McNaught’s Synchronic Bands

McNaught’s Synchronic Bands

McNaught sketch 2

McNaught’s Synchronic Bands (Charcoal above and Conte’ below)
By Jeremy Perez

Well, just when I thought this amazing comet would finish the rest of it’s presence in the southern hemisphere as a spectacle I would only be able to enjoy through photos, it pulled another surprise. Remnants of its huge tail began to be observed by observers in the northern hemisphere. A very rare feature, sometimes called synchronic bands, began to appear and to drift away from the sun. For those in the southern hemisphere, this makes for an unbelievably gorgeous sight in the evening sky. For those of us in the mid-northern latitudes, it presents an opportunity revisit this beauty for a bit longer.

After analyzing various recent photos of the comet from the southern hemisphere, I printed out a star chart, and marked the area in Piscis Austrinus where the most northern segments of the tail fragments were last imaged. I printed out a couple more sheets to take with me for sketches, and headed north of town to escape more stubborn clouds. After a 30 mile drive to Wupatki National Monument, I entered the park and drove in search of a parking spot with a good view of the western horizon. About 4 miles down the empty park road, I was surprised–but then again maybe not too surprised–to find Brent Archinal parked along the side of the road with his tripod and camera set up. Whaddaya know! So I set up next to him and waited for twilight to darken while enjoying a beautiful view of Venus and the crescent Moon setting together.

By about 6:50 PM with the sun about 14 degrees below the horizon, and the head of the comet 19 degrees below, a bright spoke began to show itself midway between Fomalhaut and Venus. It was amazingly long–about 20 – 25 degrees from the horizon up to Phi Aquarii. As the sky darkened more, and the Zodiacal Light became very prominent, more bands began to appear in a fan running from Piscis Austrinus through much of Aquarius. I finished shooting several photos at 7:05 PM when my batteries ran out. (I’m all about great planning.) I then spent the next half hour sketching every bit I could detect, which turned out to be a very good investment. My photos didn’t turn out well at all, and the sketches showed much more detail than the best shot (which can be seen below).

You’ll notice not one, but two sketches above. Both make use of a pre-printed star chart from Starry Night Pro so that I could concentrate on the comet tails during the limited time before it set. The first is a charcoal sketch using a chamois to blend in the zodiacal light and skyglow above the horizon. I then used a blending stump to add the synchronic bands. The second sketch is made with Conté pencil on black Strathmore Artagain paper. I traced the stars onto the paper from the same starchart, and then used a blending stump to add both the Zodiacal Light and synchronic bands (since the Chamois didn’t seem to work so well there). I’m definitely partial to the results of the first charcoal sketch. The Conté sketch does look better in person though.

McNaught Photo

Subject C/2006 P1 (McNaught) – Synchronic Bands
Classification Comet Tail Fragments
Position* Through Piscis Austrinus and Aquarius
Size Longest Segment: ~25°
Brightness –
Date/Time January 20, 2007, 07:00 – 07:40 PM MST
(January 21, 2007, 02:00 – 02:40 UT)
Observing Loc. Wupatki National Monument, AZ
Instrument Naked Eye
Eyepieces/Mag. –
Conditions Clear, breezy
Seeing –
Transparency ~ Mag 6.8+ NELM
*Sources Starry Night Pro Plus v. 5.8

Early Holmes in Charcoal and Graphite


Comet 17P/Holmes
By Erika Rix

The comet was created with charcoal loaded onto a thick blending stump. I added some fine touches with a number 2 pencil for accuracy on the brightest areas. The stars were done with a number 2, .5mm and .3mm mechanical pencils.

Observation made with an Orion ED80 on an LXD75 mount, 21-7mm Zhumell eyepeice with diagonal.

Return to a Prominent Highland Beauty


2007 Sept 01, 0450-0631 UT

10″ LX200 with diagonal, 21-7mm Zhumell

PCW Memorial Observatory, Erika Rix

Temp: 57.9 °F / 14.4 °C

Humidity: 75%

Seeing Antoniadi II, Transparency 2/6

Sketch media:  Rite in the Rain paper, charcoal

Lunation 19.24 d

81.4% Illumination

Lib. Lat: -04deg44′

Lib. Long: +01deg35′

Altitude 35deg

Colongitude 139.9deg

According to the Virtual Moon Atlas the dimension of Moretus is 117x117Km / 69x69Mi
and it’s from the Eratosthenian period (From -3.2 billions years to -1.1 billions

I’m having fun with Moretus.  Chuck Wood wrote “Moretus is a very fresh but rayless
115-km-wide, 4-km-deep version of Tycho that would be a major attraction if it were
better placed.” (page 126, The Modern Moon, a Personal View).  He also brought up
Harold Hill and the measurement of the central peak of Moretus that Mr. Hill wrote
as being the highest of all the craters Earthside at 2.12km.  Chuck then measured it
using Lunar Orbiter photos and found it to be very comparable to Mr. Hill’s at

This led me look for Moretus in Harold Hill’s “A Portfolio of Lunar Drawings” and on
pages 122-123 I found not only a superb description of this crater, but two sketches
that were very similar in comparison to each other as my two sketches’ were to each
other.  The purpose of this report was to compare my sketch of 2007 September 01 to
that of 2006 October 30.  I was pleasantly surprised to be led to the same type of
report from Mr. Hill…”two 1966 drawings demonstrate how greatly the presentation
of this magnificent formation can alter under near extremes of libration in
latitude.”(page 122)

Here is the sketch from Oct 2006:

The details for comparison are:

Lunation 7.8d

51.4% Illumination

Lib. Lat: +05deg39′

Lib. Long: -06deg08′

Altitude 26deg

Colongitude 7.4deg

Note in the earlier sketch that not only does Moretus look narrower, but Cysatus and
Curtius are completely hidden and Gruemberger looks completely invisible except for
the telltale crater within it, Gruemberger A. 

Now look at the Moretus sketch from the other day.  Everything has opened up,
Moretus, Short on the other side as well as the three craters on the Northern
borders (to the bottom in both sketches).

It’s easy to see how a person could get lost in the rugged terrain of the Southern
hemisphere and even more so, how difficult it would be to make accurate studies. An
example of this is the measurement of the central peak.  I’ll make no claims that I
could begin to measure the central peak myself.  But I thought I could see a
craterlet in my observation the night just plain as day on the southern rim of
Moretus towards Short.  In the sketch, you can even see the craterlet.  My
observation from Oct of 2006 does not include this.  I began to doubt myself on
whether this feature was actually there.  Thank goodness for Hill’s observation. He
confirmed this depression in the rim with his sketch done on 1966 Dec 4th, with a
higher percentage of illumination than his second sketch.

We already knew that repeated observations are necessary during our studies of the
Moon.  These two observations as well as the two that Mr. Hill did in 1966 are
perfect examples why.

Big Fella and Bodacious Bullialdus


Poor transparency started the session and I was standing there next to the Big Fella
with disbelief showing across my face…no doubt the Big Fella’s face too, but the
dew shield was hiding his expressions from me.  I took another swig of my tea and
said to heck with it, a few thin clouds aren’t going to get the best of me…not
after all that time setting up.  So I pulled up my socks, changed the expression on
my face to determination and began my date with the Big Fella.  Destination Moon.

I had already printed out VMA’s globe showing ideas for tonight’s session.  But
peering the terminator and then working my way East, the Big Fella kept tugging me
to a triplet of craters just south of the border and a stone’s throw from the
terminator.  It sure did look familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Rays were streaking the surroundings like a burst of light just itching to break
free from the crust.  And inside the main crater a peak so high and creviced that it
looked like a mini mountain reaching up to soak in the sunshine.  If I walking in
that crater, I could easily have scaled the terraced walls, as well defined as they
were this night. 

But wait…there wasn’t that much detail at first!  I pulled free of the Big Fella
and looked up.  The clouds were gone!

At this stage, I’ll end the actual tour to fill you in on what really excited me.
After I walked the Big Fella to his door (ok, so that door happens to be downstairs
from my door) I checked out on VMA what the mystery craters were.  Of course…it
was Bullialdus and his two sisters A & B.  Quickly flipping through my journal, I
came across this sketch I did with the Little Fella 6 months ago!

With that burning mystery put out, I was free to eat my supper, realizing that I had
forgotten all about the Enchiladas I cooked earlier.  Big Fella was too cheap to
take me out for a meal…guess I can’t complain though, he gave me a grand tour on
the moon.

Erika Rix
Zanesville Ohio

Extra image from url:

Rite in Rain sketching paper, blending stump, stick of charcoal, charcoal stick in a
wooden holder.

Sketch Image courtesy Springer Science and Business Media, LLC from “Astronomical Sketching: A Step-by-Step Introduction” (2007)

Grand gathering of ancients


Although the light pollution from my residence severely limits deep sky observing;
I took advantage of unusually transparent seeing conditions to observe some bright
galaxies, globular clusters and planetary nebula. My favorite globular cluster
targets are M-5, M-92 and M-15. On this evening M-5 was well positioned for
observing just after dark. The appeal of M-5 for me is the bright glowing egg
shaped core with arching sprinkles of stars curving out from the center. As you
move out from the core the star density gradually drops off creating a very
pleasing view.

M-5 glows at magnitude 5.6 and is located about 20 minutes of arc north and west
from 5 Serpentis. This globular is approximately 13 billion years old at a
distance of 24,500 ly from us. The distance across this great ball of tens of
thousands of stars is about 165 ly.
  Date and Time: 6-9-2007, 315-3:45 UT
  Scope: 18” f/5 Dobsonian. 12mm eyepiece 167X
  8”x12” white sketching paper, 4B soft charcoal pencil,
  blending stump, scanned and inverted
  Seeing: Pickering 8/10
  Transparency: Excellent 4/5
  Nelm: 4.8
  Frank McCabe
  Oak Forest, Il.