Naked Eye Orion sketched from Ireland
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Orion a naked eye sketch - by Deirdre Kelleghan

Naked Eye Orion - a sketch by Deirdre Kelleghan Pastel and Gel Pen on Black Card A4

Recently I have spent some time in the west of Ireland . It's been stormy , with icy rain and sideways on hailstones battering the landscape. The winds have been epic in this wild place where the ancient potato drills shout evidence of our ancestors ribs bursting the Earth , still hungry after all these years. Most evenings I have stepped outside to look up at the night sky while listening to the Atlantic roar its salty roar at stars too far away to listen.

Occasionally the clarity of the sky has been impressive but short-lived. However on the evening of March 23rd on opening the door I was met with what I can only describe as a crisis sky. Every familiar constellation was buried in the galaxy. It is sometimes said that there are more stars in the night sky than grains of sand on all the worlds beaches, that sky was the epiphany of that statement.

I sat on a stool to try to absorb the visual data before me, as my eyes adapted the complexity of my observation increased , hence a crisis sky. I realised that in order to capture this or even part of it on paper required a total rethink on method and approach. Suburban drawing was a lot simpler , this was a total re - admission to the sky at night.

This Milky Way offered an amalgam of innumerable dots , layers of varying density , colour, nebulosity and even dark fissures among its clumpy twisting display. Before me was a unique opportunity to attempt a drawing. Orion was my choice because Betelgeuse was glowing with colour and M42 was shapely even to the eye. Orion's hunting bow was the clearest I have ever seen it there was so much to notice that had not come to my attention before. It is a magnificent constellation , a dramatic pattern of mature stars , young stars and baby stars. Betelgeuse is nearing the end of its star life, which when that eventually happens will be a spectacular supernova. That would be the ultimate Orion drawing however, nobody knows when this might occur . It is the job of some scientists to watch this star very closely and possibly predict its exact demise.

To look at M42 in a telescope is splendid, but to sit and look at it by eye knowing that it is a stellar nursery is special. From our eye view on Earth we can look at this humongous molecular cloud and ponder at  its powerful action with nothing but our atmosphere and 1,344 Light Years between us. Within its massive gaseous bowl energy we can barely imagine works toward creating  new future suns.  Baby stars that might one day be hosts to families of orbiting planets, a continuum of energy ,more opportunities for life to take hold. My drawing is far from perfect, but I am glad I left my telescope aside to just look up and try to capture what my eyes witnessed in a place almost free from antropogenic light pollution in the wild west of Ireland.

Deirdre Kelleghan

About Deirdre Kelleghan

Deirdre Kelleghan is an Astronomer, Artist and Educator. She invents designs and enacts creative workshops to help children understand our solar system through drawing . Her activities take place in schools, libraries, science centres and observatories in Ireland and abroad. In practice her work is always engaged in the NOW. A recurring feature of connecting with her audiences is being actively attentive to astronomy or space events that are ongoing in real time. ICT ,eLearning and blended learning play a key role in many of her programs. Her Action Sun workshop opened Building the Scientific Mind 2013 Colloquium at Bosscha Observatory West Java Indonesia. This was a UNESCO / The Learning Development Institute event. In 2011 Deirdre was awarded the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education. The workshop was Deadly Moons the awarding body was the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is co author of Sketching the Moon an Astronomical Artists Guide. Deirdre is a contributing artist / writer for BBC Sky at Night Magazine . Deirdre has recently been invited to write for The Vatican Observatory Foundation. Deirdre Science / Art Workshops for children support • The primary school curriculum • eLearning • ICT in Education • Astronomy • Astronomy software • Enquiry Based Learning • Drawing skills • Observation She has her own blog: http://www.deirdrekelleghan.net. You can follow her on Twitter, and Facebook

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