Drawing M42 with an 8 inch telescope
Back in December 2007 after a day of stormy winds and heavy rain the atmosphere seemed cleaner and more settled than usual. I had sketched comet 17/P Holmes for the last time, and turned my scope to M42 in the magnificent sword of Orion. Every time I look at M42,my appreciation grows. Just to think that from my garden I can look and observe an object that is 1,500 light years away from my eye. If you are not familiar with this Messier object or Orion, you can read more about it here in my blog about drawing the entire constellation.
Describing M42 as an object really does not do it justice . Its nebulosity has height, breath and dept that is so monumental,so magnificent that it makes it difficult to imagine.
As we stand on our Earth ball rolling along in space , we can look through the theatrical lens of our atmosphere at our galaxy and its many stars. On a clear night after the sun sets we can look at M42 with nothing only a few miles of gas between our eye and space . During my observing sessions I am always very aware that in truth we live in space onboard our beautiful planet . Observing M42 is just one of the many gifts given to us by the Earth.
The nebulous star forming clouds seemed to be very linear that evening. From my suburban garden it was one of the best views of it,I had ever seen. It was very cold just around 2 degrees, a chilling wind flapped my sketch pad and froze my fingers. This drawing above was done using an 8 inch dob. The nebula looks many times more complex in a telescope twice the diameter.
If you have a small telescope , you will see some good detail in the nebula. Introducing M42 to your eyeball would be best served if you are in a dark place. Consider hooking up with your local astronomy club for a viewing if you have never seen it. Maybe you are getting a telescope for Christmas ? Then make the effort to find M42 and sink your gaze into its wondrous star making clouds.
Stellarium will help you find M42 - remember it is defaulted to Paris so you must choose your Country and City in the locations setting so it will then give you the sky you see above your head.
Drawing M42 with a 16 inch telescope
A long-standing invitation to observe and sketch at a friends observatory finally happened on Thursday November 27th 2008. I had done several sketches of M42 over the years but I never saw anything like the detail made available to me in Michael's 16 scope. It looked a bit like dendrites in the brain connecting to each other. It also looked like it was exploding toward me.
My first view of the structure close to the Trapezium was very intricate. I was overwhelmed by the detail and my sketch is focused on attempting to capture some of the structure in this magnificent stellar nursery. This sketch could have been softer, but when you see something you think you are familiar with,this level of additional detail takes time to absorb. All the way home that evening I was thinking how to do this better. Drawing always stimulates thinking, drawing brings learning and joy. Give it a try. Another interesting blog here on what Galaxies and Nebulae really look like
An interesting fly through M42 video
One of the most informative videos I have seen is this one below, it's a fly through of the nebula using something called volume visualization. Hope you enjoy it.