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Joy of down sizing - an experience

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#1 maroubra_boy

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 02:30 AM

Family business pulled me away from my long awaited dark site visit. Duty saw me 4 hours drive from home, an hour's north of Bathurst. Knowing the one evening I had there would be my own I at least managed to pack my lightly used 11X70 binos and a tripod. A far cry from the 17.5" I had been expecting to pack, but we do what we can, eh!

I managed to get out doors around 8pm. What a sky greeted me! Glorious east to west, horizon to horizon band of the Milky Way blazed overhead. Dark patches of the Coal Sack, the Emu, the Dark Horse, all easily recognisable and menecing with their inky darkness.

<sigh> "What the heck! :shrug:" was my first thought as I pulled up the binos to the sky, Omega Centauri my first port of call.

"HOLY HECK!!!!" was my very next thought!

Omega was not only astonishing, it was resolved into millions of tiny pinpoints of stars, squished tightly together. What a beautiful sight. Surrounding Omega was awash with a glowing Milky Way, riddled with strings of stars, mottling of invisible clusters, and chased with cords of dark nebulae.

What a spectacular and glorious universe had been hidden from my eyes due to aperture fever! :bigshock:

Centaurus A was nearly as big as Omega too. Its soft halo of light fading into the surrounding blaze of "Milky Way Glow".

A few months ago I did a sketch of the area around Eta Carina from home with these same binoculars. This night I could bearly recognise the same features there was so much light coming through the eyepieces without the hinderance of Sydney's light pollution.

The rest of the hour I had before the clouds rolled in (REALLY! you've got to be kidding me!!! 9 bloody months straight of new moon weekends!) was a pure joy of wonder, excitement, discovery, and astonishment. I went in without ANY expectations and received a whole new universe to explore.

What a delight it was to downsize. Not once did I miss my big dobbie. My only regret was not to be able to get one sketch done. Probably for the best tonight as I would have struggled to decide what to sketch first, or how to go about it. I'm not disappointed though. The hidden blessing for my sketching persuit has been to think about how to tackle such a subject, and it's got the juices flowing and fresh ideas screaming to be materialised.

What a wonderful evening it turned out to be. Only one hour long too!

#2 maroubra_boy

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 02:32 AM

I thought I'd put some of the ideas I've been thinking about into practice with a sketch of the area around M8 & M20.

This area was astounding. The extent of the nebulosity around M8 was as extensive as I've seen in photographs. Not just the Hour Glass, but the massive extensions all around it. It was amazing to see the bright nebulosity that surrounds the two Hour Glass lobes, seen on the left half of M8 in the sketch. Then there is the fainter expanse on the right of the Hour Glass. I had only caught a glimpse of the massive extensions in my 17.5" from home. This night I've seen the whole massive structure with only a 70mm aperture.

I had always thought that Dark Nebulae mentioned in descriptions of these structures, to be only visible with very large apertures. How wrong was I! Here I've laid down the most striking dark nebulosity that stuck in my mind. The dark finger to the left of M8 was most striking.

This sketch is an impression of what I saw that night. I used the wide field sketch I did a month or so ago of this same area to lay down the position of the component stars. I have attempted to lay down the features as I best remember them. As such, this sketch is more an exercise in technique, but the essential elements are there. I've also wanted to convey the brilliance of what was in the field of view compared to the dark enclosure of the instrument.

Again, this is approximately a 4.5 degree FOV through my 11X70 binos. Done using white soft pastel, charcoal and white ink on A4 size black paper. Circle diameter 16cm.

Alex.

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#3 Jef De Wit

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 07:48 AM

Impressive work! I like the (pastel) background and dark nebula.
But for once I don't like the spikes on the brightest stars.

#4 Ed D

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 08:32 AM

Alex, I'm always in awe at the level of detail you capture in your sketches. The dark nebula looks really cool!

I really enjoy the views through my 72mm f/6 (AT72ED) from dark skies. Not only is it a grand vista, but as you point out, the detail that can be observed at low mags is awesome. Light pollution really cripples observing, doesn't it?

Ed D

#5 maroubra_boy

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 09:20 AM

Hi Jef, yes, I agree that the spikes don't work here. Too large. Wrong orientation. Untidy. That they are there at all! May have been best to have just left the brightest stars just as white ink dots.

I'm glad you mentioned it. All part of technique development, :) . This sketch was an exploration in illustration, so all feedback I get is welcomed.

Ed, this Captain Cook with the binos has inspired me to tackle this form of observation & sketching. I'm now on a new learning curve, and sourced a humble 80mm f/5 achromate with a 2" focuser. Now, if only this New Moon Cloud Cover conspiracy would quit...

#6 frank5817

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 10:04 AM

Alex,

Beautiful sketch and wonderful narrative. Sometimes less is more.

Frank :)

#7 niteskystargazer

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 03:08 PM

Alex,

Good sketch of M-8 & M-20 :).

CS,KLU,

:thanx:,

Tom

#8 Erik Bakker

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:25 AM

Beautiful sketch and report Alex.

Even in my backyard, my 18x70 bins have demonstrated their superb capability as a deep sky instrument. Under a truly dark sky?

:yay:

#9 maroubra_boy

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 04:23 AM

Many thanks Frank, Tom and Erik.

~X~

It's interesting how I'm comfortable pointing my 17.5" dob at some big and complex DSO, like Eta Carina, no problem. But my recent experience at a dark sky site with a pair of 11X70 binos had me stumped on EVERY aspect - where to start, how to go about it, what to use, boarder or none?

Why the problems with a wide field? Under a dark site sky, the background glow of the Milky Way is astounding! It is omnipresent, and complex in its structure. What may seem like a modest aperture with the binoculars reveals such an involved image, it is not so much about the actual wide field view.

As I said, the silver lining in my binocular session was that I didn't get to do a sketch! Clouds saw to that. But the result was that it got me thinking on how to tackle such a sketch. Inspired by this experience with the binos, I had a go at a sketch at home. I sketched the region around M8 and M20, for the striking dark nebulae around them, the extraordinary expanse of M8 itself and I also had another "wide field" sketch of this area done with my 8" f/4 scope from home a couple of months before as a reference for the placing of the key stars in this area.

First I envisaged how I wanted the final sketch to look like, and then developed a process to achieve this. The various illustration techniques are those used in the Mellish Technique - I've just employed them in such a way to give me the effects I was after.

I started by marking the boarder circle with a Chinagraph pencil. The Chinagraph would be able to resist being rubbed out with an eraser when the time came to remove the material that extended beyond the sketch - a part of the final sketch I wanted to achieve would have a sharp, clean edge to give the viewer an indication of the brilliance of the image compared to the blackness of the inside of the binos.

I next used a big soft brush to start laying down an overall glow to the circle. I deliberately went over the boarder as it is the only way to achieve an even colouration to the FOV. As mentioned above, this "overhang" can be removed later.

I then used a large stiff bristle brush to give me the tiny starkle, a stronger glow, and to provide the mottling. This is a little time consuming to cover the necessary area, but the effect is well worth the effort.

Once the background glow is finished I start adding the nebulous features with smaller soft round brushes. The dark nebulae & dark lanes are also added using charcoal and the various brushes. The star fields are next added.

What may need to be done afterwards at the desk is accentuate the intensity of the background star field. This is done by lightly pot-marking the entire background with a sharp soft pastel pencil. This too is time consuming, and I had to do it in over a couple of sittings. The depth that this pot-marking achieves is beautiful.

The finished sketch shows the brightest stars with difraction spikes. I'm not too happy with them, particluarly with the sting of them across the area where M20 sits (Jef isn't keen on them either, ;) . They could be too big, too bold, incorrect orientation, that they are there at all. As this sketch is just an experiment I'm not too concerned and will help me be more careful in my next sketch.

Once I was happy with the end result I removed the overhang with an eraser, being careful not to cut into the circle.

All the dark nebulae and lanes were added with a brush and over the background glow. This allowed me to texture the FOV very easily and accurately. Amazing stuff black charcoal!

Have a go at a wide field sketch. My biggest hinderance was just were to start, so I just did an experimental sketch first. I'm ready to tackle the real thing now,

~X~

You may like to also look at this new astro sketching site Astronomical Sketching Forum started by JayinUtah. It's intended to compliment this CN forum with solar system & DSO specific categories. Please have a look.

Clear skies and sharp pencils

Alex.

#10 frank5817

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 10:05 PM

Alex,

Changing instruments and locations only adds to the enjoyment in my humble opinion.

You are an inspiration to sketchers far beyond Australian shores. :jump:

Frank :)

#11 observing1

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 06:19 PM

cool

#12 phily

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:25 AM

Nice one. I love the background - just right.
Phil

#13 JeanB

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:05 AM

Hi Alex!

I am still trying to figure out why I prefer wide field images. Something about a bigger piece of infinity I guess... Your sketches always comfort me in that preference!

Thanks for posting your excellent work and exciting reports!

Jean

#14 Ildi

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 05:05 AM

Amasing what you did with the background! Looks so realistic , good work!

Ildi






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