full Moon. Mercury can still be seen low and to the right of the historic tipple building. Venus shines above it.

This is a single 25-second exposure at ISO 800.

The Atlas Coal Mine is now a National Historic Site and is the last standing from what was once a booming coal mining centre in the Red Deer River Valley.

Now, mostly dinosaur fossils are unearthed here.

– Alan, May 3, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer / www.amazingsky.com

Little Church on the Prairie


In honour of Canadian Thanksgiving, here’s a shot from last night of a classic little church on the Canadian Prairie.

This is the long abandoned Catholic church at the hamlet of Dorothy, Alberta. The church was built in 1944, but as the coal mines in the Drumheller valley shut down (blame the invention of Diesel trains and the discovery of natural gas in Alberta) the once bustling town of Dorothy decayed into a ghost town. A few people still live there, but its main attractions are its relics of the pioneer age — this church, and the United church next to it (behind the camera), a picturesque grain elevator, and an old store. The companion United church has been restored, but this little church on the prairie, abandoned since 1967, awaits restoration.

The scene is lit by the gibbous Moon, and by a couple of sodium vapour streetlights, ubiquitous even in a ghost town.

In the sky are the stars of the Big Dipper and Polaris above the church.

This is one frame of 300 I shot over three hours as part of a motion-controlled time-lapse movie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

— Alan, October 10, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer