Posts Tagged moon

ASV Star-b-cue 2013

Last weekend we travelled to the ASV dark site for the annual star-b-cue, and it was awesome.

We went up on the Friday night. We set up in the early evening and then had to wait around for hours as the sun slowly went down. I did manage to get a good look at the moon, in a lovely crescent – I haven’t made the effort to see the moon in a long time, and it was glorious. That night involved a lot of reminding ourselves of the sky and also introducing some friends to our telescopes. One of them is an exceptional astronomer but from the northern hemisphere, so it was amusing to hear him talk about which bits he can’t see at all from home (like 47 Tuc!). And complain that Orion is upside-down. I didn’t have a viewing plan for the evening so I went with whims. Amongst the best things I saw was two moons around Uranus (Oberon and Titania, apparently) and I split Sirius! Unbelievable! I piked earlier than I had hoped – around 1am I think – I had hoped to see Jupiter but we were in spot such that it was still behind the trees when I was flagging.

Saturday was the actual star party. During the day I set up the solar telescope and various people looked through it; there were, I think, maybe six solar scopes set up – more than I’ve seen at any other time. And the sun was looking pretty fine; not incredibly active but some beautiful prominences and a set of sun spots in a cluster. I also took a wander around the site and checked out the new radio shack they’ve set up, recording the sun, meteors and Jupiter. The guy in charge was very pleased to play us the recording of a solar flare from October.

The evening progressed as these things do. The Lions Club provided a great BBQ dinner; there was a quiz – entirely music based this time, so I did ok; and there were heaps of people. There were dozens of scopes set up on the observing field; I didn’t bother going down to the photographers to check out their set ups. It makes me too sad to see Takahashis being used solely for imaging. Anyway eventually the sun went down, again; I looked at the moon, again, and had to make sure I stopped doing that early enough that I could get light-adapted, given how very bright it was. Again, I had no plan… so I looked at some globular clusters, and some planetaries; I saw some galaxies through the Dob. And I stayed up late enough to see Jupiter. Not a great view, to be sure, but when the seeing snapped in it was definitely worth staying up until *mumble230mumble*. Galilean moons all in a row.


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Moon Calendar

A while back James emailed me the link to this moon calendar. Sure, I said! Get one! It took some time for him to do so, but finally this arrived on our doorstep*:

photo 8.39.57 PM

This letter and the accompanying moon calendar arrived in an awesome triangular package that kept the calendar nice and secure. We’ve stuck it on the wall – and although it looks wonky because the new moons keep shifting back a day each month, it looks great and I look forward to referring to it over the year. Thanks Erik!

ETA: the moon calendar looks like this:



– with thanks to Erik for permission to post this!

*I mean literally. I walked out the door and nearly tripped over the package. 


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Astronomical Sketching

It’s fair to say I have a bit of a reputation among friends for being a bit of a luddite. I collect vinyl records, only use cameras which take celluloid film and I think humanity’s greatest technical achievements may be the Apollo program in the 1960s. Given this it seems quite logical to me that I would find sketching more appealing than astronomical imaging, especially with one of those new fangled CCD cameras.

So why sketch at all? Well, a few reasons, the first is it’s a very simple and cheap way to capture and share what you see through a telescope. I think this is particularly valuable as it gives quite a good impression of what an observer sees visually through a telescope rather than the colourful but misleading candy we see from amateur images right through to professional images from the Hubble. I think the second reason is it makes you a better visual observer; the very act of building up a sketch forces you to take a second, third, fourth and many more looks at the object of interest. There is something too about the way the brain works which means once you have seen a detail once and noted it down, somehow it’s easier to see it again, even if just using averted imagination.

I started out sketching images of the moon. Partly this is due to our inner city home and partly because I think it’s probably the easiest target to start working on. The moon is so bright it’s quite easy to have an outdoor light on while you draw, in fact having a light on can help balance out the blinding bright appearance of the moon through all but the smallest of telescopes. Once I’d made a few drawings of the moon I was happy with I started working on other bodies in the solar system, mostly Jupiter. Lately I’ve begun sketching some of the deep sky objects, but this is still very much something I’m learning to do well.

Tempted ? Good. Here is how I suggest you start: get a copy of this book.

Buy some pencils – I have a box of 12 Derwent Drawing pencils but when you are just starting limiting yourself to a few pencils makes life easier. 4B, B and 2H is about right. It doesn’t matter though if it’s 3B or 2B and 4H etc. A B pencil is my standard go-to pencil. I never grab more than 4 pencils for any one sketch in the field. You also need to get a blending stump or three (you can get away without cleaning them all the time if you use the same one for really soft black pencils, and keep one pretty clean for light smudging). Also buy some different erasers, including a soft ball-style one and an eraser shield – the eraser shield might be the most important thing you buy. Finally you need a decent pad of A5 drawing paper. If you go to an art store all of this should cost you less than $40.

Beyond the tools the most important thing to practice is figuring out your reference points, and drawing those first. For the moon, big craters and the key shadows. For star clusters, focus on the brightest stars first. For nebula, the bright stars and basic shape. Once you get those down, you just keep refining, and refining sections of the sketch. Breaking it down makes it much less overwhelming.

Finally, for a bit of inspiration check out Astronomy Sketch of the Day.

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