Cruinniu na nOg means the meeting of the young in the Irish language. Creative activities are funded on that special day by the local authorities all over the country.
The overarching body is called Creative Ireland. Ireland as a country therefore backs creativity nationwide for all her children.
My drawing workshop Let's Go To The Moon - Apollo 11 became part of this government initiative to stimulate creativity. Cruinniu na nOg is aimed to encourage children to get involved in new experiences while creating and also having fun.
Castlebar Library - Cruinniu na nOg
The first venue on June 15th, was Castlebar library Co Mayo. A really good presentation space with enthusiastic staff to help set up. An audience of young children along with a few parents showed total interested in the Apollo 11 mission. Some of the children were very well versed in Apollo mission details. It is so refreshing to listen to children talking about the first landing on the moon 50 years later. After my presentation, which is the basic story of Apollo 11, we got down to the drawing.
" Through the Creative Ireland Programme, Ireland is now among the first countries in the world to prioritise creativity as vital to our personal and collective wellbeing and success. The Programme promotes understanding and appreciation of the value of creativity in all of its forms; it engages and influences decision-makers to embed creativity across public policy, and it supports and enables participation in creative activities." from the 2018 report of Creative Ireland
On this occasion the challenge was to draw Buzz Adrian's helmet with Neil Armstrong reflected in the visor. One of the few images with both astronauts in the shot because Neil Armstrong was the cameraman. Their little faces told the story of the challenge. I could see the look of " she can't be serious" and " this is too hard for me" in their eyes.
In order to bring out their creativity and tutor them a little, I did a demonstration drawing. This lesson in observation helped the children break down the complex image into shapes they could recognise. Curves, rectangles, human stick figures, dark shapes, and light shapes. Using this method, encouraged the children to draw in an informed way at their own level. Therefore creating an easier pathway to their drawing than their earlier facial expressions exclaimed.
The results are excellent attempts using pastel on black paper. Their pride in themselves duly served they brought their work home. Every child left the library with NASA moon cards, ESO ( European Southern Observatory) stickers and an Apollo 11 information sheet designed by me. Here it is if you want to use it yourself. Moon Workshop Sheet A4
Ballinrobe Library - Cruinniu na nOg
After that, I drove on to Ballinrobe Library to repeat the workshop. What a total surprise, Ballinrobe Library is in an old church. The building has excellent acoustics, which I toughly enjoyed. My cardboard Buzz Aldrin figure cut a real presence in the church. No doubt the real Buzz would have been impressed by his figure being present at this unique location. As in Castlebar, the cardboard Buzz helped me explain the astronaut's A7L suit and how it helped the men survive on the moon in 1969.
For this workshop the drawing challenge was the Saturn V rocket. Another demonstration drawing helped break down the rocket into a simpler way to look at it. Basic shapes, cones, cylinders, and rectangles. We also added energy. The children were encouraged to express the power needed to launch the Saturn V from the Earth to the moon. In the room was enough energy to launch a small rocket from Mayo. As the presentation went on I could see some adults in the library soaking it in and coming toward the drawing area. As with Castlebar the children attending were very proud of their drawings. Also, every child went home with NASA moon cards, ESO stickers and an Apollo 11 information sheet.
Big thanks to Mayo County Council, Castlebar Library, Ballinrobe Library and Creative Ireland.
Children spinning their little handmade Saturn models with joy !!
At Easter I ran a small space camp for children. It was over three mornings in Louisburgh Co Mayo.The venue was Books at One, the local community bookshop. We packed a lot of things into the three mornings, in fact, I had too much planned. Better too much than too little in my experience. Space Camp joy abounded !
Day 1 Space Camp
We built paper rockets that we blew into space (in the room). I have a box of interesting forever goodies. These are intended to be made into something at some time. In the box, I found some triangular stickers. These had rocket holograms on them !! Perfect for rocket fins, the kids agreed and they loved them. The stickers came from Recreate Ireland which encourages creativity through reuse.
We checked out the news on The Planetary Society's Light Sail 2 project. New information for the children so lots of ooohhs and aahhs of joy and interest filled the room. We learned about SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket and its amazing landings OOOH Yeah !! We also learnt about NASA and SpaceX plans to launch DART Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart). This test will check how a particular asteroid moves when hit by an impactor. It should pave the way for the development of Earth defence systems.
Asteroid close to home
Our news session took on a personal aspect when I told the children that Deirdre had just had an asteroid named after her in space. (More on that soon, still getting my head around it). The children all hoped that Deirdre's asteroid would not crash into the Earth 🙂
Day 2 Space Camp
We made Moon Infographics to help the children understand the phases of the moon. We cut out all the moon shapes and wrote down all the phase names as neatly as we could. The children stuck down the phases in the correct order. Then when the moon is in the sky they have their own chart to check which phase it is exactly.
It was a difficult task for some children because of age and skill differences. It was a much longer effort than expected, however, all the children did well. The proof of learning came in the moon quiz at the end when the right answers were offered enthusiastically. The children got their answers right because they had been engaged with learning by paying attention to detail.
Day 3 Space Camp
Because we had a packed schedule I had to paint all the Saturn rings the evening before so that they would be dry The idea was to make little Saturn models using some old CDs and small polystyrene balls. As soon as the halved balls been stuck to the white CD's the children, collectively started to spin their planets. A spontaneous fun-filled moment that actually summed up the joy of learning. Little Saturns spinning off the table, crashing into each other, being fixed on the go 🙂
We drew Mimas, one of Saturns smaller moons. The children listened to the story of the Cassini mission to Saturn. Our space camp finished with a video about the end of the Cassini Mission . I was delighted to have some Cassini educational material left to give away. Am lucky to have some great Cassini cards from my time as a member of The Saturn Observation Campaign. More space camp joy for the children.
On April 16th Active Region 2738 was heading towards the limb, looking very dramatic. I decided to try an experimental sketch using just pencil to capture the action around the giant sunspot. I used a very black pencil called a Conte de Paris Carbone B, which was deeply black. For the sketch I also used some silicone tipped brushes, these were perfect for drawing with and allowed some good flexible movement to be developed. There is always massive movement in the area around sunspots. A kind of disturbance caused by the huge magnetic activity in the sunspot itself.
The light bridge and the change in it since April 10th was clearly visible in my h-alpha view however the seeing was soft not as sharp as I would have liked. A well shape filament would have been nice to observe but none developed as I viewed
It was great to have a new huge active region to observe recently. This massive area of magnetic disturbance heaving its way across the solar disc was fascinating to watch. The weather smiled on Ireland, several days of sunshine in April is unusual to say the least. Active region 2738 boasted the largest sunspot in several years. Its diameter is three times that of the Earth. Across the center of the umbra is a light bridge circa 20,000 km long and circa 800 km wide. !! Drawing Active Region 2738 is a challenge indeed but it is also an opportunity to try some new ideas.
At 12:36 UT on the 10th of April, a very bright plage flare erupted from the base of two dark filaments. Then one of the filaments got very long very quickly. Then the flare subsided. It's the yellow part of the drawing. The umbra was very dark and the surrounding penumbra seemed light red in h-alpha. Other normal plage is shown in light pink. It is very difficult to draw all the detail that comes to the eye as it is in layers. Each drawing is an experiment in trying to get it right. A corkscrew-like prom was busy off the limb. The grey dots you see there are because the fixitive spray reacted in the hot sun (very unApril)
I had hoped to do several of these white light pencil drawings and a h-alpha pencil drawing. Anyway it got a bit hazy as the morning developed. You need really good pin sharp seeing to capture features accurately.
In the h-alpha drawing above I tried to simulate what I was observing by using colour particles as close to my view as possible. This process is difficult but can produce spectacular results in good conditions.
Watch this space
The idea of drawing the very complex visible detail on the solar disc with pencil in h-alpha is daunting. However I think it will work and at the very least be a learning curve to produce better drawings.
As Active Region 2738 approaches the limb I hope to capture it in one or two experimental drawings using just pencil for all visible detail. A monochrome drawing in h-alpha. Let's see how it goes !!
I am mesmerized by the images of the sun from space. A particularly rich bank of images by a spacecraft called Yohkoh inspire me with wonder. Because I am so moved by Yohkoh's images several paintings have emerged. The painting above literally exploded onto my canvas. In X-Ray Sun I tried to capture the magnificent energy produced by the our star. It is fascinating how images taken in light we cannot see give us a clearer understanding of our suns activity and beauty.
Follow the Sunshine
Yohkoh was a solar observatory. The task undertaken by Yohkoh was to image the solar corona and solar flares. This project was a collaboration between several scientific institutions. The Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, NASA and the UK's Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council. Yohkoh took X-Ray images of the Solar Corona between 1991 - 2001. The mission is now over however its legacy in images and data are still online. ( see below for links.) It is always admirable to me how the scientific community can collaborate so well together to achieve a common goal.
My Sun My Star Contest
Before Christmas, I entered X-Ray Sun in an art contest. It gives me great pleasure to be included as one of the winners (2nd in Adult section). The My Sun My Star contest, was an initiative run by National Solar Observatory based in Boulder Colorado. The contest was jointly run by The Hui No'eau Visual Arts Centre in Hawaii.
A copy of the original will go on exhibition in the coming months. This will be in Boulder, and possibly in Hawaii. The original painting will be exhibited at Solas Gallery in Louisburgh Co Mayo. The exhibiting aspect of the contest is just great fun. I look forward to seeing the images of X-Ray Sun in these beautiful places.
In order to achieve the exuberant energy look I used wet acrylic paint with finely grated pastel blown into it. In this close up image of the painting you can see the fine particles erupting around the solar disc.
On March 22nd 2013 Br Guy Consolmagno came to visit St Cronans National School in Bray Co Wicklow. Even though he had a very busy schedule while in Ireland, he had kindly agreed to this extra task. The object was to say hello to my astronomy club boys. I had been running the club since 2010. Its members were school boys and their parents. We met once a month and engaged in wide-ranging interesting astronomy.
There was great excitement and anticipation at the school that day. So when we arrived the hall was filled to capacity with 500 boys. My club had about 18 boys. Br Guy wasn't phased by the unexpected volume of children waiting for his every word. He also signed a copy of his book Turn Left at Orion for the school library. It was a red-letter day for the school, everyone was so happy.
St Cronans Stargazers Astronomy Club
In our little astronomy club we took part in many international events and global astronomy experiences. We even made a video about the constellation Eridanus. Our video with special messages was sent via radio waves to Epsilon Eridani, This was achieved via a radio telescope associated with Blackrock Castle Observatory in Co Cork. Lots of involvement from the school , the parents , teachers , the choir and technical volunteers .The children wrote their own special messages for the video. Drawing and creative activities are always part of my way of bringing astronomy to life. The boys were about 10 years old at the time, the video will reach that star when they are about 21.
I have many fond memories of the school and our astronomy club. There was great cooperation from the parents and the teachers in the school. It was so very positive and energizing.
Louisburgh Astronomy Club
Just a few weeks ago I started a new astronomy club in Louisburgh Co Mayo where I now live. The intention is that this club will be for all the people in the community. No matter what age or no matter what level of understanding they have about astronomy.
We have only met twice so there is a long way to go but already it is exciting to be part of it. Families are encouraged to join together and individuals are welcome, being interested is the only requirement. Drawing is once again a vehicle for learning. The members are embracing the challenge. We meet once a month in the local community bookshop, called Books at One. Here below are a few images from our efforts so far. Our first meeting was part of the IAU 100 hours of astronomy events worldwide. It was cloudy so we drew the waxing crescent moon indoors and had a presentation about the moon.
Observing the moon during a total lunar eclipse can be very exciting. The colour is unpredictable and can vary in tone, shade and intensity according to the condition of the Earths atmosphere at the time The first one I ever viewed was back in 1992. The moon looked like a huge steel ball in the night sky, grey with a hint of blue. Back then I wasn't practising astronomical drawing at all but I have memories of recording it on an old video camera. The Earths atmosphere was full of dust from the volcanic eruption of Mt Pinatubo located in the Philippines.
This months total lunar eclipse brought back many memories of previous efforts to capture these short-lived but very interesting events. I wondered if the eruption of Krakatoa would have a noticeable effect on January 21st 2019.
Total Lunar Eclipse 2019
I decided to draw the full moon earlier that evening without using the telescope. The sky was crystal clear if only it would have stayed that way. The forecast for later was dismal so a detailed sketch was out of the question. I used a CD for the outline, fingers and pastel for the distant detail. I disregarded the mountain below the moon and the contrails visible at the time. This drawing would be altered to include the developments as the moon passed into the shadow of the Earth.
Later that night, the Moon was in and out of view for brief seconds as were the stars Castor and Pollux. An aeroplanes lights blinked its presence, before vanishing in the ghostly night. I had several seconds of viewing between 04:04 UT and 05:02 UT that was it. A dark spooky, misty, hazy view for me. Just seconds to sketch when the moon escaped that black cloud which was darker than the night sky itself. Overall the moon looked dark red to my eye. Difficult to scale Danjon wise as it was a series of fleeting views in an otherwise hazy sky.
Total Lunar Ecliplse 2015
In September 2015 the lunar eclipse called me to draw it with gusto using my 8 inch dob. With the knowledge of a clear sky the time that can be invested in a drawing can be increased. More pre-planning can be achieved and hopefully more detail captured. First I drew the entire full moon earlier in the evening. Later the colour was added naked eye to the same drawing. The problem with this is that it is easy to obliterate previously drawn details that you have worked hard to capture. Every drawing of this nature has its idiosyncrasies and challenges.
"It is a most beautiful and delightful sight to behold the body of the moon." Galileo Galilei - Sidereus Nuncius
Total Lunar Eclipse 2010
December 2010 on the eve of the solstice, thick snow-covered my garden, it was minus 7 Celsius. The full moon was to enter the shadow of the Earth in the early hours of December 21st. I therefore decided the drawing would have to be small as it was so cold and conditions were unpredictable. On that occasion I also used a CD to make my moon circle. The progress of that drawing ( step by step) is featured in a book I collaborated on with several other astronomical artists. Sketching the Moon an Astronomical Artists Guide.
In a previous blog for this site I wrote about a total lunar eclipse experience during March 3rd 2007
It was wonderful to see all the total lunar eclipse images on SpaceWeather. A night sky event for so many counties on the planet. Always worth looking at even if it's a momentary view.
Recently here in Ireland we had the phenomena that is Science Week. A nationwide effort by hundreds of people to open the many facets of science to children and adults all over the country. My offerings were workshops about the Apollo 11 moon landing called Let's Go To The Moon - Apollo 11, Deadly Moons and Marvellous Mars. All of which I have written about in the past hit the links to check them out. This year a unique crater virus came to visit and spread itself around many drawings.
Increasingly I have being introducing drawing techniques in my workshops. Sometimes the effect has a slow uptake and other times it has an immediate viral effect. One such action is a tip on crater drawing , kids just love it. Here below we see some drawings that benefited from simple guidence. Examples of the crater virus that invaded hundreds of drawings and created smiles all over the room.
When children draw most of the time they just cannot produce depth in their work. Even a little dark shadow is enough to hint that a crater is deep. A little glint of white to show its rim lit in sunlight.
However, when shown how to add some depth it is always a lovely surprise for them. Craters start popping up all over the drawings. In any U shape table setting if I show one child a crater drawing method, then repeat that on the opposite side it triggers a reaction. On returning to the first table its then I notice that children either side and even further away have caught the crater virus. Its not that they are copying each other it's that they are excited by this new fragment of learning. The U shape table set up is my favourite as I can move freely to help out.
Another interesting thing that happens frequently in the workshops is rediscover. By that I mean sometimes when parents get the opportunity to draw they rediscover the fact that they actually do it. Many adults who create excellent drawings at the workshops may not have drawn anything for decades. They suddenly find themselves drawing away with their sons or daughters. They find in themselves that their innate ability to draw is still there, it has not left them despite all the life curves they have dealt with since their teens or childhood. Their children look on them with pride, everyone smiles, it's a very positive experience.
30 workshops over twelve days compleated my Science Week workshops. Over 1000 children drew some aspect that interested them in particular. Many of the drawings were exhibited in libraries or in the children's schools, thereby extending the learning and the smiles.
Two sketches of 46P/Wirtanen creating one gif showing the comets movement over time. 20:40 UT Dec 9th 2018 & 00:50 UT Dec 10th 2018. Dob, 1,200 mm FL / 32 mm eyepiece/ 37X/ pastel and gel pen. 4.5 mag, DC 4 coma visible naked eye , huge diffuse object.
While viewing I thought I observed some radial features but not clear enough to include in the sketches. The edges / shape of the coma was difficult to see. No green observed or tail visible to me at the time.
This is a view from my dob therefore south is at the top. The comet is acutally heading upwards in the nightsky. It is remarkable how quickly it is moving away from the star 94 Cet in my drawings.
This comet has a coma of circa 36,000 km. The nucleus is spewing out gas and dust. To my eye it had no green tint. Only comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy in 2015 gave me that delight.
In-between haze and misty rain with some clear patches, this enormous comet and my eye met several times. However to do a drawing a good steady view is required.
I prepared several drawing circles as the forecast offered a few hours of clear sky. However in reality the evening did not play out as expected. . My plan was to draw the comet at least four times as it moved through the nightsky. This comet is moving very fast. A few more sketches would have made the animation smoother. As the evening played out I only had the opportunity to draw 46P/ Wirtanen twice.
Even though it has echo's of comet 17P/Holmes it is however not as yet as well difined. Its central condenseation is dull not stellar. It's coma is enormous but not as thinly spread or round to the eye as Holmes. Sometimes while observing I thought I saw variations in the density of the coma but not at all clearly enough to include.
Comets are very exciting and this unique object may get brighter as it moves higher in the sky. On December 16th the comet will be to the left of M45 (The Pleiades) in the days before that it will be charging up between the Hyades and M45. The comet is entering a visually rich area of the night sky . However as the forecast here in Ireland is for cloud. I am not very hopfull of catching another view.
I feel lucky to have seen it that night from Louisburgh, Co Mayo Ireland. A dismal December weather pattern will terminate my viewing prospects. But one can only be hopful 🙂
Find Comet 46P/Wirtanen for your self
During World Space Week I was invited to do my workshop Pluto WOW !!! for a small group of children . I put the workshop together in order to highlight the incredible images sent back by the New Horizons Spacecraft. This year it was impossible to resist including Ultima Thule the new flyby target of New Horizons.
Pluto WOW !
When I was a child there were nine planets in the solar system , that was my reality. Pluto being the farthest planet was almost a myth as there were no proper images of it for many years. The Hubble Space Telescope wonderful as it is only managed unclear nondescript photographs.
When New Horizons left Earth to flyby Pluto it was still a proper member of the planet family. Along that journey the status of Pluto was altered forever, when it was demoted to being merely a dwarf planet. New Horizons continued its pioneering journey to discover what Pluto had to offer.
The images sent back by the spacecraft of this distant world are breathtaking. The ex ninth planet in our solar system offered us more than we ever expected. New Horizons Image Gallery
Pluto to Ultima Thule
When I show these images of Pluto to children they really warm to them. They love the heart shaped plain and are always pleased to know that it is named after Clyde Tombough. That heart shaped area is always emphasised in their drawings. The story of Pluto's discovery and naming coupled with the flyby images brings out an empathic interest in this tiny planet.
During this workshop I decided to continue the story and bring the wonderfully named Ultima Thule to the attention of my little audience. Ultima Thule is a traditional name of a distant place beyond the known world. Who could resist learning a little about this Kuiper belt object, inaimatly waiting to be visited by a spacecraft from Earth. Ultima Thule used to be known as 2014 MU69 now we have an iconic name and other information about its status, colour and importance.
The fact that New Horizons will flyby Ultima Thule on New Year day 2019 will offer us media coverage to announce this achievement to a global audience. It will also give us exciting insight into the formation of our solar system. In time we will have images that will send waves of applause around our blue planet for this milestone in space exploration.
I love the precision timing of flybys and the expertise in course correction to enable preciseness at such distances. All this as New Horizons is moving at a speed of one million kilometres per day.
In the workshop , I admire the children's efforts to give it the black/ red colour it is deemed to have. Some children included New Horizons in their drawings along with the Ultima Thule name. Since then some of these children have attended other workshops and are still talking about Ultima Thule. I told them that most likely they are the only children in the world that have learnt about and drawn this object beyond the farthest frontiers. New Years day 2019 is most definitely one to watch.
Many thanks once again for the venue, to Books at One in Louisburgh Co Mayo.
A side-show of Ultima Thule and Pluto drawings
During Space Week 2018 Let's Go To The Moon offered children the chance to draw some aspect of Apollo 11's iconic mission. Almost 400 took part in various venues across the country. This therefore offered me an ideal opportunity to vary the subjects of the drawing challenges for the kids.
During all workshops I offer a demonstration drawing . This is done in seconds to help the children focus on the important aspects of drawing. Each child has about 20 minutes to draw therefore focus is vital. Teaching them to observe the subject before starting is key. Asking the kids if they agree with me about recognisable shapes within for example Buzz Aldrin's helmet and visor. Inviting them to look closely at where the shadows are and where the light is. Requesting the children to be mindful of curves , rectangles, cylinders, cones and key markings is a good way to go.
I encougage the children not to box themselves in with lines, rather to try to make light ghost images first , work on detail later. It really does not matter if you are drawing an apple or a spacecraft the same observation actions apply. Many children listened and produced better work because of small suggestions. It is often the small things in a drawing that makes it stand out.
At Axis Theatre Ballymun Dublin 120 children took part in two Space Week sessions. Buzz Aldrin's helmet and the Saturn V rocket were the targets. It's fantastic to have an enormous screen and big sound for the workshops . Interesting to see how a 20 foot high space helmet or rocket can transfer to 16X12 inch pieces of paper. All of these drawings were exhibited at school after the workshops to spread the story and the pride. St Brigids Girls National School were already familiar with "One small step for man " they did not need much encouragement, see video below.
Over all the workshops it was interesting to see how kids took on such complex challenges. One group was charged with drawing all three astronauts, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. It was doubtful that they had ever drawn a person before yet alone three people. Again using the actions of observing shapes, light and shadow some terrific efforts ensued.
In Newport National School 40 drawings of the iconic helmet were produced, some with great attention to detail. These particular drawings will be on exibition at the Mayo Dark Skies Festival soon. On the same day another local school came to Ballycroy National Park to take part and become familiar with this historic mission. Some days later the workshop visited Killeen National School in Louisburgh Mayo. There another 40 space week children became very familiar with the reflections and shadows within the visor of the second man to walk on the moon.
About 100 children attended the workshop in Dunboyne Library. Here at the top of the slide show are a few of the many drawings produced by three local 6th classes . Group 1 were challenged to draw Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin. The second group were challenged to draw Buzz Aldrins helmet with reflections. The final group of the day were challenged to draw the Command Module , Service Module and Eagle lander. In particular I loved the drawings of the three men , some animated , some hilarious all wonderful .
Below also are a selection of drawings created during Space Week 2018
All of their teachers were proud and frequantly surprised by the quality of the drawings produced. Each child was given one of my A4 information sheets about the mission.
August 25th I gave a presentation about the Heritage of Astronomy in Ireland. The event was part of Heritage Week 2018. The talk emphasised the fact that Mayo has some of the darkest skies in Europe, therefore we should embrace that fact. Our Neolithic ancestors claimed their heritage moments in standing stones and circles. These incredible menhirs are still tactile in the land today. Their heritage moments linking them for centuries to our star and the dark sky heavens above.
The audience agreed to be some of the ingredients of my Dark Sky Painting homage. The dark sky reminds us of our place on Earth and in the universe. The dark sky teaches us that we to are part of the landscape. It is in our sprits as are the flora and fauna that surrounds us in this beautiful county. Our 2018 heritage week moment.