Monday, 17 February 2014



It seems to be a natural progression... you start with naked-eye observing, then move on to binoculars, then to visual observations with a telescope, and finally you progress to sketching. For the past few years I‟ve been perfectly content just to assemble my telescope in the back garden and enjoy a tour of objects of interest in the night sky. It was just plain, simple, relaxing, no-strings-attached observing.

However, having looked at some of the artistry contained in Observing the Deep Sky (Darren Bushnall, Crowood Press, 2005) I finallyfelt inspired me to act... and what a great feeling it is to have something to show at the end of an observing session!

Let me state from the outset that I‟m no artist... I tend to draw along straight lines! However, I hope that you enjoy my sketches (above), and that they inspire you to try sketching yourself. In addition to having something to show for your observing session, drawing the objects requires far greater attention to detail in the view through the eyepiece. 

Another benefit is that you‟re far more likely to recognise the object in future observation sessions, as what you see through the eyepiece is, of course, frequently very different from what is shown in photographic images.
Sketching takes some getting used to at first – it isn‟t easy learning to manage a telescope, star charts, clipboard, paper, pencil and dim red-light torch! But if I can do it, anyone can! It‟s perhaps also a good idea to begin with some distinct and easy objects, depending on what‟s visible, such as the Cigar Galaxy (M82), the Orion Nebula (M42) and the Ring Nebula (M57). 

Also remember that you don‟t have to spend your entire observing session sketching – make sure you leave plenty of time just for relaxing stargazing. As a beginner, I have also found it useful to produce and print some standard sketching forms, including a circle for the telescope‟s field of view and labels and fields for such things as object name, Messier number, equipment used, and date and time of observation. This ensures that
your drawings are fully labelled, so that in future, when you use different equipment or are
observing from elsewhere, you can account for differences in the views. Again, for this I
thoroughly recommend the Deep Sky Report specimen form in Darren Bushnall's book as the basis for your recordings.

Ultimately, the effort is well worthwhile – you‟ll have learned far more about the objects you
observe, and will have the satisfaction of showing your drawings to family members, friends or members of your local astronomical society. Why not scan them into your computer and make negatives of your sketches, so that the monochrome drawings are no longer reversed out? You can then publish them on your website or Facebook profile for all to see!

Now then, I must talk to the wife about an artist‟s pencil set!!


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