2008 Sketching Presentation at Perkins Observatory

What a great night spent with the Columbus Astronomical Society (CAS) at Perkins Observatory – OWU in Delaware, OH in 2008. I was invited to give an astronomical sketching presentation for the club and enjoyed a meal out before hand with one of the members and his terrific family and then a tour of the observatory.

Non-animated version: Power Point Sketching Presentation 2008 (3.9MB)

It’s said that recording astronomical observations began in the ice age by marking the number of moons into bone. Visual observations continued to be recorded through time with the works of early astronomers such as Aristarchus, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Aristotle, and Kepler.

Many of us have our own mentors that help us in the pursuit of perfecting our techniques for recording observations. Galileo, known as “father of modern observational astronomy” continues to be a mentor through his dedication and astronomical findings in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s. With his discovery of Jupiter’s satellites, studies of sunspots, increased magnifications of telescopes, Saturn’s rings, it is no surprise that many follow his lead. His visual observations and ability to record his findings through notes and sketches provide an exemplary format for us to follow.

With today’s technology, we are able to produce magnificent images with cameras allowing us to gather more light, seeing deeper in space than what the naked eye can discern. However, sketching has many benefits as well and in fact, imagers and sketchers compliment each other.

It’s always a little exciting driving up to an observatory. I love walking up the steps and through those big doors. To the right is the library stuffed with books, computers, telescopes and other astronomy paraphernalia. What I would give to have a library like that in my own home. To the left is a wood-floored room filled with chairs and a little stage. Walking through the entrance way, you can go up the steps to the observatory or down the steps to other rooms filled with learning aids and the ATM room where the likes of mirrors can be grinded for your own scopes.

32" scope at Perkins

The original 69″ mirror that was casted in 1931 for Perkins was moved (along with the scope) to Lowell Observatory, eventually trucked to COSI, and then made its way back home to Perkins in 1999. They have a sweet 32″ set up for observing in the dome now. I was amazed at how easy it was to move manually.

Getting to the presentation, we touched on all areas of visual observing: planetary, asteroids, comets, solar, lunar, DSOs. Several of my sketching friends kindly allowed me to use their drawings (in addition to my own) to show the varied techniques and to touch on the extent of work that can be done through observation sketches.

An example would be sketch sequences over a period of time…including days or weeks of daily sketches. Rich Handy did a wonderful ingress sequence of the August 28th 2007 lunar eclipse. I then created a simple animation of his sketches to simulate the feel of the eclipse.

Total Lunar Eclipse by Rich Handy

Another collaboration took place with a sequence of sketches that I drew for this very lively prominence. Alan Friedman put it into an animation for me.

20070609 prominence sequence

Pretty much the next best thing to spending a night (or day) under the stars observing is being able to share it with others!

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~ by Erika Rix on August 16, 2011.

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