Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Lunar sketch - Copernicus and Stadius

I had a cracking time last night observing our nearest neighbour the moon.
To be honest I have never really given it a lot of attention before, it just didn't seem to give me the 'Wow' factor that DSO's did so I would use it as a quick point to align my Telrad and that was it.

But last night the seeing was probably the best since I started astronomy, both the moon and Saturn were very stable even at high mag. The result....I new found love for the moon.
The main feature I was drawn too was Copernicus as this sat right in the terminator displaying its shape beautifully in high contrast.

So this afternoon, armed to the teeth with lots arty materials that I don't know much about I decided to try and draw what I saw last night and this is the result. It was copied from an image on the web, took about an hour to complete and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.

Next lunar sketch will be at the EP.
What could possibly go wrong?! :)

White pastel / charcoal on black.

Monday, 28 May 2012

M 5

M 5
NGC 5904
Constellation - Serpens
Globular cluster

Location - home
Date - 27/5/12 
Time - 2300-0010
Seeing (Antoniadi) - IV to III later 
SQM - 20.1

Telescope - 12" Skywatcher
EP - 8mm BST (x187)
No filter

Sketch materials - White pastel on black paper

Session notes
Poor seeing conditions at the start of the evening due to high wispy cloud moving from the SE which cleared around midnight.
I could resolve stars even to the centre of cluster but they were very faint almost 'dusty'.
Surprised that there wasn't any real bright stars in the FoV, I'm sure this would be different if observed from a dark site.
Very impressive glob cluster though, just as good as M13.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Software - Astroplanner

I've recently started using this piece of software to plan and log observing sessions.
To be honest I'm still scratching the surface of what it can actually do as it has so many features but its still fairly easy to use.

You can basically set the parameters of your equipment (scope size, EP's etc), enter your location, download a catalogue that you'd like to go through (e.g. Caldwell), then organise that nights viewing by declination, constellation etc.
I'm using SkySafari Pro on my iPad when I'm observing so I simply export the Astroplanner Caldwell list into SkySafari and everything is organised and ready to go. You can even print sky charts directly from Astroplanner if you'd rather use paper charts.

When I've finished I can then import all my session notes from my iPad back into Astroplanner and it will highlight what was observed that night. Thats it!!

Like I said before it doesn't have to be that basic though, theres so many functions to it but for me its just a brilliant piece of software and well worth a mention on my blog.

A screen shot from my Astroplanner.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

EQ platforms for dobsonians?

Taken with a webcam on a 12" dob (not by me though!)

I use a Skywatcher Skyliner 12" manual dob which I love. For me it gives enough light grasp without compromising on portability (I'II add some more info and pics later).
I've found that using a dob manually is a doddle, just position the object on the right side of the field of view and watch it slowly drift across, so why bother with an EQ platform at all?
When i bought it the main reason was to aid sketching but after using it a few times it's something I will use for general observing sessions, I'm hooked!

I've only done an accurate polar alignment once with it but that time the object stayed centred in the EP for 45 minutes and in the FoV for a full hour.
Although I haven't sketched with it yet I can imagine this being sheer luxury after being used to dropping blending stumps and pencils every time I nudge the dob in the past.

It does raise the height of the EP about 4 inches though. Again not a problem for me as I use an adjustable ironing chair to observe so I just set the chair to the correct height that I feel comfortable.

It uses small 9v batteries so no lugging around any big power packs.

The only downside to it is that it is something else to load into your car when going to a dark site.
I have a 5 door Astra so my 12" OTA lies on the back seat, base in the boot and the platform will go on the front seat.
With all that plus bag of EP's etc you aren't going to walk too far from your car.

There are two ways of owning a EQ platform. Buy one already made like I did or make your own.
I've added some links below for a starting point but have a good Google and I'm sure you'll find a ton of other info.
The big difference between buying and a DIY platform is price. Mine cost £450 but a home made one costs as little as £80-100!!!
Just depends on if you have the tools, time and patience to make one yourself I guess, I didnt and took the easy option.

But for the price of one Ethos EP and the amount of enjoyment it will give to me it was money well spent.

My scope and EQ platform in my garden. Really not an ideal place to have it set up on decking but until I get to change things it will have to do.

This is where I bought my platform from and can thoroughly recommend. Lots of info on the site which answered a lot of my questions before I bought.
A couple links to get you started if you want to make one yourself.
The Budget Astronomer
SGL thread

A couple of videos (not mine showing what a platform can do both taken with a webcam on a 12" Orion dob).
I will add pictures of my platform and dob as soon as I get the chance. :)

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The 'Mellish technique'

So far I've sketched with graphite pencils on to white paper then scanning and inverting in Photoshop which I think is the most popular method of sketching.
Two things bothered me about this approach though -
1/ Drawing faint nebulas like M42 would be quite tricky and maybe not 100% accurate.
2/ As much as its good to have your sketches stored on a computer it would be nice to have a hard copy you can hold in your hands and see it as a positive rather than black on white.

Whilst browsing one of the American forums I came across another technique which solved the problems above, rather than explain it myself take a look at the link below for a good explanation by Alexander Massey.
Mellish technique explained.

The only downside I can see with this is when you need to digitalise the finished sketch you won't get the deep blacks you get from a scanned image but personally I think I can live with that.

More examples of the Mellish technique -
Scott Mellish
Alexander Massey

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Naked Eye Limited Magnitude

I think this is pretty cool, I've been making estimated limited magnitude readings for nearly a couple months now but this PDF explains and shows it very well.
Its also well worth taking a look at the My Dark Sky website who uses NELM and SQM reading sent in to map the UK so we all have a better idea of where the dark skies are.

Try it yourself just download and print.


The start.......

So this is the start of my blog....
My goal and the idea for the blog comes from wanting to sketch all 110 Messier objects and store/display them on the interweb along with a written report for each object that will hopefully serve as a diary.

The only restraints I have towards this blog and sketching are work commitments, I work two weeks on/two off so at least for the summer months sketches may be few and far between but eventually I'II get there. :)

It would also be good to hear any thoughts you have so please leave a comment if you have the time.