Seeing double


The goal of splitting the double star, Antares, had been tempting me for a while. I never seem to have the sort of seeing conditions that would make for a nice clean observation of this double. So I gave it a try on this less-than-perfect evening, and was successful in spotting the secondary star with my SkyView Pro 6LT (6″ f/8 Newtonian) at 240X.  Antares’ primary star flickered like a coppery flame in the jumping air currents, so I had to be patient and wait for the ripples of diffracted light to show me the way. The secondary began to coalesce as a consistent lump in the fluttering kidney beans of orange light near the position of the primary star’s second diffraction ring. It’s color was hard to pick up, but gradually, I perceived what looked like a yellow-green tint. To help keep myself honest, I had not checked data on the secondary’s current position angle ahead of time, and it looked to be at a PA of about 280 degrees. Checking Brian Workman’s 
double star calculator a couple days later gave a PA of 277° for 2007.5. The separation comes out to 2.18 arcseconds, which is fairly close for my ‘second diffraction ring’ sighting–that works out to 2.5 arcseconds in my scope.

When preparing my double star sketches for presentation online, I scan my original sketch to use as a template. Using that template, I then recreate the double star components using painting tools in Adobe Photoshop. See my Double Star Digitizing Tutorial for a detailed discussion of the process I use. After preparing that tutorial, I came up with a system for representing double star magnitudes consistently across all my sketches. A discussion of that system can be found at this link.  Although these methods give me a consistent way to present my double star observations, they don’t handle very close doubles well. The proportions compared to the eyepiece field of view are just too tight (a discussion about this issue can be found at this link. Based on suggestions from experienced observers such as Eric Graff and Ed Zarenski, I decided to supplement my sketches of close double stars with an inset graphic showing how the diffraction patterns of the double stars interacted.

This sketch of Antares shows the most extreme example to date of how I’ve tried to convey the highly magnified optical interaction between two closely paired stars. Presenting something this complex was quite a learning experience for me, but I think it does a fairly decent job of rendering what I saw. This can be seen in the detail portion of the sketch. You just have to imagine all of that jumping around and moving from moment to moment. You’ll notice that I was fortunate enough to have the spider vanes in a position that didn’t interfere with the secondary star.

I made three different pencil sketches at the eyepiece, trying to describe how the secondary appeared within the jumping glare of its orange primary. These raw sketches can be seen below (note that they are shown prior to rotating the sketch to my usual position of North up):

Pencil sketches 

When creating this part of the digital sketch, I used a semi-soft paintbrush to plot the position of the primary star’s diffraction disc. I then used the circle selection tool to stroke progressively fainter rings around the primary. I have been using the excellent information from Ed Zarenski’s article “Understanding Resolution” to help me better proportion the position of these rings to the size of the primary star’s diffraction disc. After plotting these rings, I used a soft eraser tool to erase gaps in them to mimic what I had drawn in my sketches. I then came back with a small, soft paintbrush to slightly brighten up the second diffraction ring where I had noted the position of the secondary star. I then used coloring techniques described in the tutorial above to colorize the image.

It really was a beautiful and challenging sight. Watching the colorful light from a distant star give up it’s wave properties as it passes through the telescope and then tempt you to dissect its secrets is an enjoyable task. Give it a try sometime and see if you can identify the secondary in that bubbling mass of starlight. Someday I hope to observe and sketch this duo under much smoother seeing. Full details about the observation can be found here.

Jeremy Perez

Beautiful Bullialdus


This is my impression of the Lunar Crater Bullialdus with it’s neighbors Konig and
Lubiniezky. It was sketched with a #2HB mechanical pencil on Strathmore Wind Power
Sketching Paper. Other pertinent details are on the sketch itself. I really enjoyed
drawing this sketch because of the detail I was able to see in Bullialdus (one the
smaller craters I’ve captured) and the surrounding landscape.

Jason Aldridge

Early Morning mars


I have attached my latest Mars sketch for your interest. This resulted from my 3rd
observation of Mars during this opposition. Unfortunately seeing was too poor
during the 2nd session to allow me to make a ‘reliable’ sketch.

Mars SPA
I find observing in the early morning so invigorating and am always on a high
for the rest of the day following such an opportunity. As I have noted so often
before the view gets more detailed and contrasty as the dawn sky brightens. On
this occasion I noted a distinct brightening along the northern polar region
which I hope I have depicted agreeably in my sketch.
When I observe and sketch Mars I never research what I’m likely to see in case
some preconceived image might cloud my vision of reality at the eyepieces.

Dale Holt

Almost a Basin


As the 2007 year began, winter’s cold grip had not yet taken hold. I was finishing
the process of cleaning and repairing a 13 inch Newtonian telescope when I decided
to colliminate and test the optics on the star Polaris and the moon. The moon was
one day past full and upper Imbrian period crater Humboldt in the
east-south-eastern sector of the libration zone was nicely placed for sketching.
Crater Humboldt at 207 km. in diameter is classified as a large floor fractured
crater. If this crater was 33% larger it would be a lunar basin. On the Lunar 100
list crater Humboldt is number 87.

At or near full moon many observers avoid looking moonward but old Luna can be a
rewarding telescope target at any and every phase.
  I used a No. 2 HB pencil on copy paper for this drawing
  Date: 1-4-2007 4:00 to 4:40 UT
  Temperature: 0°C (33° F)
  Windy, some mid-altitude cloudiness, seeing was average
  Antoniadi : III
  13.1 inch f / 5.9 Dobsonian 9mm ortho ocular 218X
  Colongitude: 91.9°
  Lunation: 14.6 days
  Illumination: 99.6 %
  Libration in longitude. +5.5°        
  Frank McCabe

Extragalactic thundercloud

Messier 106

That night (the 20th of April 2007) I first planned to redo a sketch of M51. When I
scanned the region, M106 came into view. I found the view so interesting that I
decided to sketch this Messier object instead. At first sight, this galaxy reminded
me of a cumulonimbus cloud drifting in the sky. I could not help it but to see
patterns and shadows in this galaxy. I found the core very confusing to look at.
According to the late Walter Scott Houston, descriptions of its visual appearance
vary considerably. Some observers have reported a needle-like shape, while ‘Scotty’
saw a very bright parallelogram shape. My little scope reveals ‘a drifting cloud’. I
hope you like the view.
Date : April 20, 2007
Time : 21.30UT
Scope : ETX 105/1470
Vixen LV Zoom eyepiece at 15mm
Power : 100
FOV: 30′
Filter : none
Seeing : 2.5/5
Transp. : 2/5
Nelm : 5.3
Sketch Orientation : N down, W left.
Digital sketch made with a digital tablet and PhotoPaint, based on a raw pencil sketch.

Rony De Laet, my personal website.

Lovely Limb


Crater Ingrahami
  You have got to admit, on a clear winter night from the northern hemisphere the
full moon has a way of revealing itself and moving high and bright to the
meridian. After looking at the full moon through a telescope eyepiece you can be
quite moonblind for a while. Don’t make any sudden movements until your night
vision returns. This night was my rendezvous with the crater Inghirami. Crater
Inghirami is a Nectarian period crater (3.85 billion years old) and measuring 92 diameter. This crater is southwest of Schickard and southeast of Vallis
Inghirami. The crater has an interesting floor with what looks like a low ridge
mountain range running across it. Inghirami crater is near the edge of the lunar
impact basin Mare Orientale. Below is my number 2 pencil and ink sketch on copy
paper of the region of Inghirami crater near both the terminator and limb.       
  Date: 1-3-2007 4:00 to 4:45 UT
  Temperature: -2.2 °C (28° F)
  Breezy, seeing was average
  Antoniadi : III
  13.1 inch f / 5.9 Dobsonian 6mm ortho ocular 327X
  Colongitude: 83°
  Lunation: 13.8 days
  Illumination: 100 %         
  Frank McCabe

Long haired star

Comet Linear C/2006 VZ13

I love comets and observe them whenever I can. Most are just faint
celestial smudges but you never know when things can change! When I
observe them I always make a sketch to capture that moment forever, after
all most never return in our life time so it is so nice to look back on your
records. This week I caught up with current Comet Linear C/2006 VZ13 in
Bootes andmade the attached sketch.
Made simply on white cartridge paper with a graphite pencil & blending
stump at the eyepiece. Scanned and turned into a white on black negative.
Warm regards, Dale Holt

Before the Moon Is Full


Crater Schickard

One of the many large and interesting craters on the visible lunar surface is 227
km. diameter walled plain crater Schickard. This Pre-Nectarian crater is somewhat
isolated from craters of equal size. It is the shallow floor of Schickard that
presents its most interesting features. After the large impactor struck the lunar
highlands to form this crater, lava passed to the surface through cracks that
served as channels. Tens of millions of years later the gargantuan impact forming
the Orientale basin occurred blanketing the crater with highland ejecta. After
some time more flooding of dark mare lava created the two notable dark patches on
the crater floor to the Northwest and Southeast. This grand crater can easily be
seen in a modest telescope with good lighting one or two days before full moon.
  For this sketch I used: copy paper, a no. 2 graphite pencil, fingertips for
  Telescope: 10 inch f/ 5.7 Dobsonian at 233X
  Date: 11-4-2006,  Time: 2:11-3:15 UT
  Clear skies:  4.4°C (40°F)
  Seeing:  Pickering 5/10
  Colongitude 70.5 °
  Lunation 12.9 days
  Illumination 97 %
  Frank McCabe

Celestial Pyramid

Zodiacal Light 

Hello friends!!
I have been busy a few months but I am back again :- )
I send you a sketch that I did last year showing the Zodiacal Light. It was
the first time I saw it in so good conditions and very clear.

The weather was perfect, transparency, very very clear skies. The Moon was
next to the plain horizon, thin as a sickle, the pyramid of light was
inclining towards the left side, becoming closer as it was climbing up to
the constellation of Geminis and Cancer. Incredibly luminous it was
contrasting against the black sky.

It is a naked eye sketch showing some trees on the horizon and the moon.

Date: April 29 (2006)
After the sunset looking to the west.

I hope you like it.

Prominent Trio

Prominent Trio

Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina
This sketch of the trio Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina was done in about 15
minutes due to clouds coming in. to make the best of the limited time I tried to
focus only on the big shapes, shadows & lines. Then I worked the sketch out inside.
Below is the quick sketch done outside, and above the finished version.

Prominent Trio quick
Sketched on the 22th May 2007 from my home in Bornem, Belgium. I used my 8” f/5 dob
at 200x through a 5mm Baader Hyperion eyepiece.
The sketch was done on standard A4 printerpaper with pencils. I then scanned it and
adjusted the brightness/contrast levels a bit to make it stand out better.
Kris Smet

Twins Gems


Hi folks,

Here’s my first observation with the SkyWatcher. This 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.

Sunny Hawaii

 Sunny Hawaii

A unique sunspot grouping, AR963, emerged this week and has been dubbed by some “the
Hawaiian Islands”. The large ‘island’ is about the size of Neptune and all the little ones are each about the size of Earth. Atmospheric conditions prevented anything but brief glimpses at the Sun through heavy clouds and gusty winds.

This grouping is definitely one to keep an eye on!

The Sun with AR963
100mm acromat refractor at 48x (25mm Plossl + 2x Barlow).
Graphite pencil on white paper, blending stumps.

Andrew English

Gibbous Ruby World

Gibbous Mars 1

I had intended to catch up with Mars in June to begin my
observations and sketches of this exciting opposition.
Unfortunately a long run of poor weather in the UK prevented me
from doing this. Finally I caught up with the Red one early on the
morning of Sat 8th July. It was hard work but I sucked out some
detail in the end from the distant ruby planet.
Dale Holt

Here is the original SPA observation form with all the details about Dale’s sketch:

Gibbous Mars

Edge-on galaxy

NGC 4565 

I was observing Melotte 111 with a richfield scope when I ran into this galaxy.
While being limited to a maximum power of x63, I tried to make the best of the
observation. This galaxy looked rather faint. I needed to jiggle the scope to set
this galaxy in motion. This technique helped me to determine the real shape of this
beautiful but elusive edge-on galaxy. I would like to repeat this observation in the
future with higher powers of x80 and x120, to see if more details are visible in a
four inch scope. I hope you like the view

Date : May 5, 2007
Time : 22.30UT
Scope : SkyWatcher 102/500
Vixen LV Zoom at 8mm
Power : 62.8
FOV: 47′
Filter : none
Seeing : 2.5/5
Nelm : 5.1
Sketch Orientation : N up, W right.
Digital sketch made with a digital tablet and PhotoPaint, based on a raw pencil sketch.

Rony De Laet, my personal website.

The Elusive Great Comet

Comet Mc Naught 

Great comet C/2006 P1 Mc Naught at 08.00 UT on Jan 19th 2007.

The comet rose above the low eastern horizon along with the rosy glow of the
approaching Sun. It was easily visible to the naked eye complete with tail hanging
above a distant telegraph post. This sketch shows the view in 10X50mm binoculars
with a 1 degree long white dust tail pointing at a shallow angle to the NE with the
‘shadow of the nucleus’ feature splitting the dust tail in two. I only had it in
view for 5 min’s before clouds rolled in but what a view it was!

Mag: -1.7 Dia: 3′ D.C: 9 and only 13 degrees from the sun.

Pencil and paper sketch inverted in photoelements.


Martin Mc Kenna

N. Ireland

Open and close

Melotte 111 

Melotte 111

Hello sketchers,

What is called the second closest star cluster to our sun? Looking at it with a
scope is of little use, because the grouping covers about 5° of sky. Some of its
stars look so bright in a scope, as if one can almost touch them. So here it is, my
impression of this beautiful naked eye cluster. I used the lowest power available,
but even the fov of 3° is not large enough to cover the cluster. So the sketch is a
composite image of overlapping observations. Because of the low power, the sky-glow
washes out al stars fainter than mag 10.9. I hope you like my impression.

Date : May 5, 2007
Time : 22.00UT
Scope : SkyWatcher 102/500
TV SP 32mm eyepiece
Power : 15
FOV: 5°
Filter : none
Seeing : 2.5/5
Nelm : 5.1
Sketch Orientation : N up, W right.
Digital sketch made with a digital tablet and PhotoPaint, based on a raw pencil sketch.

Rony De Laet, my personal website.

Four Old Battered Ones

Four old battered ones

On a frosty early morning in the fall of 2006, just a couple of days past third
quarter moon, I selected for sketching a famous old battered region between Mare
Nubium and Mare Cognitum. This region includes four large craters that were
damaged by low flying Imbrium ejecta that caused them to look old and battered
before their time. Nearest the terminator to the north is crater Guericke (59km)
with its flat lava flooded floor that opens to Mare Nubium. Crater Parry, smaller
at 49 km in diameter is older and also flat floored. The other two craters which
look ghostly in the sketch are larger and older and share common walls with Parry.
These craters are Bonpland (61 km.) to the west and Fra Mauro (96 km.) to the
north of Parry. The wall of Parry encroaches on Bonpland and both together on to
Fra Mauro to betray the cratering sequence of these three.
  For this sketch I used: copy paper 8.5”x11”, #2HB graphite pencil,
  Pink pearl eraser.
  Telescope: 6 inch f/ 7.9 Dobsonian at 208x ( first light for this scope)
  Date: 10-15-2006 10:30-11:15 UT
  Temperature: 0° C (32° F)
  Clear, calm
  Seeing:  Antoniadi III
  Co longitude: 190 °
  Lunation: 23 days
  Illumination: 36 %
  Frank McCabe

Clarity brought to complexity

This is my impression of the Lunar Formation Stofler. It was sketched with a #2HB
0.5mm mechanical pencil on Strathmore Wind Power Sketching Paper. Other pertinent
details are on the sketch itself. I found this lunar feature to be one of the most
interesting that I have seen. It appeared to me, that this piece of lunar real
estate was painted with a giant bulls eye.

Jason Aldridge

Repsold on the rim

Repsold crater 

A favourable lunar libration put the crater Repsold at a better
perspective than what one usually finds.  And finding it on the
terminator made it an object for a quick sketch despite the obstacles. 
It was only a few days before a June full moon so the moon was quite low
(from 50 degrees north lat.) even when near the meridian.  Turbulence 
and generally poor seeing kept things from looking sharp for more than
brief  instants.  And the mosquitoes were bad enough that at times they
cast long shadows across my sketching paper.   Sketch done using
graphite pencils,  ink and some not entirely successfull applications of
whiteout.   I usually like to take longer with a sketch but the
mosquitoes kept the viewing short.  North is more or less up and east is
to the left.   Viewed through 150mm f/6 Maksutov Newtonian with
binoviewer, 2x barlow and 23mm eyepieces.

Repsold is a rather large crater at approximately 110 kms diameter that
is known for a prominant rille of the same name that runs through it. 
Some of the unusual highpoints in the sunlight of my sketch might be
part of that formation as they are oriented in an agreeable direction.  
But  being unfamiliar with that extreme limb crater,  I cannot say for
certain.  Sketching limb craters present its own unique challenges and I
find myself thinking more of the three-dimensionality of the crater as
you are no just ‘looking down’ onto the third dimension.

Gerry Smerchanski

Heart of the vortex

M51 A

May 29, 2006

Raw pencil sketch (HB lead), negative view lightly processed with
Photoshop Elements

Raw sketch was drawn at the eyepiece

28 inch f4 Newtonian at 710x

Seeing 8/10

Transparency 8/10

Limiting magnitude 6.4

Once upon a time, or last May 29th to be exact, I was lucky enough to
experience one of those amazing nights that we all hope for every time
the sky clears. The sky was dark, transparent and steady and the
temperature was surprisingly comfortable. In short, just about perfect.
But the best part was seeing something new and surprising in an object
I’ve looked at many, many times through all sizes of telescopes.

M51 was near the zenith and looked great at first glance, which wasn’t
unexpected since I was looking at it through a 28″ Newtonian after all –
it should look great! But it looked even better than normal because of
the excellent sky conditions which to me means piling on the
magnification. One of the features I enjoy trying to see within M51 is
the beginning of one of the main spiral arms coming out of the core.
They look like two faint prongs projecting out from the northern side of
the core and quickly blend into that spiral arm. These prongs are
visible in almost every M51 photo which inspired me to try to see them
visually in the first place. I’ve seen them well in a 16 inch scope and
suspect a 12 inch would be able to pull them in too.

 M51 B

At 710x I started seeing small glimmerings of light shimmer in and out
of view within the prongs, like they were studded with tiny, barely seen
stars. But at 31 million light years distant M51 I must have been seeing
something else. Looking at the latest HST image of M51 these objects are
probably HII star forming regions and huge star clusters and probably a
Milky Way foreground star or two.

A brief aside on my sketch – I concentrated on the core area and the
star-like points that glimmered in and out of view and that the farther
from the core I got the less detail I put in the sketch. Also, the fine
textures around the core and prongs are probably an artifact originally
caused by the texture of my notebook paper. The original pencil sketch
was scanned and enlarged about 300%, and then lightly processed in

Howard Banich

Portland, Oregon

Little Man Big

Homunculus Nebula 

The Homunculus Nebula is one of my personal favorites when it comes to southern
hemisphere deep sky objects. I was favored with good seeing conditions one evening
and attempted a sketch using a soft lead pencil.

The Homunculus (Latin for “little man”) surrounds the notoriously variable star Eta
Carinae. Using a 4mm Plossl with a twelve inch f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain (~760X), this
peculiar reflection nebula resembled a pale yellow bipolar planetary nebula. At
times, I thought the bipolar lobes appeared as a weak reddish color but I could
never hold the sight long enough to be certain. The disc was quite irregular in
shape and displayed much subtle detail. Eta Carinae was also of a subtle yellowish
tint. Indeed, Eta is included in the list of “red” stars compiled by George Chambers
back in the late 19th century.

The ASOD drawing was copied from the original sketch using Photoshop. The airbrush,
blurring and dodging tools were used.

Dave Riddle
Smyrna, Georgia USA

Superb celestial Sombrero


Messier 104 was described by Charles Messier as a “faint nebula” In  1784.
Now Messier 104 is known as a Sa-Sb spiral galaxy. It has a Very  bright core
which was a major feature in my sketch. I noticed the dust lane  cutting
through the galaxy but the side of the galaxy opposite the core is much  fainter
than the rest. It was hard to see in my 16″ F/4.5 Dobsonian at  110X.

~Sal Grasso

Cosmic dust devil

Comet Hale-Bopp

I recently located a pencil drawing of Comet Hale-Bopp in one of old observing
notebooks  and decided to reinterpret my hasty sketch using the Photoshop airbrush.

The drawing was made using Tim Puckett’s 24″ reflector with a 55mm Plossl (~90x)
while the comet was drawing close to the horizon. Despite the comet’s low elevation,
I noted a dust tail about five degrees long and a four degree ion tail. The
pseudo-nucleus was almost as bright as Alpha Aurigae (Capella)!

The coma displayed three prominent hoods. The innermost hood appeared to an
astonishing “geyser” jetting from and curving around the nucleus . I can only hope
that the drawing comes close to capturing this amazing feature (I almost named the
sketch “A Bad Drawing of a Great Comet”).

The original drawing was made on the evening of  March 29th, 1997.

Dave Riddle
Smyrna, Georgia USA

Sparkling Lagoon


14th June, 2007., around 21:00 UT
Petrova gora, Croatia

Last night I had another opportunity to observe. But this time, we went
to the Petrova gora, mountain maybe 1000 ft high, about 40 miles South
from the Zagreb and 20 miles South-East from the Karlovac (pop: 60 000).
Light pollution is still evident on northern horizon but to the South,
skies are beautiful. NELM near zenith was 6.10, not much difference from
the best night in my backyard (NELM 5.80) but big difference is that
there is no glare from street lamps and glow from nearby populated
places so sky is much darker. Watching MW composed from many clouds,
with few bright spots (M24, M8, M25), seeing M7 by naked eye is
wonderful feeling. Statement that there is no substitute for dark skies
hold very well. Of course, I used this opportunity to make more
sketches. I hope you will like results.

My process of creating sketches goes like this:
First, I observe and draw field sketch, full of notes, corrections and
other helpful stuff. After returning to house, I redraw all sketches to
include missing details, remove errors and to get better contrast under
white light. Next step is scanning of sketches. Afters scanning, I do
further adjustments of contrast in the Photoshop and add circle
representing that represents FOV. Last thing is description and saving
sketch in .tff and .jpg format.

I’m sketching on plain A4 paper with graphite pencils of different

Vedran Vrhovac

Eight views of the Great Opposition of 2003

Mars composite 

This series of sketches covers my observations of Mars around the opposition
of 2003. Various telescopes were used including a 105mm Astro-Physics apo, a
200mm TEC Fluorite apo, a 13-inch Merz Refractor (circa. 1859, Herstmonceux,
Sussex, England) and a 28-inch Grubb Photo-visual Refractor (circa. 1893,
Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England). Simple graphite sketches with colour
notes were carried out at the eyepiece, generally over a 30 minute to one
hour period, these coloured pencil sketches then being drawn as soon as
possible afterwards. Interestingly the same sort of view is distilled out of
each observation regardless of the aperture being used!

Though the view didn’t appear to change very much from one evening to
another, the shrinking southern polar cap and changing phase of Mars is
distinctly seen over the three month observing period. My personal challenge
for the current Mars apparition is to catch the gibbous phase BEFORE
December 2007 opposition as well as afterwards.

The disc diameter of the sketches (image flipped to the correct orientation)
is approx. 5cm, and south is up.

Sally Russell

Cat’s Eye in a dracon’s hand

NGC 4563

Cat’s Eye Nebula

One of the better known bright summer planetary nebulas in the constellation of Draco is NGC 6543. This blue-green planetary appears to be about one third of a minute of arc across, although its “outer corona” brings it out to about six arc minutes. The brightest part of this “outer corona” is IC 4677. None of this outer region can be seen from my urban site. The glow around the dying, hot, type O central star (or perhaps close binary pair) appears homogenous. None of the curlicue compressed gas loops were visible that can be seen in photographs. Some darkness was seen around the tenth magnitude central star. At a visual magnitude of 8.1 and at a distance of somewhere between 3300-3600 light years, this thousand year old planetary nebula looks great in telescopes much smaller than 18 inches.


Date and Time: 6-17-2007, 518-5:50 UT
Scope: 18” f/5 Dobson Ian. 12mm, 9mm eyepieces 191x, 254x
8”x12” white sketching paper, B, 2B graphite pencils, light brown colored pencil for nebula, scanned and inverted, contrast mean value adjustment using Imageenhance, star magnitude adjustments using Paint
Seeing: Pickering 7/10
Transparency: poor 2/5
Nelm: 3.9

Frank McCabe

With family in tow

Saturn and moons 

Saturn & family

When I pointed my scope at Saturn at the evening of the first May 2007 I was kindly
surprised to see 5 of the Saturnian moons all on one side of the planet!
From left to right and with their magnitude: Titan(M8.4), Iapetus (M10.6), Rhea
(M9.8), Dione (M10.5) & Thetys (M10.3).

For sketches of planets I mostly use Orthoscopic’s, for this one I used the 4mm wich
gave me 250x power.

The sketch was done on standard A4 printerpaper with a template of Saturn printed on
it. I then scanned it and added a grey background and the 5 moons in Microsoft

Sketched on the 1st May 2007 from my home in Bornem, Belgium. I used my 8” f/5 dob
at 250x through a 4mm University Optics Ortho eyepiece.

Kris Smet

Namibia Globular

NGC 6388 

Globular clusters display distinct “personalities” to an attentive observer. Some
appear as pale, starless discs in large aperture telescopes while others, like Omega
Centauri, begin to resolve in small refractors. Less frequently, they will display
subtle color. My sketch of NGC 6388 in Scorpius is an example of this. Using the
Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge 12″ Schmidt-Cassegrain with a 31mm Nagler (~100x), the
globular’s star-like core appeared to be weakly yellow. The tint disappeared at
higher magnification (250X/12mm Nagler).

The original drawing was done at the eyepiece using a soft lead pencil. I prepared a
copy based on this drawing and my field notes. First, a “smudge” of graphite was
dotted with acrylic ink. A garden variety Bic pen with blue ink formed the core —
and when color inverted — captured my visual impression of the yellow color fairly
closely. The nucleus was then enhanced with Photoshop and the entire drawing blurred
to simulate the rather poor resolution caused by the seeing conditions.

Dave Riddle
Smyrna, Georgia USA

Terrific Trifid


Emission Nebula M20

14th June, 2007., around 21:30 UT
Petrova gora, Croatia

Last night I had another opportunity to observe. But this time, we went
to the Petrova gora, mountain maybe 1000 ft high, about 40 miles South
from the Zagreb and 20 miles South-East from the Karlovac (pop: 60 000).
Light pollution is still evident on northern horizon but to the South,
skies are beautiful. NELM near zenith was 6.10, not much difference from
the best night in my backyard (NELM 5.80) but big difference is that
there is no glare from street lamps and glow from nearby populated
places so sky is much darker. Watching MW composed from many clouds,
with few bright spots (M24, M8, M25), seeing M7 by naked eye is
wonderful feeling. Statement that there is no substitute for dark skies
hold very well. Of course, I used this opportunity to make more
sketches. I hope you will like results.

My process of creating sketches goes like this:
First, I observe and draw field sketch, full of notes, corrections and
other helpful stuff. After returning to house, I redraw all sketches to
include missing details, remove errors and to get better contrast under
white light. Next step is scanning of sketches. Afters scanning, I do
further adjustments of contrast in the Photoshop and add circle
representing that represents FOV. Last thing is description and saving
sketch in .tff and .jpg format.

I’m sketching on plain A4 paper with graphite pencils of different

Vedran Vrhovac

Kemble’s Cascade

Kemble’s Casade

Here is an observation with a low power scope at x14 (made on 2/15/07 around 21.45
UT). The fov is 3.8°. The small ETX is great for rich field views. The object is
easy to find with a pair of bino’s when going straight up from Algol to Mirphak and
continuing for about 9 degrees. The cluster at the end of the cascade did not reveal
much detail with this power, but I only wanted to give a general impression of the
scene. High clouds were interfering my site, and with my limiting magnitude.

The raw sketch was made at the EP with a HB mechanical pencil. The final sketch was
digitally rendered in Photopaint (thus eliminating the tedious scanning procedure).
North is up, matching a binocular orientation.

Rony De Laet, my personal website.

A work in progress


The Orion nebula may be one of the most challenging objects in the sky to observe.
The amount of  subtle detail it displays is astonishing and it is perhaps one of the
most difficult nebula to sketch.

Edward Holden’s monograph on the central area of M42 (Central Parts of the Nebula of
Orion, Washington Astronomical Observations for 1878, Appendix I) inspired me to
attempt to follow the footsteps of great visual observers of the the past — the
Herschels, Lassell, Rosse, Bond, etc.– and try to capture the wealth of details
seen in my 18″ reflector. I might add that my sketch is a composite drawing made
with apertures ranging from 70mm to a 20″ reflector. A separate drawing was made on
each evening of observing and combined into a single rendering. The Dearborn
Observatory star maps (claimed to go down to the 18th magnitude) were used to insure
the proper “placing” of the details noted with the various telescopes. The
(unfinished) drawing is still a work in progress after two years of observing.
Magnifications on my 18″ reflector ranged from ~60X (40 mm Pentax) to ~460X (5mm
Radian). The lowest power used: 12X with my Pronto 70mm refractor!

I settled on using a graphite pencil after experimenting with charcoal and soft
lead pencils. Nothing fancy here — just graphite on regular (economy) typing
paper from Office Depot. The drawing was color-inverted using my HP scanner and
tinted with the Paint program.

An extended observing session revealed details I hadn’t noticed before. The
remarkable D’Arrest “comets” were visible only when the transparency was good. The
prominent dark “globule” W1 was seen so well through a 24″ reflector one evening
that my first impression was that there was a bit of dirt on the field lens of my

I hope that in another two years I can finish the drawing.

Dave Riddle

Gibbous Goddess


If you live in the temperate latitudes of the northern hemisphere, you’ve probably
noticed brilliant Venus high in the west at twilight–indeed, it’s hard to miss.
Apart from the phase, little detail is normally visible in the cloudtops of Venus,
due to the glare and low altitude of our “sister planet”.

This year presents the observer with a very favorable apparition because Venus
reaches greatest eastern elongation near the spring equinox.  If an observer uses
filters and gets out during early twilight (or even before sunset) while the planet
is still above the atmospheric murk on the horizon,  subtle detail can be seen on

Even though it is our closest neighbor (next to the Luna) and has been visited by
spacecraft, there is still much that is unknown about Venus.  Iti s a worthy target
for any observer, especially during a favorable apparition.

This sketch was made using a 2B and HB graphite pencil, black ink, and a loaded
stump.  The sketch was done from an eyepiece diagram based on an intensity scale
where 0.0 = darkest and 10.0 = brightest.

Michael Rosolina
Friars Hill, WV  USA

Four days in the life of a sunspot

sunspot 0953 

Here is a small sequence of observations of sunspot 0953 made during 4 days. 0953
turned out to be one of the bigger sunspots of recent time.

Time : see sketches
Scope : ETX 105/1470
Vixen LV Zoom eyepiece at 8mm
Power : 183
Filter : Baader AstroSolar filter.
Seeing : 2/5

Sketch Orientation : N up, W right.
Digital sketch made with a digital tablet and PhotoPaint, based on a raw pencil sketch.
Rony De Laet, my personal website.

Dust storms on a ruddy desert world

Mars dust storm

With Mars rising in the early morning hours and slowly increasing in apparent
diameter, Mars observers are already gearing up for this apparition, even though
opposition and closest approach are still six months away.

Along with the opportunity to see the bright Martian South Polar Cap, the North
Polar Hood (the clouds surrounding and hiding the North Polar Cap), famous albedo
features like Syrtis Major, atmospheric clouds, and the giant shield volcano Olympus
Mons (the mightiest volcano in the solar system), observers always have the
potential to see a dust storm develop on Mars.

Although dust storms on Mars can become giant planet-encircling storms that obscure
the surface and cut short the observing season (as happened in 2001), they can also
remain regional, expanding rapidly to cover an area the size of the continental US
and then subsiding.  At least two regional events occurred during the 2005

The excellent set  of Mars sketches by Jeremy Perez on ASOD (8 May 2007) prompted me
to look through my own logbook where I found these two observations made three days
before Jeremy’s drawings.  This storm had first been recorded by imagers on 18
October in the area known as Chryse, site of the first Viking landing.  By the time
of my first observation, the dust had spread south and was already obscuring
familiar dark albedo features.

In the second observation, Mars had rotated about 40 degrees of longitude, but the
dust had been travelling rapidly west, apparently flowing through the immense fault
(4500km/2800miles) known as Valles Marineris which is associated with the albedo
feature Coprates.  The dust later spread over Solis Lacus (the Eye of Mars) and on
towards the south polar region but never turned into a global storm.

This dust storm was bright in unfiltered light but observers wishing to track dust
closely need to use red filters–dust is bright in red light.  Wratten #23A and #21
filters are good for small apertures of 8″ (20cm) or less.  Those with larger
instruments can use the W25 filter.

The sketches were done using 2B, HB, and 4H graphite pencils, color pencils, and a
blending stump on Strathmore 70 lb. paper.  The circle templates are 2 inches.  I
like to include the line drawing diagram next to my sketch to label important
features without making the drawing too busy.

A dust storm developing on Mars is a fascinating natural phenomenon to see.  Good
luck with this apparition and Happy Mars Observing!

Michael Rosolina
Friars Hill, WV  USA

Mighty Copernicus


My second (and last) crater so far. Not the most easy to draw, but he was asking for
it. Drawing the moon is a lot more difficult than expected. There are so many
features to pay attention to. I had to stop sketching after an hour, because the
shadows were changing the view.

The image is flipped to match a North down view.

Date : June, 05, 2006
Time : 21.10 UT
Seeing : 2

Scope : ETX 105
EP : Vixen zoom with barlow.
Power : x240
Rony De Laet, my personal website.

Solar protuberances


This summer I visited a friend in La Palma (Canaries) and could observe the
wonderful sky that there they have with his telescopes. One of them
dedicated to the solar observation is an apochromatic refractor 120 mm.
F/6,5 (Vixen), it has a filter installed H alpha SolarMax 90 (Coronado). The
day I observed he sun was completely clear, the solar limb was full of
protuberances and brilliant lines that following the magnetic fields. I took
immediately graphite pencil and white paper and began to draw everything
what he saw through the filter. I was very surprised because of the rapid
movement of the needles and arches that seems dramatic veils against the
dark sky. I tried to draw the variation of the forms with the passing of the
time but it was difficult. I will never forget that so magic experience.
You can see the place where I spent a week observing in this web site: . When the drawing was finished I changed it to negative
in the computer and turned it a bit red.
Leonor Ana Hernandez

Naked eye bull


Here is a lawn chair observation under the freezing Austrian sky at 800m asl. It is
a simple but pleasant sketch of the Bull’s face. I was surprised to notice 3 pairs
of stars. The sky was not perfect dark, so there should be more stars to be picked
out from the cluster. Anyway, scopeless stargazing can be fun ! No cooldown time
needed. My legs and hands cooled down anyway at -9°Celsius. (a solid fuel hand
warmer is a must have)

Location : Bischofshofen, Austria
Date:  Dec. 25, 2006 , 20.30UT
Seeing:  4 on a scale of 5, Transparency : 4
Air Temp.: -9° Celsius
Naked eye observation
Rony De Laet, my personal website.

Sundown at Gauss


At one day past full moon old luna was arching it’s way to the high point for the
night when I selected for my sketching target craters along the terminator on the
eastern side of the moon. Six craters larger than 45 kilometers in diameter are
included in this sketch. With only the highest points along the western rim being
touched by sun rays, it is sundown at crater Gauss. With Gauss measuring 177 km.
in diameter it is categorized as a walled plain crater and dates back to the
Nectarian age (3.9-3.8 billion years ago). Southwest of Gauss with the floor in
darkness except for the illuminated central peak we have crater Hahn,  a formation
slightly younger than Gauss and smaller at 84 km. To the north of Hahn is a crater
of the same age as Gauss known as Berosus. It measures 77 km in diameter and its
western wall is not as high as that of its partner Hahn. The largest crater on the
western side of the sketch is Geminus at 86 km. It has a low central peak and no
crater rays,  although it is the youngest of the craters in the sketch at about 2 billion
years of age. The smaller crater close to Geminus to the east is 47 km. crater
Bernoulli. And finally to the south of Geminus is crater Burckhardt at 57 km. in
diameter with small craters straddling it to the southeast and southwest.
  Sketching: Graphite 2H pencils and India ink on
  White 8.5”x11” copy paper
  Telescope: 10” f/5.7 Dobsonian  6mm eyepiece
  Time: 10-8-2006, 5:30-6:30 UT
  Colongitude: 101.6°
  Weather: clear, calm
  Seeing : Antoniadi III
  Frank McCabe

Pair of Cherries

Double Cluster 

The object is “h x Perseii” the double cluster in Persei,  through the
telescope it seems to be a pair of cherries hanging on a little tail.

The telescope is a Meade 8″ and observing through a Swan ocular 36 mm
with a big field of vision. I made it with a pencil on a white paper but with some
problems, because the night was very bad, almost covered by clouds moving very
fast, that covered the image through the telescope. It was very hard to sketch in these
conditions, but I was enjoying it very much. This is the original hand made with and
later changed to negative with the computer.

The date: 14 October 2006 in Guadalajara, Spain.


Globe of suns


7th May  2007. around 20:30UT
Novo Cice, Croatia

This sketch was created on plain A4 paper using graphite pencils and
fingers (for blurring). Later it was scanned and inverted in Photoshop
after some minor contrast and brightness adjustments.
I used 8″ F6 Dobson and 6mm Super Plossl Eyepiece. Magnification was
200x and field of view was 0.25°. Limiting magnitude was 5.50 and
transparency was very good.

M13 is beautiful globular cluster in Hercules. With an apparent
magnitude of 5.8, it is barely visible with the naked eye on a very
clear night. Its real diameter is about 145 light-years, and is composed
of several hundred thousand stars, the brightest of which has an
apparent magnitude of 11.95. M13 is 25,100 light-years away from Earth.

Vedran Vrhovac