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A long night sketching from a dark(ish) site. 12p, Globulars, and the Ghost

Observing Report Sketching
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#1 AstroBoyInTheCity

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 12:08 AM

For my birthday this year I set out for a couple nights at Fremont Peak in Northern California. Originally this was supposed to be a family event with my wife and kids, but with rain forecast through the weekend, I ended up driving down solo a day early to try and catch some clear skies before the rains started. This was my first time heading to a darker site with the specific intent of night sky observing. I brought along an AT102ED on a Bogen/M2 and my 10" dob. 

 

After settling into the site, I sat down to figure out what to observe. I used a copy of Interstellarum, Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders, Stellarium on my iPhone, and my Messier list to jot down about ten objects that were easily visible from my spot through the night. I stuck down post-it's in Interstellarium for easy reference and was ready to go just as the sun kissed the horizon.

 
Campsite
 
First up was 12p Pons-Brooks. I've never seen a comet with magnification and I've been trying for 12p the past two months. My back deck where I do most of my observing has no clear view of the western horizon and I've tried twice for it in other locations with no luck. As the sun set below the horizon there was a heavy haze spread across the valley below. It made for a beautiful sunset but I didn't have much hope to visualize it so close to the horizon in such conditions. I walked down to a section of the campground that had a clear view of the western horizon and setup my AT102. Waiting for the sky to darken, I killed time with some casual gazing of the moon and Jupiter.
 
Westerly
 
As the stars began to pierce the navy blue sky, I used Stellarium to starhop down from Jupiter and there it was! The sky was not fully dark yet and it appeared as a very faint ball of fuzz. I was jazzed and did a little shuffle dance while peering through the eyepiece... and It only got better as the sky darkened! By the end I was able to make out a long but faint tail stretching off the fov. I did a couple quick sketches to commemorate the moment (at 100x and 50x in the image below) and packed up the AT102 to head back to my DOB where I switched gears to the deep sky.
 
To warm up the ol' deep-sky observing muscles I started with one of my favorites, the double cluster. Surprisingly it was less thrilling than when I observe it from the backyard. I think that in this darker setting, all the additional stars I could see surrounding the clusters made it feel somehow less special. Still pretty! But just a bit lacking in that POW factor. Tracking down M102 on the other hand was jaw dropping. I only spent about 10 minutes with it, but the detail was better than any other galaxy I'd seen with such a short observation time. Even with the quick 7 minute sketch, it rivals the detail of galaxies I had spent 30 minutes on from the back deck at home. ( sketched at the bottom right of the page below)
 
RW SKETCHBOOK 32
 
I've been eager to hunt down the Ghost of Jupiter ever since hearing about it on a back episode of The Actual Astronomy podcast. I wasn't prepared at how bright and blue it would be! Absolutely jaw dropping! (sketched below on left) Following along Sue French's Deep Sky Wonders tour of Hydra, I picked out the carbon star V Hydrae. Another absolute stunner! The color was breathtaking and it took me a while to compose myself... After viewing for so long under the bortle 7-8 skies in my backyard, these things were truly blowing my mind. I'm a sucker for globulars and really enjoyed taking my time observing & sketching M92 and M68. Recently I've been fascinated with the darker shapes that surround these globulars and tried to capture them at least somewhat faithfully in the sketches. (below page on right)
 
RW SKETCHBOOK 33
 
My final sketch of the night was M5 perfectly framed at 150x. (sketched below) By the end of this observation I was pooped from dotting all those dotty dots and switched casual visual observing of Markarian's chain, M10, M12, and an hour or so of wider field scanning of Serpens and Libra.
 
RW SKETCHBOOK 34A

 

I stayed one more night but the cloud cover allowed for only fleeting moments of clarity. A good friend of mine met up with me at the campsite and we spent the evening hopping between cocktails & whiskies by the fire and fleeting glimpses of the Orion nebula, M5, M92, and M13. All in all it was a spectacular first observing trip with darker skies and I'm excited to get back out again real soon.

 

Thanks for hanging out and following along with my jabbering!

 


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#2 nof

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 08:06 AM

Really nice reading your journal with the sketches! Very engaging
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#3 JMSchwartz

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 08:10 AM

Happy belated birthday to you, Wow very nice sketches in this body of work ,it had to be an all nighter?

Really good stuff thanks for these.

Kind Reguards Jon 


Edited by JMSchwartz, 14 April 2024 - 08:11 AM.

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#4 AstroBoyInTheCity

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 09:19 AM

Wow very nice sketches in this body of work ,it had to be an all nighter?

Thanks Jon! I started up around 8:30 in the evening, switched to binoculars around 2:30, and was cozied up under a comforter in my van by 3:30. I would have loved to make it an all nighter as some of the objects on my list were coming into view just before sunrise but my eyeballs couldn’t make it! All in all, about 7 hours of observing. 



#5 Procyon Lotor

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 09:35 AM

Excellent work, loved the descriptions. Sounds like you will carry some special memories of this time.


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#6 Moon-Watcher

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 10:52 AM

That’s a lovely read. You really captured how we feel when we see our favourite objects. Love the sketches as well. I should switch out my notebook for a black pages one like you use. What pencil/pen were you using? Thanks again for sharing!

#7 AstroBoyInTheCity

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 12:23 PM

I should switch out my notebook for a black pages one like you use. What pencil/pen were you using?

Thanks for checking out my post Moon-Watcher!

 

Black paper is pretty great. The added benefit of less reflection of red light when sketching has a noticeable effect on night vision while sketching.

 

My current primary tool lineup is:

 

Brisk Learner gel pens (0.5mm, 0.7mm) - For the stars. I'm still searching for a really good gel pen with a super thin line. These are the best I've used so far but if you have any other suggestions!!!

 

Generals Charcoal White Pencil (558) - Standard charcoal pencil. The white has a good cling to the paper without being so clingy that it's hard to smudge. I'm currently using this for all my Nebula, Galaxy, and ambient glow work along with a smudge tool and a white MONO eraser.

 

Arteza Acrylic Markers (A001 Titanium White) (A003 Space Black) - For ll my writing and adjusting. I find these to be a bit finicky to get started, but once working they're the smoothest and most even thin line acrylic's I've used. The white is great for bold and easy to read text (crappy handwriting aside!) I use the black kind of like white-out on white paper to cover over any mistakes.

 

Various Faber-Castell color pencils - I use various grey ones to dim down stars when they feel too bright. I also have red, yellow, and blue ones to add a bit of color to the stars when necessary. I forgot to use these on the above drawings...

 

I'm also always excited to hear of other people's favorite pens and pencils. Please feel free to pass on any suggestions you might have!



#8 niteskystargazer

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Posted 15 April 2024 - 11:33 AM

Royce,

 

Very nice sketches of A long night sketching from a dark(ish) site. 12p, Globulars, and the Ghost smile.gif .

 

CDS,KLU,

 

thanx.gif ,

 

Tom


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#9 Herodotus

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Posted 15 April 2024 - 06:29 PM

Great sketches
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#10 tcifani

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 09:30 AM

Wonderful drawings and descriptions and I love the black sketchbook!


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