Saturn, The Deep Sky and My Daughter

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Last Sunday night, my daughter asked if we could bring out the telescope and do some stargazing. Boy was that the kick in the caboose I needed! (As you can see by the M64 sketch I managed later that night.) As I brought the Dob out the front door, I noticed that she had her clipboard, paper and pencil ready: "I wanna sketch something..." she said as I crouched to keep the scope from banging into the door frame.

So awesome!

We started with Saturn, and I suggested that she try to draw the position of the moons so that we could check and see which ones she spotted. She saw Titan right away, and with a little more time, and urging from Dad, she picked up Rhea and Tethys too. After she finished her sketch, I had a look and grabbed a quick sketch myself--she made sure to complete my drawing with a sketch circle =D

Step 1
Move mouse over sketch above to view labels.

Next we had a look at M35 and she insisted on trying to sketch it. I let her have a go at it, but she got lost in all the stars so we moved right along for a quick look at Mizar and Alcor, and then on to a couple bright galaxies.

M81 and M82 were nicely placed in the sky, and after discussing what she was seeing, she got busy with the drawing. We didn't have any other sketching supplies with us, so she used the pencil eraser to fuzz the galaxies up a bit, and that seemed to do the trick!

Step 1
Move mouse over sketch above to view labels.

The air got chillier, and it was a school night, so we went inside and pulled up some photos of the galaxies she had just sketched. By that time, my son joined us, and we oohed & ahhed at some of the great shots Google brought up while discussing what was going on in those distant galaxies. My son was struck by the thought that near-collisions between them is what got M82 all stirred up and crazy looking. --speaking of 'looking'-- I'm looking forward to the warmer nights, and doing that together some more as summer approaches.

2 Comments

Mine are grown and gone. The only thing I regret is that we did not have more time together outside camping etc. You only have them for a little while, a very little while. When they are gone..., well it is still taking me time to realize how gone they really are. They have their own families now and their own priorities that don't really involve us. Take all the time you possibly can with them. Make the time. Don't wait for it to possibly occur. They really do want to do things. Someday I will be a grandfather and I don't intend to make the same mistake twice. Maybe thats why kids really like their grandparents.

I want to tell you that your sketches and website is a valuable contribution to the hobby of astronomy as a whole. It lends a great counterbalance to the wonderful photography that we are so familiar with today. It is a valuable reality check for beginners in visual astronomy. It is also an encouragement of what can be really seen by paying close attention. It is one of the reasons why when as a 56 year old as I began visual astronomy with a pair of binoculars working on a bino Messier that my observing journal is filled with sketches. I note that Sky and Telescope is starting to include an occasional sketch. I hope you will send your sketches to such magazines. They are worthy of publication. Keep sending them in. Sue French might be a good one to keep hammering away at. She seems to make and effort to include the observations of ordinary amateurs in her column. Don't send them in just to know you have been published. Send them in for the good of amateur astronomy.

Charles Laird

Dear Charles,

Your points about spending as much time with the kids while they are still young is well taken. It can be easy to get caught up in the grinding details of life and neglect what's ultimately so important.

Thanks for the encouragement on the sketches and the website. Sketching is such an excellent way of honing observing skills, as you mentioned. I've also been excited to see Sky and Telescope include sketches a bit more regularly (at least that's how it seems). I've been able to contribute a number of my double star sketches to Sky and Telescope and Astronomy Now (UK) over the last year or so. Astronomy Now in particular has been very open to using sketches to illustrate observing articles, and it's always exciting to go through a new issue and see what's been included. Among other things, I think it adds a fantastic personal touch to be able to see how another observer experienced a view with their own eyes.

Thanks again for your thoughts, and I hope you find some more enjoyable nights under the stars soon.

Jeremy

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This page contains a single entry by Jeremy Perez published on April 3, 2008 2:02 AM.

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