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17.5", 3hrs, sketching implements & Eta Carina

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#1 maroubra_boy


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Posted 08 April 2011 - 10:48 AM

Hi all,

Finally, after weeks of clouded skies, a weekend night with a clear sky!

Encouraged by my attempt at Eta Carina through my 8" dob, tonight I trained my 17.5" dobbie at the same target, again from Sydney, :crazyeyes:

This time, I also used my Grand Daddy of all eyepieces, a 35mm Masuyama. A bit long for this f/4.5 scope, but my only OIII filter is a 1.25".

Eta Carina is not only huge, it is a very busy place. There are multiple shockwaves within it, masses of star formation both just initiated in the form of dark pillars, of those whose nuclear fires have just kicked in, nebulae within nebulae, and a super massive star about to go supernova.

This magnificent NASA site shows all of these details.

Again, the Homunculus Nebula is too small at 57X, but the supermassive star, Eta Carina, it is associated with is the bright reddish one.

Armed with a battery of sketching implements, the result of 3hrs is below. Ooooohhh, I am going to have soooooo much fun redoing this one at a dark sky site! :crutch:

Scope: 17.5" f/4.5 dob
Gear: 35mm Masuyama, 57X, OIII filter
Date: April 8, 2011
Location: Sydney
Media: white pastel, white & black charcoal pencils, white chinagraph, white and coloured ink on black paper

A slightly bigger version is here



Attached Files

#2 Roel


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Posted 08 April 2011 - 11:36 AM

Alex, you know you are making me reconsider all my sketching techniques learned the past few years...? I've seen few of your sketches and I'm convinced now.


This is just(I don't often use this word) awesome!!

#3 JakeSaloranta



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Posted 08 April 2011 - 01:34 PM



#4 Jeremy Perez

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 01:39 PM

Agreed, Alex, the level of detail and subtlety you've included and the results of the technique are outstanding. Thanks very much for sharing your work and the process you used.

#5 CarlosEH



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Posted 08 April 2011 - 02:11 PM


An outstanding observation of the magnifient Eta Carina nebula. You have produced a very subtle yet impressive rendering of the nebula with a mixture of media. I assume you apply the white and colored ink first then later the charcoal/pastel in order for it not to run on the black paper. I dream of observing this nebula in large aperture from down under one day. Thank you for sharing it with us all.


#6 hbanich



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Posted 08 April 2011 - 03:29 PM

Hi alex,

A wonderful depiction! This is very much how I saw Eta Carina from the Mauna Kea visitors center in Hawaii with my 13 inch a few years ago with a 5 or 6 day old Moon brightening the sky.

I'm fascinated by your "Mellish" sketching technique. Two questions for you - how long have you been sketching DSO's this way, and have you ever had difficulty seeing the surface of the black paper while sketching?

#7 maroubra_boy


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Posted 08 April 2011 - 06:02 PM

I assume you apply the white and colored ink first then later the charcoal/pastel in order for it not to run on the black paper.Carlos


I actually start with the nebulosity!

Scott Mellish also starts this way too. The stars are added afterwards. The reason being is this way, you let the nebulosity dictate the scale of the sketch. If you start with the stars, you may encounter difficulty achieving the flow you then need with the brush. But, that is not to say you can't! It's what works for you.

While Scott may start with the nebulosity first like me, HE works within a preset circular perimeter that represents the eyepiece's FOV. I, on the other hand, has things 'out there'. This is mentioned in "My Sketching Technique" in my signature.

Also, the brightest stars are not laid down as large blobs, as per a star chart. Instead these are highlighted with diffraction spikes. These create the illusion of the increased size and glare of brighter stars. I add the white ink once I'm finished with the diffraction spikes just to give the central star a little greater density of white. Less risk of smudging too.

I've only been using this technique some six months! Before then I was using straight white pencils on black paper and having kittens with the texture of the paper and lack of control of the lightness of touch and fading. Having three different sized brushes also allows for greater control of the finess of the detail and flow.

To see what I'm doing in the dark, I use one of those piddley, annoying clip-on booklights. I never thought there was any real use for them, :lol: . I just opened up the lamp compartment, & covered the lamp with red film. To reduce the glare of the reflected light, I tilt the page.

This technique doesn't need to be used exclusively at the eyepiece. You can use what ever technique you feel most comfortable with/quickest with, at the eyepiece, and then translate this with the Mellish Technique in the comfort of a warm, dry room.

I recently found myself with my scope out but not my sketching kit other than a pencil and white paper. I still did my sketch with these, making whatever notes I needed on the page to remind me of details, extensions, mistakes, etc. I then redid it with this method.

This night was also a very dewy one. By the end of the sketch I was getting concerned about the paper getting too wet.

Thank you all for your kind comments too. I get a real thrill in reading them. Cheers!


#8 frank5817



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Posted 08 April 2011 - 10:55 PM


Very impressive work and I think many here are aware of the fine work of Scott Mellish. It is wonderful that you honor him and use his methods. There is much of your unique style there as well. Great stuff.

Frank :)

#9 lunartic65



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Posted 09 April 2011 - 06:52 AM

Beautiful Alex.

#10 Special Ed

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 07:43 AM


Absolutely wonderful drawing. The nebula is beautifully subtle and I really like how you render the appearance of the stars. Thanks for posting the link to your article on Ice in Space--it's very well written.

One question--what size paper is this drawing on?

#11 joelimite


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Posted 09 April 2011 - 09:01 AM

Incredible sketch, Alex! Very subtle rendering of a beautiful celestial object.

#12 JayinUT


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Posted 09 April 2011 - 09:54 AM

Tremendous and thank you for sharing your methods.

#13 HellsKitchen



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Posted 09 April 2011 - 11:11 AM

Amazing! Now do one at 200x , get right into that detail!!!

#14 Jef De Wit

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 01:35 PM

3 hours !!! Respect :bow:

#15 stevecoe


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Posted 09 April 2011 - 11:21 PM

Excellent Alex;

Make me want to return to Australia. Maybe later.

Eta Carina is an amazing nebula and well worth the trip.

I do as you wrote about. I take just pencil and paper into the field and then make a drawing with notes. Once I am home it is the re-draw that is scanned or shown to friends. Lots of fun.

Clear skies;
Steve Coe

#16 niteskystargazer



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Posted 11 April 2011 - 12:30 PM


Nice sketch of Eta Carina :).




#17 lunar



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Posted 11 April 2011 - 02:04 PM

Very impressive and beautiful sketch! It looks like you've caught a lot of detail & stucture. One thing I like is the added touch of orange-ish color of what I think is the star Eta Carinae? I can't help but wonder because I can't see this nebula from my northerly location, but what does this star look like if you observe it at high powers? I don't know, say 250X-400X or so? Is it possible that you might see the two lobes of material?

Overall, it's an absolutely wonderful sketch, and I look forward to seeing more of your sketches in the future :jump:

Clear Skies,
Brandon Doyle

#18 planet earth

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 02:48 PM

Alex, your truly an artist.
I really like your sketch of M42!
What am I saying, I like them all. :)
Thanks for sharing.

Clear Skies

#19 maroubra_boy


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Posted 14 April 2011 - 10:58 PM

Your comments are over whelmingly nice! Thank you so much.

Michael, the paper is A4 in size, and the whole page is pretty much used.

The Homunculous Nebula is just observable at 100X. At around 200X, the two lobes are quite distinct, appearing very much like an hour glass seen close to end to end. And its structure is very much striated and very orange in colour. So very much like the Hubble images of it! No mistaking it.

Hellskitchen, I'm game if you are, sunshine! If the clouds behave on April 30, you'll know what I'll be doing, :dabomb: !

#20 mikesemmler



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Posted 15 April 2011 - 04:50 AM

Wow - this is very, very good, a perfect scetch


#21 Livelongnprosper


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Posted 30 May 2011 - 06:27 PM

Amazing artwork and inspiring! Thanks!

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