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.
The Edu- Painting
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