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No 54 - November 2007

A new dark site for ASE

As of September we have a new dark site. Danny Gallacher has been negotiating on behalf of the Society with the West Calder Aeromodellers [1] about using their airfield. I went along for a bit of site testing last year, and as a result had to come up with a site name for my observing logs. I settled for Pearie Law, which is the nearest named feature on the Landranger maps [2]. I have used the site twice in September this year - with Neil Grubb and Frank Howie, resp. - for some deep-sky imaging with a tracking go-to mount.

The site has a good horizon in all directions - Pearie Law is only 20 m higher and 600 m away. It is dark; you can see the Milky Way without effort. I may be wrong, but I think I counted 8 stars in the square of Pegasus, which translates to a limiting magnitude of 5.5 or 5.7 mag [3]. The only direct light is from a few street lights in the hamlet of Woolfords 1 km south. Cobbinshaw Reservoir is 1 or 2 km east, and the Edinburgh to Carlisle railway line is 1 km to the East and South. The nearest train stations are not on that line, but at West Calder and Addiewell on the Edinburgh to Shotts line. But it is a 5 km hike from there.

The site is a 40 km drive from Edinburgh. The easiest approach is westbound on the A71 through West Calder. Just west of West Calder bear left onto the A704. After about 2 km there is a crossing staggered by about 50 m, turn left here. (If you miss the A704, after 2 km on the A71 there is a similar staggered crossing, turn left to get to get to the staggered crossing of the A704.) Drive another 3.5 km; this is mostly a single-file road. The site is on the left just about 100 m after you cross into South Lanarkshire. For the nerds and SatNav'ers, the site is at NT 003 579, λ = -3°35'28", φ = +55°48'17".

Pearie Law dark site
The author at Pearie Law with camera on tracking mount, Ursa Maior in the background. Picture by Frank Howie.

On the whole the infrastructure is better than at Earlyburn: there is a large car park with solid ground, and we can also use the tarmac runways to set up telescopes. Watch out for the low fence between the car park and the runway, which keeps out the sheep! Also, due to the peaty ground in the area, naked flames and smoking are not allowed on the site.

There is no electricity. Run your telescope off the car battery or bring a power pack. If you obtain a key from Danny, there is a hut/container with gas-fired facilities to warm yourself up and to make a cuppa. Bring your own consumables, including water. Also take away everything you bring - including litter. Don't store anything in the hut or on site, and leave the site in good order (sheep fence up, hut locked, site gate locked, etc.).

You don't need a key if you just want to drive in and set up so use the sky, but you will need to know the padlock code for the gate. Danny has drawn up some instructions on the use of the site, and he can provide you with a key for the hut. Please contact him, the Council, or myself before going to the site for the first time. It would be good to keep us informed so that the Society has some idea of who uses the site and how much use is made of it.

And if you get some nice results from using the site, tell the Society about it at the monthly meeting!


  1. West Calder Aeromodellers,
  2. Ordnance Survey, Landranger Series, 65, NT 007 583
  3. Tom Trusock, 2004, Small wonders: Pegasus,, item 439

Horst Meyerdierks


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