Thinking outside the circle

Virgo Cluster

Virgo Cluster panorama

This sketch was made from McDonald Observatory’s parking lot near Fort
Davis, Texas, during a trip down south. I used a 14.5″ Dobsonian and 26mm
Plossl eyepiece, and graphite on paper (reversed in Photoshop for effect). I
had prepared circles for sketching, but we ran into a streak of 6 clear
nights and I ran out, and had left my circle template back in Winnipeg. I
decided to just start sketching without the boundary of an eyepiece filed
and see what happened.  I really like the wide-field effect of not using an
eyepiece FOV circle – especially for clusters that need to be seen in

Scott Young

When an iron heart stops beating

M1 Crab nebula

Messier 1
Meade Lx90 10″
Seeing/Transparancy- Average
NELM- 5.8
Medium- Graphite

Sal Grasso

In the year 5,246 B.C., a star with a mass about three times that of our Sun was losing its life-long struggle with gravity. It had burned the hydrogen and helium in its core long ago and had begun burning ever more heavy elements until it reached iron, an energy absorbing reaction. Without the radiative core emitting enough energy to sustain a balance between gas pressure and gravitation, there was to be only one result. The crushing weight of the star’s atmosphere would collapse upon its iron core. The rebound energy would then produce a titanic explosion that would blow the star’s atmosphere into space and produce an intensely ferocious burst of neutrinos, gamma, x-ray and optical radiation. As it happened the stellar core would collapse even further (via implosion) and the electrons would be forced into very close proximity to protons, causing them to become neutrons. Only neutron degeneracy, an aspect of the Pauli  Exclusion Principle and the star’s initial mass prevented the runaway collapse to a black hole.  In this compact state, a city sized 10 km sphere contains the entire mass of the Sun and rotates at a dizzying 30 times per second. Retaining a strongly intensified magnetic field, it sends pulses of radiation from its magnetic poles at very regular intervals as it rotates.   

Six thousand three hundred years later, in 1054 A.D., Chinese astronomers took note of the position of a visitor star in the constellation of Taurus, the Bull. 953 years later, this visitor star is now seen as an expanding cloud of gas fully 12 light years wide. The rate of expansion is actually faster than the calculated rate for a free explosion, a result that indicates the intense magnetic environment accelerates electrons to relativistic velocities thus providing the energy for this “accelerated” expansion. Current measurements indicate that the complex filaments that thread the nebula are expanding at approximately 1000 meters per second.       

A satellite runs through it

 The Sun with AR923 & 924

The Sun with AR923 & 924

The Sun in white light with active regions 923 & 924: November 19, 2006
100mm achromat refractor with 10mm Plössl e/p & MV filter for contrast.
From Albuquerque, NM (36N 106W).

(2nd frame: mysterious satellite transit at 2132UT; RA 15:40:32, Dec. 19° 35.15′)

Sketch medium: graphite on paper.

Andy English

On the edge of a fertile sea

Langrenus and the Sea of Fertility 

Langrenus at the Edge of the Sea of Fertility

With the Harvest moon just past and the shadow of the setting sun approaching the eastern shore of the Sea of Fertility, crater Langrenus stands out in all its glory. Langrenus is an Eratosthenian Period crater, between one and three billion years old. This crater is about 133 km. in diameter with a rim 2.6 km. above the bright, mostly flat floor. Mountain peaks near the center stand 1 km. high. Rays from the crater can be seen projecting in a westward direction across the Sea of Fertility. Much older (four billion plus years) and slightly larger than Langrenus to the south along the terminator is the crater basin Vendelinus. The walls of this crater were dealt crushing blows delivered by the impacts that created craters Lohse, Lame  and Holden which are drawn clockwise from north to south. Many additional smaller crater impacts on Vendelinus attest to the age of this old battered basin.

More than 400 km. to the northwest, grazing angle impaction created the craters Messier and Messier A. These craters exhibit a long pair of rays extending westward across the remainder of the mare. Note the perpendicular (north-south) rays centered on Messier. Laboratory experiments have demonstrated this pattern of so called “butterfly rays” can be duplicated with shallow angle high speed impacts.

Frank McCabe

For this sketch I used: white copy paper 6”x 8”, and a 2HB graphite pencil
at the eyepiece with the addition of marker ink to darken shadows indoors.

Telesccope: 10 inch f/ 5.7 Dobsonian and 9mm eyepiece
Date: 10-9-2006 5:00-5:45 UT
Temperature: 10°C (50°F)
Seeing:  Pickering 5
Co longitude: 114 °
Sunset longitude: 66.1° E.
Lunation:  16.8 days
Illumination:  94%

Colorful Red Planet

Mars Pencil sketch PSCS Mars sketch

These are sketches created by hand and processed with Photoshop CS after being
scanned. I use graphite pencil and colored pencil on white paper.

Naturally some of these are based on looking at astrophotography, for more details.
Here are two sketches. The one is by hand and the other after being scanned and
processed with Photoshop.

With this method, I’ve created sketches of the Sun Prominences, and other objects of
the Deep Sky..

Basic equipment used: My Telescopes, ETX-125 5″/ LX 200R 8″/ and my
PST/Coronado/SolarMax 40/TMax Filter- Double Stacked.(For the Sun Sketches)

II-DSI-c..and my SBIG (recently) ST-2000XM.!!

All the Best from Athens

22 March, 2007

Peter Desypris

Buried treasure in a deep Lagoon

M8 the Lagoon nebula 

M8 was on my list of “ambitious” sketches to draw (or redraw) for a  couple years before I finally managed to tackle it. On my first attempt, I got skunked by clouds before I could finish the star field. I came back a couple nights later, and the outflow of clouds from a thunderstorm to the east threatened to bring things to a halt again.  But I was patient and managed to wait out the weather.

This is such a rich and well-lit nebula/cluster, that it’s hard not to  just relax and feast on its visual delights. But I had decided I was going to turn this one into a project. I wanted to capture the cluster and field stars as accurately and deeply as possible. This in itself  can be a pretty tedious process, but the regular blackouts caused by interloping clouds made it very aggravating. Especially since I was doing the observation pretty late in the season, and Sagittarius was threatening to set on me. Observing shouldn’t be aggravating. Tedious from time to time, sure. But not aggravating. I was being stubborn 
though, and I kept plugging along. An hour and 40 minutes later I was satisfied I had captured all I could, and as if on a merciful queue,  the clouds went ahead and made a permanent home over the southwestern  sky.

Something I find very interesting about the embedded cluster NGC 6530  is the grid-like geometry of its stars. It seems to bear an amplified kinship to the squared angles of M29–a junior sized favorite of mine.  The UltraBlock (~UHC) filter does a great job of defining the boundaries and clots of brightness in the nebula, but I find the unfiltered view to be the most pleasing. Without the filter, the view is thickly seasoned with Milky Way field stars and the members of the open cluster just seem to nestle and burn themselves in their folded blanket of nebulosity. I noted some star color in a few places, and these are depicted in the sketch.

I created the base for this sketch on Strathmore sketch paper using 2H  graphite for the initial star field. I then switched to HB graphite for the brighter stars. I then brushed in the nebulous regions with a blending stump loaded with graphite. Afterward, I replotted any stars that were blurred or diminished by the blending process.

After scanning the sketch and inverting it from negative to positive, I used a soft, transparent brush to add glow around the brighter stars. I then used a soft, transparent brush set to ‘color’ mode to  apply color to the stars I had noted during my observation. Although I  believe it is possible to overwork a sketch with digital tools, when care is taken not to overdo it, I’ve found these extra techniques very useful. In this case, I believe it helps to pop the brighter stars out as they appeared in the eyepiece. I feel it was particularly helpful for the core cluster stars that nestle in the nebula. In my opinion, that extra bit of glow helps merge them with the nebula and conveys the sense that they really are lighting it up, as it appeared through the telescope. Finally, the perception of color is an important part of my observations, and I feel that careful addition of color on the computer can handle this very nicely.

Object Information:

There are two main objects that compose this object. NGC 6530 which is the open cluster of stars, discovered in 1680 by Flamsteed. The nebula that these stars are imbedded in, NGC 6523, was discovered by Le Gentil in 1747. When Charles Messier catalogued it in 1764, he primarily described the cluster, and mentioned the nebula separately as surrounding the star, 9-Sagittarii. However, the nebula is now generally regarded as M8.

The distance to M8 is believed to be from 4850 to 6500 light years. If the distance given by David Eichler of 5200 light years is correct, then the nebula measures 140 x 60 light years across. The brightest portion of the nebula contains a region known as the Hourglass Nebula, which is region currently undergoing new star formation. There are also a number of dark nebulae known as globules in the Lagoon. These are collapsing protostellar clouds with diameters of about 10,000 AU.

Subject:        M8/NGC 6523, 6530
Classification:        Diffuse Nebula and Open Cluster
Position:        Sagittarius [RA: 18:03:41.2 / Dec: -24:22:49]*
Size*:        90′ x 40′
Brightness*:        bMag 5.0
Date/Time:        August 19, 2006 – 10:45 PM MST (August 20, 2006 – 05:45 UT)
Observing Location:        Anderson Mesa, AZ
Instrument:        Orion SVP 6LT Reflector (150 mm dia./1200 mm F/L)
Eyepieces/Mag.        32 mm Sirius Plössl (37.5X)
Seeing:        3/10 Pickering
Transparency:        Mag 6.8+ NELM
*Sources:        SEDS, NGC/IC Project

Extragalactic Twins

Extragalactic Twins 

The interacting galaxy pair consisting of NGC 3166 and NGC 3169 is one of the unsung extragalactic showpieces of the spring sky.  They may be located in the north-central region of Sextans, 8.5° south of Regulus.  Separated by 6.3′, these two galaxies look like nearly identical twins in my 6-inch scope; they give the strong impression of a ghostly pair of eyes peering from beneath a star-studded hood.  NGC 3166 is slightly smaller and dimmer than its companion but it has a more conspicuous central region with a sharp stellar nucleus.  NGC 3169 also has a bright core but it is not as well concentrated as its neighbor’s.  A 12th magnitude star is superimposed on NGC 3169’s diffuse outer halo, just east of the central core.  With a magnification of 60x and placing NGC 3169 near the northeastern edge of the field of view I can just squeeze in the faint galaxy NGC 3156 just west of a trio of 7th, 8th, and 9th magnitude stars (it lies just 2′ from the faintest of the three stars).  This little galaxy is elongated northeast to southwest and has a slightly brighter center.  A much fainter galaxy, NGC 3165, glimmers intermittently with averted vision 5.4′ southwest of NGC 3166.
William Herschel discovered NGC 3166 and NGC 3169 on December 19, 1783 with his 18.7-inch reflector.  He designated them as the 3rd and 4th entries (respectively) in his catalog of “Bright Nebulae”.  Both of these galaxies are included in the popular “Herschel 400″ observing list.  Each of these galaxies shows evidence of tidal interaction and distortion on photographs.  NGC 3169 has a highly distorted spiral arm, while the dust lanes of NGC 3166 have been fragmented and twisted as if
the entire disk has been warped by the interaction with its neighbor.  It is estimated that these galaxies lie 52 million light-years away.

Subject: NGC 3166 and NGC 3169
Object Type: Interacting Galaxy Pair
Constellation: Sextans

NGC 3166 (H.I.3)
Right Ascension (2000.0): 10h 13m 45.8s
Declination (2000.0): +03° 25′ 30″
Magnitude: 10.4
Diameter: 4.6′ x 2.6′
Classification: SAB(rs)0/a

NGC 3169 (H.I.4)
Right Ascension (2000.0): 10h 14m 15.0s
Declination (2000.0): +03° 27′ 58″
Magnitude: 10.2
Diameter: 5.0′ x 2.8′
Classification: SA(s)a pec

Observer: Eric Graff
Location: Cuyamaca Mts., San Diego Co., California (4,000 ft. elevation) Date &
Time: 12 March 2007 at 07:35UT
Transparency: NELM 6.7, TLM ~14.1
Seeing: Pickering 5-6/10
Telescope: Parks Astrolight EQ6 (6” f/6 Newtonian Reflector)
Eyepiece: 15mm Parks Gold Series Plössl (60x, 52′ TFoV)
Filter: None
Sketching Materials: #2 pencil, black ink, blending stump, 24# copy paper

Diamonds at the feet of the twins

Diamonds at the feet of the twins 

Open cluster M35 in the constellation Gemini 

Here’s my first observation with the SkyWatcher 102/500. This 102mm rich field scope gives a whole new perspective on deep-sky objects. With a SP 26mm EP, I get a whopping 2.7 degrees field of view at a power of x19. I hope you like the view.

Date : March 8, 2007
Time : 20.30 UT
Seeing :2.5/5
Transp. 3/5

Digital sketch made with Photopaint, based on a raw pencil sketch made behind the EP.
N down, W left orientation.
Rony De Laet, my personal website.

A daisy in the field

AR 756 Sunspot sequence

What a difference a day makes

This pair of sunspot drawings hails from the tail end of activity of the current solar cycle. The weekend of May 1st and 2nd 2005 consisted of two ‘blue sky’ days here in southern England, and I had the chance to observe and sketch the Sun in white light on both of them, recording the intriguing changes to AR 756 that occurred in just over 19 hours. I used graphite pencil on white cartridge paper, my favourite medium for this kind of target. For each sketch I drew the umbra first, then added the penumbral region with lighter pencil strokes drawn from the umbra outwards, with the pores being added last. The seeing conditions were very steady and not a breath of wind was to be had while I spent a happy (but very hot!) hour in front of the eyepiece each day.

Sally Russell

Sketch details: 

Date: 1st and 2nd May  2005   

Time: 14.20-15.30 UT & 10.05-11.15 UT respectively 

Equipment: 105mm AstroPhysics APO, 9mm TV Nagler, 2 x Barlow (mag x135),

Kendrick white light filter

Additional accessories: Large brimmed straw hat and a cold drink!                                                     

Medium: Graphite pencil on white cartridge paper                                                                                     

Each image size: approx. 1.5″ x 1.5″

Busy bees

The Praesepe, M44

Praesepe, Messier 44

Here is an encounter with an old friend, M44, visited with a new scope. The Skywatcher is a nice low power scope to enjoy large objects, like in this case : Praesepe. I tried to sketch the overall low power view, combined with the fainter stars visible at 33x. The higher power allowed me to separate ADS 6921 (in the Northern arm of the V shape) into four components : mag 6.4,7.6,9.2,10.4. You might need to squeeze your eyes to notice the fourth star in the sketch. When the sketch was finished, I counted (just for fun) the numbers of stars I’ve drawn. The number is 147.

Rony De Laet, my personal website.

Date : March 14, 2007
Time : 21.30UT
Scope : Skywatcher 102/500
Eyepieces : TV SP 40mm, SP 25 mm, SP 15 mm
Power : 12.5x to 33x
FOV: 3.3°
Filter : none
Seeing : 2.5/5
Transp. : 2/5
Sketch Orientation : N down, W left.
Digital sketch made with PhotoPaint, based on a raw pencil sketch.