SITEZINE: Holy Island's E-Mail Newsletter: April 2021

June 2021

Max Whitby

As well as building my new Observatory Greenhouse at Skylark, I have been busy all this year on another astronomical construction project.  This involves assembling a vast mosaic image of the entire Visible Universe (as previously outlined in this column last September).  Now - nine months on - all necessary data has been acquired. The time has come to combine more than 10,000 individual photographs in this monster jigsaw puzzle.

Fortunately help is to hand in attempting such a daunting task.  My colleagues at NatureGuides are kindly assisting and I have teamed-up with American astrophotographer Charles Bracken.  Charlie has a number of strings to his bow that make him the ideal collaborator.  In the first place he has written several of the best books on photographing galaxies, nebulae and other deep space objects (see Secondly, he is a whizz with a fearsomely complicated piece of software called PixInsight: an essential tool for stitching together all our data as seamlessly as possible.

There are five main stages in creating our all-sky mosaic.  The first of course is to take the constituent photographs. For this we have relied on my remotely controlled telescopes in Spain and in Chile, plus a few images from cloudier Holy Island.  These three locations allow us to cover both north and south celestial hemispheres.  And by spreading our observations over nine months, the annual journey of the Earth around the Sun ensures that the entire Visible Universe swings around into view over the duration of the project.

Mercator Projection
Here is Charlie Bracken's hand-annotated master plan showing the position of the 153 panels in our mosaic and their grouping into "super panels" during the complicated processing required to create our unified mosaic of the Visible Universe.

To plan our image acquisition campaign, Charlie devised the accompanying chart.  We needed 153 slightly overlapping panels to cover the entire night sky in both hemispheres and across the seasons.  Each night I programmed my telescopes to photograph just a few of these panels.  But for each location in the sky I took as many as 100 individual images using six different filters.  As previously explained in this column, taking multiple images improves the signal quality and helps to eliminate disturbances such as light trails from satellites and aircraft passing overhead.

The second stage of the process is then to combine all the individual images taken for each panel into just four panel masters: one in colour (combining red, green and blue filters) and the other three in monochrome showing chemical data (using specialised hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur "narrowband" filters).  Then comes the delicate third stage attempting to remove light pollution from each image.  This is primarily caused by the Moon under the otherwise dark skies at my three observatories.

GreenHouse-Observatory: stage 2
This composite image of the entire Visible Universe was acquired over a period of nine months between August 2020 and April 2021 using telescopes in Chile, Spain and Holy Island. The snake-like structure is our local galaxy the Milky Way, revealed by regions of glowing hydrogen.

The fourth stage, for each set of masters, is to stitch the 153 panels together in groups to create larger super panels.  This makes the final step easier by reducing the number of pieces in the jigsaw to "only" twenty or so.  To accomplish this task PixInsight (under Charlie's expert guidance) analyses the position of thousands of stars in each image and registers each one precisely to its neighbour.  Here the slight overlap between panels is helpful in balancing the brightness and contrast to achieve even lighting across the mosaic.        

Finally, the super panels are merged into one complete image of the entire sky.  A geometric transformation is used, rather like the Mercator projection in maps of the Earth's surface, to squeeze the three-dimensional celestial sphere into a flat rectangle.  A great deal of late-night tweaking is called for.  The result is a remarkable overview of everything there is to be seen on the largest scale as we gaze out from our little planet into the immensity that surrounds us.

Ray Simpson

Last month, following the lifting of Covid restrictions and the sale of The Open Gate,  locals joined Community members from Liverpool, Birmingham an  New Forest in a working party to clean, clear and re-order our three retreat houses, prayer room and library. We look forward to welcoming self-catering bookings.

We hope to restore weekday midday and 9.0 pm night prayer, and to offer talks, hospitality or spiritual direction to groups who visit the island.

Over sixty people attended the zoom launch of my autobiography, Monk in the Marketplace (DLT) whose cover pictures Scott Brennan's photo of me leaning on one of the island's pilgrim posts. Readers who have been pilgrims to Holy Island have contacted me with some profound insights.

One writer, who was forced to leave apartheid South Africa as a student because he stood for a fear-free, prejudice-free country, thought I had much to share from the  'misunderstandings' described in chapter 6. He writes that there are so many situations in the world, both between next door neighbours, right through to international conflicts where situations arise based on a resistance to bring 'taken over', as in Israel/Palestine. Perhaps noting I quote Paul Coelho 'our task is to help our neighbours find their greatness', he concludes 'your experiences related to this issue may be the most valuable contribution to a world in need that you have to give now. Coming from a monk, people will take seriously what you share about these human dilemmas.'

May good times lie ahead.

Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills

    Dear friends

As I write it is a beautiful morning. The ducklings in the vicarage garden are growing up fast - delightfully waddling around after their mother. And there is always one who is off on her own exploring - only to be met by a bout of loud quacking as her mother realises she isn't with the others...

We had a lovely visit a week ago when our island school girls came to see the ducklings. And then we went into church to put up the Christian Aid display that the girls had done at school - a really important cause as Christian Aid help those affected by climate change and the need for clean water.

We have just celebrated Pentecost - the date in the churches calendar when we celebrate the founding of the church. Jesus has ascended into heaven but has not left us comfortless. At Pentecost, he sends us the Holy Spirit - our advocate, guide, comforter. And at Pentecost, we recommit to living a Christian way of life. During the service, as Vicar, I ask those present

As part of God' church here on Holy Island, I call upon you to live out what you proclaim. Empowered by God's Spirit, will you dare to walk out into God's future, trusting him to be your guide? By the Spirit's power, we will.

Will you dare to care for each other and grow together in love? ...... We will.
Will you dare to share your riches and minister to those in need? ...... We will.
Will you dare to pray until your hearts beat with the longings of God? ...... We will.
Will you dare to carry the light of Christ into the world's dark places? ...... We will.

Caring for each other, sharing what we have, helping those in need. This Holy Island community lives out those words - caring, sharing, helping. And that is to be celebrated in the new life around us, in thinking about those who Christian Aid is trying to help, in working together for a good future for our children and our children's children.

Holy Island 2050 is working towards a brighter future for the island community - for our children and our children's children. I have included the latest newsletter later in this magazine. We are hoping to hold open meetings in June, covid allowing. Please do come along or let us know of your interest. Notice of those meetings will be circulated to everyone.

And as we come out of lockdown (we hope), we look forward to being able to celebrate together and to keep caring, sharing, helping. One of these celebrations will be for our curate, our very own Sam Quilty's ordination as priest on the weekend of July 3rd. Congratulations Sam!

Watch this space for news of the party!

With every blessing

Sarah Hills

Current Worship Times

Due to the lockdown restrictions of Covid 19, St Mary's Church building is currently closed. We are sorry it is not open daily but know that our prayers are with you.

The church building will open again as we come out of lockdown when it is safe to do so. Please check the website or church porch for details.

When open please wear face Mask in church.

Worship Times
(from after Easter)
8am BCP Sunday Eucharist first Sunday of the month in church
1045am Sunday Eucharist in church

Daily prayer in church will restart once we are further through the government's road map of lifting restrictions.

Lord, help us to be with one another... even if at a physical distance. Help us to build a kinder world. To reach out. To love and to care. To be sensible and not to panic. Help us, Lord, to hope. Because together we can. Amen.

Revd Dr Sarah Hills

A Blessing - for this time and every time

Lift your hearts to heaven
and receive the eternal gift of peace

Keep your feet on the ground
and walk with those who need God's love

This day

you are loved by God
You are held by God
You are blessed by God

Now and for evermore

© Rachel Poolman