Dark Sky Painting one dealt with the impact of light pollution on bees and other insects. It also sought to teach children and viewers of the painting about the night sky .
Dark Sky Painting two deals with the effects humans have on our planets bird species and their habitats. On Earth there are multitudes of birds in trouble from pollution and habitat interference of all kinds. For this project we focused on just two, Barn Owls and Swifts.
The constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia featured as did some perseid meteors. The workshop led up to the perseid meteor shower. The children were prepared to view, should they have clear skies. They were given notes with a map showing the location of the constellations involved.
The children learnt about the effects humans have on our planet. Actions that can cause the decline of some birds species. We share the Earth with Barn Owls and Swifts. Both species are in severe decline in Ireland because of the loss of their usual habitats. According to Bird Watch Ireland there has been a 50% decline in Barn Owls over the past twenty five years. They have been listed as a species of European Conservation Concern.
Swifts are also in trouble and are amber listed due to the decline of the breading population in Ireland.
In the painting the children are launching Swifts toward the milky way. This is therefore encouraging an understanding that we share this planet with many creatures. One boy has a barn owl on his arm, a magnificent bird that needs our protection.
Half way up the painting swifts leave the canvas in an arc as they journey to blend with the sky above. They reconect with the canvas just under Cassiopeia.
As more than twice as many children attended this second space camp their places on the canvas had to be carefully pondered. Each child has an energy surrounding them which rises upwardly to merge with the Milky Way.
Each child made several swifts and several owls. There were too many birds for the size of the canvas. Therefore just some swifts ended up in the painting however all the owl drawings ended up on the side of the canvas.
While carrying out the work I decided to over emphasise the stars. This was to make the shapes of the constellations stand out to people viewing the work.
The children had good craic (fun) as they say here while posing for their silhouettes.
We live in Space
The title of the painting is We live in Space, because nothing exists in isolation from everything else . Therefore even though the painting may be slightly surreal in nature. It is an attempt to pull that thought together with practical education via drawing and creativity.
Empathy developed during the workshop towards appreciating the Dark Sky. Drawing and cutting out the birds also helped in an appreciation of their predicament. All of this left the children in the painting reaching out in harmony towards the milky way. The energy of understanding lifting their spirits up to touch the stars. The painting now hangs at the venue Books at One Louisburgh.
Here below is a small selection of images from the workshop.
This week Professor Jocylen Bell Brunell from Northern Ireland was awarded a significent prize. This was for her scientific achievments and inspiring leadership. The annnouncment reminded me of her generous nature. One lecture she gave back in 2005 stands out. My article is an account of her lecture at Trinity College in Dublin.
At the time I found her talk fascinating and informative, therefore I wanted to share it once again here. Her lecture gave voice to Stanley Eddingtons work. Eddington's work gave voice to Albert Einsteins work. Professor Brunell's lecture gave voice to both of them. The fact that Professor Brunell gave away her award to help others is testiment to her personality and beliefs. A women true to herself, an inspiration to us all.
Here is an article about Professors Brunell's award
Here is my article from 2005
Event - BA Festival of Science Lecture Sept 8th 2005 – Trinity College Dublin Ireland
Speaker – Professor Jocelyn Bell Brunell CBE - Oxford University
Professor Brunell came to Trinity College Dublin not to speak about her own work in the discovery of pulsars. The professor came to deliver a lecture about Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944). Eddington was an english-born astronomer who was instrumental in expounding the theory’s of Albert Einstein. Professor Brunell has an interest in the public understanding of science and has a penchant to present physics topics to the general public.
Arthur Stanely Eddington in brief
Stanley Eddington was born in Kendal in 1882. As a child he had a fascination with numbers. Professor Burnell told the anecdote of the child Eddington attempting to count all the stars in the sky. He excelled academically achieving a maths degree in the short space of two years. After graduating he won the Smiths prize. He was appointed to the Royal Observatory Greenwich where he improved and developed practical observational techniques.
Professor Brunell relayed that Eddington was a popular member of “The Dinner Club” Apparently as he did not drink. if you sat beside him at dinner you were likely to get his share of wine to add to your enjoyment. He was made secretary of The Royal Observatory Greenwich in 1912 , at the age of 31 he became Plumian Professor of Cambridge. Eddington was a Quaker by faith, his primary belief that there is god and good within everybody was significant in his life.
He did not get caught up in the mass hysteria of anti-German feeling that permeated in Europe prior to WWI. Eddington was a pacifist, he avoided the war as a conscientious objector. He did get called to account for his stance but still managed to get out of fighting by being proved far too valuable a scientist.
Eddington was one of the few people to read and understand Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. At that time German scientists were being expelled from The Royal Society. Albert Einstein gave up his nationality in 1901, he became a Swiss citizen. However this failed to protect him from the anti German climate of the time. Eddington with his fundamental belief in the good in everyone set out to prove Einstein’s ideas in a practical way.
Solar Eclipse 1919
He used the solar eclipse of May 29th 1919 to show one of the principles of relativity. A known group of stars, the Hyades star cluster is observed at night as usual. Then in the unusual circumstances of a total solar eclipse the sun is observed against the same star cluster. Some of the stars in this cluster appeared out of position as their light had bent around the mass of the sun.
Sir Arthur Eddington stationed himself on an island off the western coast of Africa and sent another group of British scientists to Brazil. Their measurements of several of the stars in the cluster showed that the light from these stars was indeed bent as it grazed the Sun.
Eddington's team exposed 16 photographic plates in 5 minutes. The idea was to capture the eclipse and the possible shift or apparent shift in the position of the stars. This research eventually confirmed Albert Einstein's theory that as light passes a very massive star its path is bent due to gravity.
Eddington exposed photographic plates to record the eclipse. This revealed that the stars of the cluster were not masked by the Suns mass. The light from them was bent or curved by the Suns mass, appearing on the developed plates. That fact established by Eddington therefore proved the prediction of Einstein correct. The light never changes course, but merely follows the curvature of space. Astronomers now refer to this displacement of light as gravitational lensing.
A little poem
“Oh leave the Wise our measures to collate
One thing at least is certain, light has weight
One thing is certain and the rest debate
Light rays, when near the Sun, do not go straight. “ A.S.Eddington
According to Professor Brunell, Eddington was a wonderful communicator of science theory. He was at the forefront of popularising Einstein’s work. Arthur Stanley Eddington made Albert Einstein’s work popular by his understanding and his desire to qualify Einstein’s theory for general consumption.
Professor Jocelyn Bell Brunell in her lecture on September 8th 2005 continued that wonderful achievement of clear communication for both Albert Einstein and Arthur Eddington.
I would like to acknowledge Professor Jocelyn Bell Brunell, for her kind advice and support in the development of this article. Publish formerly in 2005 by Realta ( Tullamore Astronomical Society) and Orbit ( Irish Astronomical Society)
The Perseid Meteor Shower 2018 Facts
The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks on the nights of August 11th /12th and 12th / 13th 2017 but any clear evening up to and a few nights after should produce some meteors. Look to the NE after midnight, look under the big W of Cassiopeia , above Perseus. The radiant of the meteor shower is in that area, however keep an eye on a much wider area for Perseids. Earth will pass through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle from July 17 to Aug 24. Our planet will pass through dust and particles left behind by the comet. Most of these comet particles are only the size of a grain of sand. They hit our atmosphere at approx 59 km per second and burn up. This year the moon will not interfere with the darkness of the sky as it will be a thin crescent setting before midnight.
What do you need to see the Perseids ?
It's the best meteor shower of the year, because it is mostly warm and being outside is comfy. Get yourself extra comfy by setting up a beach chair with a good view to the NE. A few snacks, maybe a blanket and that is it. All that is required is a clear night and being attentive to the sky. Some meteors are only fractions of seconds long, some seem like a minute. Some appear to have smoke coming out of them and some splutter across the sky.
As a tiny meteor enters the Earth’s atmosphere heat and light energy is created. A meteor’s composition ignites and interacts with Earth's atmosphere and its demise produces different colours. Meteors made of sodium produce orange/yellow light, iron will produce yellow, magnesium creates bluish/green, calcium makes violet and silicate meteors produce fiery red colours.
Other interesting objects to notice
At 22:30 Jupiter will be heading down in the South West, Saturn will shine in the South and Mars will look like a red emergency beacon towards the South East. ( Viewing from Ireland) Within the constellation Cassiopeia you may find a comet ! 21P /Giacobini- Zinner has brightened. With a bit of effort you and your telescope might be lucky enough to find it in a dark sky. This is a small comet but worth a look !!!
Read my previous blogs about the Perseids 21 Precious Perseids
Comet observation details
Observing and drawing Comet C/2017 S3 (PanSTARRS)
This Dark Sky painting is a result of a collaboration between five young people with myself. Lucy, Arend, Ayla, Ciaran and Darragh attended the first ever Space Camp in Louisburgh Co Mayo on July 3rd, 4th, and 5th.
Over three mornings we worked together to understand the importance of protecting the dark sky. In the painting the children as silhouettes become one with the dark sky. The creatures we made also merge. Bees, butterflies, and ladybirds were created by the group to help us learn about how light pollution affects all of us on planet Earth.
The background of the painting shows the Milky Way over Louisburgh looking North. The constellation Perseus is depicted including its yellow star Mirfak. Top right on the painting are two stars of Cassiopeia, Segin and Ruchbah.
During the creation of the work a comet made news in the astronomy world. Comet C/S3 (PanSTARRS) had an outburst of gas making it brighter. The comet is green in colour because the gas it is emitting is green. This is a sungrazing comet, it is predicted to get brighter and perhaps be visible to the eye during August. Comets can excite or disappoint so it should be one to watch in the coming months.
We decided it would be fun to include the comet, it was (on July 5th) just above left of Perseus across from one of Ciaran's tiny bees. Almost parallel to that is the Double Cluster above the triangle of stars in Perseus. As of July 5th the comet is moving along side the constellation Camelopardalis heading down between Perseus and Auriga on its way towards the sun. The comet is surrounded by its own gas which is circa 260,000 km in diameter.
A small sprinkle of glitter is close to Lucy's feet and a tiny bit is scattered in the Milky Way, because she really likes it. We left a gap for Arend to sign his name, his butterflies fly up the middle toward the galaxy. Ayla also made lovely butterflies using luminous green paper and care. Everyone practiced their signatures like rock stars in order to sign the canvas.
In the Louisburgh area we have a unique dark sky, it is a major asset to the community as a whole. The beautuful Ballycroy National Park is just a short drive. It is Ireland's first international dark sky park, Gold Tier standard. !!
Bees Butterflies and Humans
Bees pollinate during the day and night, however, if an area is over lit they will not do their work. This results in less pollination, less natural activity, less fruit, and eventually fewer bees. Butterflies have more sensitive eyes than humans , they need to be able to see their food plants in their own way. Overlighting does not help butterflies or moths.Seventy of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of food worldwide are pollinated by bees. A huge amount of the worlds insects are in decline for multiple reasons. Artificial light in abundance being one of the more preventable issues.
As regards us humans, we live in space, on a planet that is perfect for us. When we look up on a clear night into the dark sky we are looking into space. We are standing on our planet protected by our atmosphere. Here on our Earth we do not need to wear a space suit. It is the only place in the Universe as we know it, at the moment, where we have that privilege. In cities and towns we see a tiny fraction of the night sky because artificial lighting takes away that dark sky vista.
Humans, animals, insects, birds, fish and all creatures share the same home. We need each other.
Space Camp at Books at One opened a small window in appreciation of the night sky. Space exploration via robotic explorers. Mars and our Sun. We looked at the formation of stars and we looked at astronomy software. All of this resulted in several space drawings and this painting. Arend signed his painting ! it now hangs in the community book store Book at One for all to see. Dark sky information is also available there plus a map of the night sky showing Perseus.
Useful sites to help understand the Dark Sky
Find C/2017 S3 ( PANSTARRS) Heavens Above
A few images from our Space Camp
We had a winter of record winds, freezing temperatures and darkness. However this week, it seems the summer has finally arrived in Ireland. On May 21st I noticed a developing sun pillar on the horizon. As it progressed I took several images, each equally beautiful. The pillar of light interacted with the sky and the sea, altering colour and bringing drama as it peaked and faded after sun set. Beautiful to watch, it seemed to pierce the clouds just above the suns departure point.
Sun pillars are shafts of sunlight glinting off ice crystals in our atmosphere. This phenomenon is explained well here on this wonderful site Atmospheric Optics
On May 23rd the sun offered an active region for drawing. OK now the atmosphere was not the steadiest I have ever seen, but it was hot and the sky was blue. The active region was small and complex, the challenge to draw the sun in h-alpha with my solar telescope called again.
Active Region 2710 May 23rd, 2018 - PST 40 - 8mm eyepiece - 50X . This means I used my Personal Solar Telescope which is 40 mm in diameter and 400 mm long. This used along with an 8mm eyepiece gives me a 50X magnification of the solar disc. This instrument offers me a highly filtered view of the sun restricted to the h-alpha wavelength. For this drawing I used pastel and conte on black card. My drawing effort started at 13:30 local time. At 14:51 I noticed a short dark filament leaping from the main sunspot where the surrounding plage was very bright. This thin dark filament arced toward the less bright plage nearer the smaller sunspot.
Conditions started fine but got a bit hazy from time to time. At 15:21, I observed what looked like the start of a large very dark filament developing below the main spot. It's frustrating not to be able to put in all the detail that I could see. Haze and yet to be developed techniques to cope with the complexity added to the mix. However, I was experimenting a bit with the almost impossible task of drawing the mottling which covers the entire perceived solar surface.
This mottling appears like a matrix of millions of dots. It has very definite shapes, especially close to sunspots. Most of it looks like it's following invisible magnetic field lines. These lines seem to organise the grey dots into arc shapes similar to prominences on the limb. That day I also notice a red linear tint to the north edge of the larger sunspot as I viewed.
In previous observations I have also very occasionally noticed a deep red close to the umbra. As yet I have no idea what that red colour could be? Here is a pdf that explains many solar features Identifying Solar Features . I use it to help me to gain some understanding of what I am observing during my drawing sessions.
It was and still is almost impossible to capture the exact colour that h- alpha viewing offers. The colour of the sun to the eye is somewhere between a glowing pink and a luminous hot orange. The colour of plage around black sunspots can appear almost metallic. Sometimes within the plage an even brighter area can develop, which for now is indescribable colourwise.
Over a period of time, I experimented with many drawing materials in order to approximate the sun on paper. My PST is only 40mm in diameter so my views of the solar disc are limited. The limitations are the size of the objective, the filters, the choice of the eyepiece, the quality of the atmosphere and the weather. However, the view through my small solar scope is in the main truly outstanding. The details visible to the eye are extraordinarily complex in both their visual nature, their structure and their purpose. Follow the sun daily here on SpaceWeather or on Solar Dynamics Observatory - The Sun Now
Castletown House is a Georgian palace set in a magnificent landscape in Co Kildare. The building is full of grace and elegance of times long past . That splendour coupled with all that is required of a building for public events makes Castletown House a special place. It was a pleasure to be invited to do a workshop in this excellent venue. Particularly timely as it was on the eve of the launch of NASA's InSight mission. The evening was set up for my Marvellous Mars drawing workshop. The audience were families , mams, dads and children, a perfect combination.
It was a beautiful, with late warm sunshine , a powder blue sky over the greenest of green trees. Flowers, shrubs and land stretching out over 120 acres that seemed to go on forever It occurred to me that perhaps my audience might be small due to the pleasant weather and bank holiday. However 42 people arrived , sat down and participated with lots of energy .
This activity was born out of my enthusiasm for the images sent back to Earth from various missions. Amongst them all, my favourite camera in space is the HiRise on Mars Reconnaissance Obiter (MRO). The images are available in The Beautiful Mars Project . Also included are mini stories about Curiosity, InSight, ExoMars and Mars 2020. It was opportune that NASA's latest Mars mission InSight was launching the next day . The audience loved the fact that the CubeSats accompanying InSight were called WALL - E and EVE after characters in a Disney/ Pixar animated movie.
During my presentation I try to provide a balance between ESA and NASA missions. It is always important to me to emphasise the collaborations between space agencies and scientists. Being in the now by speaking about current, and proposed space missions adds to the excitement. It would have been brilliant to know at the time, about the latest news regarding a drone helicopter due to cruise the surface of the planet on the Mars2020 mission. Bob Trembely wrote about that here recently if you missed it.
In order to engage my audience further I brought along a model of Mars which I made some years ago. Having Mars in the room helps when talking about the planets unique features. My model used to be a football in a men's fashion shop window. A little persuasion helped me acquire it after the sale ended.
It took a lot of work to make it into Mars. Polystyrene is easy to carve but getting all the features in the right place on a sphere is not easy. At first I was using a large format book by Giles Sparrow ( Mars at New View of the Red Planet). Wonderful images of the planet, but difficult to transfer flat maps to a 3 dimensional object. So then I discovered Mars Globe for iPhone and viola the planets aspects could be viewed in my hand from all angles. Roll it around, view it from the poles to see their shapes. I used it look at a feature, make the feature, move along the curve of the sphere, make it and so on.
This app was very useful in pinpointing the landing areas of previous missions and where features were in relation to each other. Having Mars in my hand was just wonderful .InSight is now added to the model , ExoMars and Mars2020 will follow.
Some of the drawings produced that evening were most impressive . Impact craters were very popular as usual. Several children drew ESA's Trace Gas Obiter. It's latest image of Korolev Crater was avoided by everyone due to its complexity. Martian Dust Devils were attempted by children , mams and dads.
The Universe is my Playground stickers (from ESO) were given to everyone. I was pleased to be able to give ESA / ROSCOSMOS Trace Gas Orbiter (Part of ExoMars) posters to the participants who made an effort to draw this relatively recent arrival at the red planet.
When the phrase "The Terminator" is mentioned in may conjour up ominous dark tones lurking within its meaning. A science fiction phrase where a cybernetic organism can ask for 'your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle’ then ride off to alter the course of humanity. Or the visually rich line that demarks daytime on the moon's surface from night-time on the moon's surface.
The terminator is far from a straight line, it is ragged and uniquely fluid. Sunlight illuminates unevenly as it fills craters. Shadows form and transform during its progression across the lunar topography. Craters that penetrate the terminator and show their rims as glints of light in the blackness bring a tactile quality to a sketch. Lunar sketching in the area of the terminator often brings up a dilemma . When a sketch takes several hours, sometimes the terminator vista alters to offer a new and brightly lit feature. This crater or mountain only revealed as you finish. Do you put it in or not ? In general if it adds to the sketch yes, if it is a mediocre addition no.
Recently I came across the moon drawing above in one of my portfolios . The sketch includes a very well-defined terminator and a touch of earthshine. The drawing was devoid of information , no day, date or time was written on the sheet. A bit of a hunt provided the basics, but not all information was available and my memory yielded very little. Sometimes I might publish a sketch in a forum or group. All the information relating to the drawing can be online but not necessarily on the actual drawing. Note to self and others, always write the sketch details on the work.
Along the terminator visual richness pulsates with abundance. Take a terminator tour with your telescope , it doesn't matter if it's a small or large instrument. It doesn't matter if you do not know the features that you are seeing. Just enjoy the moon for itself, identity of features can come later. Contrast is sublime, blacks are pure, whites are sharp and exciting. Watch sunlight gain lunar ground on a waxing moon. Feast your eyes as mountains reveal themselves in complex craters. Shadows will alter before your eyes, giving or taking away from the appearance of craters.
Sometimes even a 98% moon terminator can bring joy and results. A previous blog about drawing along the terminator tells that story from Dunsink Observatory Dublin. Eddington Crater on the Moon
I wanted to explore the lunar surface using something different. My usual tools are soft pastels, conte sticks, my fingers, brushes and other instruments. My aim was to achieve greater detail while experimenting. Wooden toothpicks and cocktail sticks are useful, however, they lose their points very quickly. Metal tools might give me a better more durable range of lunar sketching implements.
On the hunt for teeny tiny metal devices, I came across a set of quilling tools. They are something to do with curling paper and card, anyway in the pagkage was a quilling needle. This is a very sharp long needle with a wooden handle, so yes it offered possibilities for use in lunar sketching.
The area close to the terminator near the South West region of Mare Serenitiatis looked like it had a lot of linear features and subtle shading mixed in with some well defined craters like Manilius, Agrippa and Godin, ( Mare Tranquillitatis region) and one not so clear crater named Boscovich which looked broken and messed up toward it’s western wall.
Well defined linear fissures were only visible now and then when the atmosphere allowed. Occasional clear moments rare that night, in the all too murky unstable blanket around our planet. It is always torturous to attempt a sketch when you know the atmosphere is not playing the game along with you. However I was keen to find out what a quilling needle and pastels could do together.
On the terminator, lovely black finger like shadows held onto the lunar surface clawing for a grip on the daytime moon. Fine wispy shadows lengthened on barely visible higher areas and subtle diverse greys told a tale of undefined lunar features hiding and waiting for some other sketch.
A wander into Mare Serenitatis around Menelaus led me to pick out the smaller but brighter Bessel within the mare. These two craters formed a triangle with the wonderfully named Sulpicius Gallus on the SW edge of the Mare. My needle even picked out the minute craterlet Bobbillier in the center of the triangle.
Over the years I continued to experiment with various tools, textures, and materials. The moon you see is a very complex body to capture in a drawing. It's surface features mesmerize and challenge with every view.
Recently I was invited to do two workshops at St Columba's College in Dublin. I decided to launch my new workshop for 2018/2019 entitled, Let's Go To The Moon - Apollo 11 . The college was founded in 1843. The architecture is a cross-pollination of Victorian , Georgian and 21st century on a 140 acre setting on the slopes of the Dublin mountains. The day I visited the grounds were acutely swaddled in snow,adding to the rich atmosphere of the place and its history. The phrase deep and crisp and even echoed in my head.
My workshops were part of the college Arts Week 2018. Attending were a mixture of primary school and first year second level pupils. The sessions took place in the beautiful new science building fully equipped for exploring the moon landing through drawing. The room has a lovely new 8 inch dob, which the science teacher will use to share the moon and other night time wonders with the children.
July 20th 2019 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing. One of the most significant milestones in human space exploration to date. As the moon landing took place when schools were on summer holidays, its immediate impact on education was dissolved somewhat. In my mind memories linger of my disappointment at going back to school in September 1969. The moon landing was never mentioned at all. My teacher acted as it had never happened, whereas I expected to be informed and infused with the joy of its triumph.
My logic at launching this workshop a year early is precisely that the 50th Anniversary will be slap bang in the middle of the 2019 summer holidays. Therefore a preamble moving toward the anniversary is well justified given the short school year in the run up. It is my wish to bring today's children elements of this historical mission and hopefully instil some joy and wonder at this remarkable accomplishment from 50 years ago.
In other talks and workshops even up to five years ago , at least two or three children in a group of 30 would know the name of the first man who put his foot on the moon. At least one of those children would be able to name Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Occasionally I would come across a child who could name Michael Collins, about one in several hundred. However in the past year very few under ten-year-olds had ever heard of Apollo 11. Even fewer could offer the names of the men who flew to the moon, placed their feet on the surface and their names in our hearts.
At St Columba's College the young people who took part in my workshops had some small knowledge about the mission, which was refreshing. During the sessions they produced some excellent drawings , some remarkable , some funny, some with great detail in the short time available. Their drawings are on exhibition in the college dining hall for all to view, admire and be inspired. A few drawings from the many created in the workshops are in the gallery below.
Below is a slide show of the original nine drawings of the proms on the solar limb on July 19th 2007
It is truly fascinating to watch prominences on the solar limb. One day back in July 2007 the sun came out after many weeks of dullness. The eastern limb was graced with many twisting dancing proms. In order to capture the movement and continuing changes in the structure of the proms I decided to do a sequence of drawings. In general I would draw what I see and then wait 15 or 20 minutes before drawing the same proms again. A slight haze developed, therefore the sketches have a little more time in-between them. The morning proms seemed to leap into space, with the exuberance of dancers in a ballet.
In the afternoon the action continued, this time akin to bubbles interlinking and changing shape . Arcs of energy holding on to the limb. Some proms seemed to dissipate as long smoky puffs threading their energy throughout the display.
Later the evening view was short as the sun was heading down. The proms and all the material around them looked like a mushroom cloud from a nuclear blast. There was much more detail than I could capture as the cloud like structure seemed to have hundreds of veins with dark spaces in-between the finer and finer veins of plasma.
It is difficult to explain to anyone how to sketch, as it’s more than just making marks on a page. It’s about observing, absorbing, and empathy with both the object to be sketched and the materials a person uses.
I enjoy using both conte and pastel, conte sticks are harder and dryer than pastels, and some pastels are very dry indeed. When pastels are dry they do not spread or blend very well. There are many differences between the brands. The soft pastels I used in these sketches are extremely brittle, but really crumbly which has its good side.
These particular pastels have a great fondness for leaving my face and hands looking like I am ready for war with marks everywhere. However I adore using them as they blend so well and offer strong lines and subtle lines with equal ease.
For some time I was on the hunt for a REAL RED, i.e. lots of reds are not reds at all, but lean toward the pink or orange end of the colour palette. So I bought lots of reds and near reds to try for the colour I see in my PST ( personal solar telescope) So far I am happy with this one, which is called Schmincke Pastel D Permanent Red 3. The main thing for me is to use pastel colours that offer energy and movement in the moment.
The sequence of 9 still drawings became moving prominences, reborn in the gif above by fellow sketcher Erika Rix.
You can turn on / off the music I think runs well with the animation of the proms if you wish. Click the on / off below.
I was intrigued by the European Space Agency's mission to comet 67P/ CG (Churyumov–Gerasimenko). Some of you might ask what is a 67P ? . 67P/ CG is a periodic comet. That means that as it orbits the sun its pathway brings it between the orbits of Jupiter and Earth once every 6.5 years. The short orbit makes it a periodic comet with a very predictable trajectory. Comets are named after the person or group of people or telescopes who discover them. Back in 1969, Klim Ivanovich Churyumov and Svetlana Ivanovna Gerasimenko, discovered this comet jointly.
The European Space Agency built the Rosetta space craft to rondezvous with a comet, it launched in 2004.The comet eventually choosen was 67P/C G. ESA sent a passenger along with Rosetta , this companion was the Philae Lander. This is a small probe ( about the size of a washing machine) . Philae's job was to land on the comet and investigate the surface and the activity on the comet . The entire mission was of epic proportions. Landing on a comet had never happened before.
In fact nobody knew what this comet even looked like because it is the nature of comets to cloak themselves in their own self-produced dust and gasses. The dust/ gas surrounds the comet as it moves through space hiding the nucleus and its secrets. Rosetta and Philae were undertaking an adventure of epic proportions.
Making the model
During 2014 I decided I was going to make a model of 67P C G . Having models or something tangible in the room is always an ingredient of my workshops. So I took myself off to a local recycle plant in search of a large chunk of polystyrene . When I eventually ( after months) found a suitable block I then had to wait to see what Rosetta's images would reveal. Oh boy !! the first image was very complex. However I had to give it a try. It took a lot of carving and cutting , my yard looked like it had snowed . The polystyrene stuck to my hands and face, white beads were flying through the air like mini comets. After several weekends my model of 67P/ CG began to take shape. I used an image on my phone to work from while I hoped for more images from the amazing Rosetta. At one stage I had to add extra polystyrene from an areosol can as one end of 67P/ CG was much larger than the other.
As the mission continued my comet model developed alongside a model of the Rosetta Spacecraft and a small model of the Philae Lander. I was almost ready to offer my Action Comet workshops to Science Foundation Ireland and other bodies so that children could learn about the mission. The Rosetta Spacecraft and Philae were also made from recycled materials with as many science instruments as I could muster included.
Slide Show of Images from my Action Comet 67P/ CG Workshop
Support from ESA
My Action Comet workshop was supported by The European Space Agency. They kindly sent me lots of Rosetta stickers, posters, cut out Philae kits and mission pins to give away to attendees. It is always lovely to have these kind of educational products to give away . It was handy also that ESA sent a lot of Rosetta booklets so I could give them to teachers to extend the learning after the workshop. Every library I dealt with also got a booklet for their shelves and a poster for their wall. My workshop was further enhanced by using the many beautiful Rosetta educational cartoons made by ESA for the mission.
The workshop began with a twenty-minute presentation about the mission , its purpose , its goals, the latest images. The role of Irish scientists in the mission was mentioned in every workshop. Having my models in the room, hugely increased the story of the mission for children to enjoy. Children were challenged to produce a pencil drawing of 67P/CG, a task they carried out with surprising enthusiasm and inventive pencil work. This was followed by each child making a mini comet from a small polystyrene ball and long streams of paper representing the gas and dust tails of comets in general. Occasionally the children made plasticine models of 67P/CG itself depending on their age group. Thousands of children took part in my Action Comet workshops over two years or so.
A BIG Surprise
Just two days before Christmas 2017, a large envelope arrived. Inside was a Certificate of Recognition from The European Space Agency for my contribution to the Rosetta mission. A massive surprise , totally unexpected. I feel very grateful and humble to have my workshops supported by ESA education and now to have this recognition has me smiling from ear to ear.
Thanks to all the teachers, schools, libraries , science centres, arts centres and observatories who hosted Action Comet.