Thursday, 31 July 2014

Astrofest - a fantastic experience!

Hi all,

The trip up to this year's Queensland Astrofest was a marvelous one!  I drove up with a mate to share the driving.  We made the trip over two days, and saw some amazing country along the way.  We took three of my telescopes with us, two 12" dobs (both Marana instruments from Gondwana Telescopes) and the 17.5" (a Karee model also from Gondwana Telescopes) - all packed into the one car along with all our camping gear.  That is something you just don't see, but you will in the pictures below :)

I did a presentation of Gondwana Telescopes and held two workshops.  The sketching workshop proved so unique and special that I was asked to do another one.  Along with my sketching portfolio, a lot of interest in astronomical sketching was created, and this encouraged me immensely.

Astrofest is organised between 6 different Queensland astronomy clubs and goes for longer than a week, spanning across two weekends.  The entire event for me was a pleasure to experience, getting to meet an extraordinary lot of people all passionate about astronomy and life.  If you haven't been to an Astrofest event, I certainly can wholeheartedly recommend you do so.

The grounds on which Astrofest is held also houses its own observatory which contains a beautiful 9.25" Celestron SCT.  Accommodation was a choice between camping and bunk houses, and lunch and dinner were available, along with unlimited amounts of tea and coffee to get one through the cold nights.  Astrofest is also geared towards families with many people taking the chance to make astronomy a whole family experience.

I ended up completing three sketches, two of which were of targets that I've long been wanting to sketch for a long time.  The first two nights we were up there through up brilliantly clear skies.  Fog rolled in around 2am, but that was fine by me as I had had enough by then anyway. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Apollo 11 land site area - revisited

With the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing coming up, I thought I’d post my sketch of the landing site area for some revision of my original thoughts on some formations.

I used to think that these fissures formed as a result of shrinkage.  This was as a result of my confusing the tiny appearance of these riles through the eyepiece to cooling shrinkage.  But these riles can be over 10km wide, and lava does not shrink this much!  I’m now thinking that these fractures formed when the Moon’s crust was very thin and experienced a massive impact.  The thin crust then would fracture, and in some instances, like the impact site itself, fill with lava, like Rile Hypatia.  Another recent sketch of mine shows a series of co-centric fractures – these are more likely also to be the crazing pattern due to a big impact, not shrinkage.  Examination of the area round Rimae Hippalus makes the likely impact that formed these fractures as being the one that formed the flooded area of Mare Humorum.  Looks like I’ve changed my thinking on how these riles form!

One part of science is to be flexible in accepting new ideas when older ones have been disproved or shown to be mistaken.  Likewise, old ideas also need to be challenged to double check their voracity.  Here is one case where my original think was incorrect, and I've come to a new conclusion following new evidence and correction of original observations.

Object: Apollo 11 landing site area
Scope: C8, 8” SCT
Gear: 8mm LVW, 250X & 5mm Hyperion, 400X
Date: 3rd July, 2014
Location: Sydney, Australia
Media: White and grey soft pastel, charcoal & white ink on A5 size black paper.
Duration: 2hrs.

Alexander Massey.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

I'm off to the Queensland Astrofest this July!

Hi folks,

This coming July new Moon the annual Queensland Astrofest is on from July 18 to July 27:

Link to Queensland Astrofest 2014

I'll be heading north of the border for three nights under Queensland skies.  Will be my longest stay in Queensland and I'm really looking forward to it.

I'll be presenting two workshops on the afternoon of Friday 25.  One on Observing Tips and the second on astronomical sketching.  In the Observing Tips I'll be covering items starting from the anatomy of the human eye and how to make the most of it, telescope types and focal ratio and its significance to observing, eyepieces and their influence, matching telescope design to eyepiece design, filters and how to make the most of them, and practical telescope observing tips.

In the sketching workshop I'll be doing practical demonstrations on using the Mellish Technique, covering globular clusters, galaxies and nebulae.  I'll be showing how to exploit layering to achieve distinct effects and to develop form and volume.  I'll also do a demonstration on how I use the same media I use for the Mellish Technique to produce my Lunar sketches, and how quick and forgiving these materials are.

I'll then switch hats on the Saturday to give a presentation for Gondwana Telescopes, demonstrating how these compact and robust instruments assemble into fine, balanced and practical instruments.  I hand craft these instruments individually to each primary mirror.  I am very proud of these instruments, as much as my sketches.

If you are heading to Astrofest this July, I look forward to getting to meet you there.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Copernicus and ejecta ring

Hi all,

A second sketch in less than a week!  An absolute flood compared to the previous 12 months!

I have sketched the crater Copernicus on other occasions.  I enjoy sketching this magnificent ray crater as it has so much to offer no matter the phase of the Moon.  Since my last Copernican sketch, I’ve come to find out more about this 95km diameter hole on the Moon.

The area around the crater Copernicus is fascinating, with so much lunar history on display – from amongst the oldest to the newest lunar formations.  From ‘ghost craters’ nearly totally lost in lava flows from long ago, to relatively recent, terrifying massive impacts whose devastating power is very much still visible.

Copernicus sits isolated surrounded by Seas and an Ocean.  These large areas of lava flows occurred a very long time ago.  The ghost crater is Stadius is nearly as large as Copernicus.  But all we see today is barely the barely visible rim of its crater, the result of an ancient impact with a very hot Moon that readily flooded the impact hole with lava.

A newer impact is the crater Erastothenes.  In structure it closely resembles Coperniucs with clear features of large impacts such as central peaks, terraced internal and external walls (the result of landslides of the steep walls).  But it is an older impact than Copernicus because the rays of ejecta material have been covered over by those of Copernicus.

The rock that created Copernicus was a massive one.  The impact through up an enormous amount much material.  Much was vaporized and pulverzied that blew way out from the impact zone, being deposited as the rays that we see today.  There are even ‘shadow zones’.  These formed when the cloud of polverised rock raced over a mountain range  and eddie currents were created depositing material behind the ledge.

Another great feature of Copernicus is another set of ejecta.  Rock was not only pulverised but also ejected out from the impact as huge bolders.  These rocks inturn created their own set of craterlets.  These craterlets surround Copernicus, even forming strings of impacts.  But these are not considered Chain Craters as they are the result of secondary impacts from a larger impact.  Chain Craters are a string of primary impacts.  In the sketch you will see one of the more prominent strings of secondary impacts.  These secondary impacts are not trivial ones either.  Some of these craterlets are over 5km in diameter which would have taken a substantially big rock to have been thrown out to make such a large crater.  Conditions on the night were not perfect.  If conditions were better a whole lot more of these secondary impacts would have been visible.

This night I also took a photo of myself at the eyepiece with all the gear I use while sketching.  The white box is a polystyrene box I use as a dew hutch to protect my materials from dew during the evening.  I also made a video of the sketch.  I’ll be looking at making a time lapse video of this as a 3hour video of the sketch is not gripping viewing…

Object:  Copernicus and surrounds
Telescope:  C8, 8” SCT
Gear:  8mm LVW, 250X
Date:  7th July 2014
Location:  Sydney, Australia
Media:  White and grey soft pastel, charcoal and white ink on A5 size black paper

Duration:  approx. 3hrs

Friday, 4 July 2014

Apollo 11 landing site area

Hi all,

Last night I had a chance to sketch a part of the Moon I’ve been wanting to for a very long time – the landing site area of Apollo 11.  While the site itself is invisible to us here on Earth, there are three craters close to the site that are significant to the site.  These three craters are the ones named after the three Apollo 11 astronauts, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins.

This particular area of the Moon is sensational!   The shallow angle that the Sun’s light is illuminating the field reveals dozens of ancient lava flows.  These flows reveal themselves with the shadow of their leading edge.  There is also a rile to the north.  Riles are typically as a result of shrinkage of the lava flows. 

Rile Hypatia is a very ancient valley.  It was formed while the Moon still had lava flowing freely.  Evidence for this is the flooded valley floor.  The surface lava field fractured due to cooling and subsurface lava pressure.  The freshly opened gash filled with lava from underneath.

The craters Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are very recent impacts compared to the surrounding  lava field.  These three craters are challenging to spot being so small.  The smallest is Collins with a diameter of 3km, Aldrin at 4 and Armstrong at close to 5km.  Due to their size, they are visible only for a short time when the angle of the incident sunlight is shallow enough to make their shadows prominent enough.  Collins is the most challenging to see, and requires a combination of good and stable atmospheric conditions and a minimum aperture of 8” to spot it.

This sketch was a joy to lay down.  Mare Tranquillitatis’ lava fields are full of an intricate filigree network of lava flows.  The lunarscape is also pockmarked with dozens upon dozens of tiny craters, three of which are named after three most important explorers.

Object:  Apollo 11 landing site area
Scope:  C8, 8” SCT
Gear:  8mm LVW, 250X & 5mm Hyperion, 400X
Date:  3rd July, 2014
Location:  Sydney, Australia
Media:  White and grey soft pastel, charcoal & white ink on A5 size black paper.

Duration:  2hrs.