Monday, 25 April 2016

Sun - now you are just showing off...

Sol – Oh, now you are just showing off…

In the way that no two people are the same in appearance, solar prominences are not the same in appearance.  And with an instrument like the Daystar Quark Prominence model, the subtle nuances can be picked up – the puffy extensions, the frayed columns, the tenuous tendrils connecting components.  All this serves to make chasing prominences a favourite of mine.

I had the opportunity to chase proms on the 21st and 25th.  What the Sun threw up on both days was just gorgeous.  It would be easy to lump the proms on display as just Hedgerow and anomalous proms and leave it at that.  But the truth is, the structures within these were so unique, beautiful and even had earthly elements, just to lump them with only a clinical title is just insufficient.

21st April
“Anomalous prominences” is the title given to proms that don’t fit within the limited descriptive catalogue of prom types.  These anomalous proms can be extraordinarily beautiful, big and even have the appearance of things like hands, chimneys or trees.  Often too they are magnetically connected with other proms and features that push and pull on them.

This day there were several different prom types all close together on the solar limb.  Hedgerow proms that looked like distant bushfire smoke plumes.  Small detached proms floated over the surface.  Inclined spikes reached over to form platform proms, bridging with other features.  Pyramid proms that looked like Christmas trees.  And an anomalous prom that had the appearance of dormant deciduous tree, with skeletal naked branches reaching out and up from the single trunk.  One of these branches morphed into an extension of an inclined platform prom.

This is where the Daystar Quark comes into its own.  Being the Prominence model, it is finely tuned to allow for the softest of prom details to been noticeable.  Photographs tend to washout the softest of details.  And it is only with the constant observation that comes with my sketching that most of these details slowly show themselves.

Object:  Sol with miscellaneous proms
Scope & Gear:  ED80, 25mm Pl, Daystar Quark, 101X
Date: 21st April, 2016
Location:  Sydney, Australia

25th April
Today on show were several regions of proms on display around the Sun.  The one the captured my attention to sketch was a broad segment with and exquisite hedgerow display, anomalous proms and pillar proms.

The complex structures within the Hedgerow were sensational.  Tendrils of plasma reaching across, over and beneath each other.  Plumes of material puffing out into angle-breath soft faint before disappearing into space.  Even a pillar prom sneaked in between the plumes.  The anomalous prom had its own complexity in structure, resembling a pyramid prom, but more of a complex pair of inclined pillars.  The disc along the limb also showed some swirling structures too.

When I finished this segment, I re-examined the other prom areas.  These were proving to be gorgeous on their own merits too, they beckoned me to sketch them.  I noticed that the way I structured my initial sketch I had a big empty area above the segment that I saw that I could include smaller segments to depict these proms.  And in the end, the whole finished sketch resembles a smilie face! :)

Object:  Sol with various prom regions
Scope & Gear:  ED80, Hyperion Zoom @ 20mm, Daystar Quark, approx. 126X
Date:  25th April, 2016
Location:  Sydney, Australia
Media:  Soft pastels and charcoal on A4 size black paper.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Pythagoras and surrounds

Hi all,

A couple of nights ago the Moon was just shy of being full.  Such a phase means that the terminator is very close to the Moon’s limb, and all the craters are therefore very foreshortened.  It is a situation that can provide some stunning drama to the scenery, and presents some challenges to depict that a more square crater doesn’t have.

Seeing this night was pretty good.  A brief scan of the terminator showed some wonderful sketch candidates.  What I settled on was Pythagoras and the surrounding Moonscape. 

For me, the biggest technical challenge I have with these foreshortened craters is the foreshortening itself.  Get the proportions too wrong, and the rest of the sketch balloons out of proportion.  Too deep, and all the craters become bloated.  Too thin, and everything becomes overly stumpy.

Another interesting aspect about sketching features close to the limb is that details are much, much finer due to the foreshortening.  The tiny craters are all still there.  So to the terraced inner and outer walls of large craters.  As are the riles and valleys.  But these tend to hide at first from view due to the additional glare.  But with time, these features slowly become more apparent, and a once seemingly bland Moonscape is littered with as much detail as a face on crater.  And then you need to foreshorten these too!...

This sketch I started with some trepidation.  But as it progressed I eased into foreshortening mode.  And now, when I look back onto this sketch, the drama and stark features make me pause for a moment and think to myself – “Geeze, did I really lay that sketch down!  WOW!”

I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do.  I don’t sketch much features close to the limb.  I’m going to have to rectify this.


Object:  Crater Pythagoras and surrounds
Scope:  C8, 8” SCT
Gear:  8mm LVW, 250X
Date:  20th April, 2016
Location:  Sydney, Australia

Media:  White and grey soft pastel, charcoal and white ink on A4 size black paper.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Aristoteles keeps on teaching

Hello everyone,

At long last I’ve managed a lunar sketch again!  As things would have it, two nights and two sketches!

I didn’t have things all my way.  The first sketch was of Lacus Mortis, and it was poetically killed off early…

One thing that I enjoy doing that is part of my sketching ‘process’ is looking up atlases and information about the area that I’ve sketched.  Often when deciding upon a particular feature to sketch, there has been something peculiar about that feature that has caught my attention and imagination.  And often in my research, I come to have my suspicions justified with amazing revelations.  And sometimes, just sometimes, the most amazing and unexpected details.  Lacus Mortis proved to be one of these exciting revelations, despite clouds rolling in to kill off the sketch session early.

Lacus Mortis, the Lake of Death, is an ancient feature.  It was created early in the Moon’s history when the crust was very thin.  A giant asteroid crashed into the thin crust, and instead of forming a crater as we know it, but the entire basin was flooded.  Lacus Mortis is not unique in this way.  All the Maria we see today all have this essentially round circumference and completely flooded basin.  What distinguishes Lacus Mortis form other ‘seas’ is the fractures and faults that crisscross it.

These fractures and faults all have a curious point of convergence – the centrally located crater, Burg.  Burg is also an ancient feature, though much younger than providence of Lacus Mortis.  The floor of Burg is only partially flooded, giving a hint that the Moon was cooler when Burg was formed that the crust was thicker.

Now, while sketching Burg, I noticed something strange about the inside of its wester side.  There appeared to be another wall inside the western rim.  It somewhat looked like the rim had somehow detached, but the rim looked too intact to be damaged.  But seeing was not good enough to allow for more magnification or resolution of this curious feature.

When I looked up Lacus Mortis on Virtual Moon Atlas, the anomaly that I had spotted became apparent.  This ‘detached wall is actually a gigantic set of volcanic domes!

There are a few clues to the origins of this anomalous internal structure of Burg.  You’ll notice that it does not follow the concentric nature of the remnant terraces.  Another distinguishing feature is this area is made up of darker material than the surrounding material.  And a third distinguishing feature we garner from Earth based volcanic domes, like Mt St Helens’ multiple domes inside its massive caldera.

Burg’s isolated location inside Lacus Mortis and lack of significant later impact damage has meant that much of its original ejecta material ray structures have been preserved.  That this ray system is no longer brilliantly while like Copernicus or Tyco is evidence of the solar wind weathering that occurs on the lunar surface.  A large impact on the Moon throws up material that is from deeper layers under the surface, and its appearance is much brighter.  Though there is no atmosphere or weather or water to cause erosion, weathering occurs as the radiation and solar wind from the sun causes changes in the chemical composition of these fresher material that has been thrown up, causing it to darken.  The brilliant ray system of Copernicus and Tyco will also eventually darken and lose its brilliance.

Lacus Mortis’ riles and fault lines are extensive and massive.  One particular fault line rival Rupes Recta for the vertical height differential between the two sections.  This particular fault line runs north-south in the south-western quadrant.  The shadow that is cast westwards is so long, suggesting the massive height differential.

I so wanted to include the surround mountain ranges and peripheral structures around Lacus Mortis, but clouds rolled in, somewhat appropriately killing off the sketching session.

Object:  Lacus Mortis
Scope:  C8, 8” SCT
Gear:  8mm LVW, 250X
Date:  13th April, 2016
Location:  Sydney, Australia
Media:  White and grey soft pastels, charcoal & white ink on A4 size black paper.

The following night I had a second chance for a sketch.  Aristoteles beckoned this time.

Aristoteles is roughly of a similar age and many similar features as Burg.  It lies on the tortured southern shore of Mare Frigoris.  Its floor is only partially flooded – there are smaller craters around Aristoteles that are ghost craters – totally flooded with only the barest of the original rim still showing.  It has also been spared damage from large subsequent impacts.  Also like Burg, much of the remnant ray system structures have been preserved, though now weathered and no longer brilliantly white.

Aristoteles though share one feature with a much younger, though just as massive impact that formed Copernicus.  Surrounding Copernicus is an extensive system of secondary impacts that were formed from the material that had been thrown out from the original impact.  Aristoteles also shares an extensive collar of secondary impacts.  Differentiating Aristoteles and Burg’s collars apart of these secondary impacts is the very extensive within the ray system of Burg.  Many of these secondary impacts are co-linear, radiating out from the centre of Burg, accentuating the appearance & depth of the ray system.  Aristoteles secondary impacts are much further reaching, attesting to the much larger impact that formed Aristoteles.

One interesting feature around Aristoteles is the ancient, flooded & highly damaged crater Mitchell, immediately on Aristoteles eastern rim.  My sketch shows that the western rim of Mitchell has been obliterated by Aristoteles, and its eastern rim is irregular.  Photographs of Mitchell show that its eastern rim has been filled in by material that had been thrown out from the impact that created Aristoteles.

To the south of Aristoteles is the large crater Exudous.

Object:  Aristoteles & surrounds
Scope:  C8, 8” SCT
Gear:  8mm LVW, 250X
Date:  14th April, 2016
Location:  Sydney, Australia
Media:  White & grey soft pastel, charcoal and white ink on A5 size black paper

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

2 Lions

Hi all,

I was lucky enough to get the chance to get the solar scope out again.  This time, my eye was drawn to a rather regal display between two prominences.

These two proms were next to each other, and interacting.  Plasma material was seen being cast between the two, and above them.  The spectacle somewhat resembled two lions fighting, with their manes and dust flying everywhere.  The reality is probably even more terrifying, as the plasma is many thousands of degrees in temperature, and being flung up, down and around at many thousands of kilometers an hour, through magnetic fields that would see your compass spin itself into oblivion.

The immediate view through my Daystar Quark was gorgeous.  But as my eye adapted to the red image, my gaze picked up more and more detail.  The reach of faint material kept on reaching further and further out.  The softest of tendrils revealed themselves.  And the complex structures were fascinating to see.  This is why sketching is so appealing to me - with time and patience, these softest and delicate of details become apparent, instead of steamrolling over the whole lot with just a token look.

Either side of these two Lions were smaller proms, and a sunspot with filaments and plages that were soon to disappear over the limb of the Sun.

Object:  Sol, anomalous, pyramid & pillar prominences, sunspot, plages & filaments
Scope & Gear:  ED80, Daystar Quark & SolarMax II 60 DS, approx 112X
Date:  5th April 2016
Location:  Sydney, Australia
Media:  Colour soft pastels & charcoal on A5 size black paper.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Best of both worlds

Hi all,

It has been quite some time since my last entry.  My apology for my absence.  Work, family life, weather, again conspiring against me.

Today I took the opportunity to sketch the sun following the prompting from a mate that a big arch prominence was on show.

By the time I set up my Daystar Quark, the arch had developed into a massive detached arch, resembling a floating fire above the solar limb.

Either side of the detached arch were other smaller, but just as detailed proms.  One of these was interacting with the detached prom, with gossamer soft tendrils of material reaching across between the two.

On the opposite side of the Sun, there was another fascinating set of prominences on display.  Most stark was a massive inclined pyramid prom – which had a surprise in store for me…  This pyramid was a massive structure, likely rivalling the height of the detached arch on the other side.  Going clockwise from the pyramid, immediately beside and sitting beneath the overhanging peak, a lovely platform prom busied itself, trying its best to ignore its colossal neighbour.  Further down clockwise was another platform prom, though larger and more ‘untidy’ in structure.  AND a little further on clockwise again was a little pairing of a pillar and fork proms reaching across to each other.

I recently picked up a SolarMax II 60, with a damaged additional double stack unit.  The damaged unit is useable, and not dangerous to use (the internal etalon would take care of that), but the image is not uniformly illuminated, with a ‘zonal band’ cutting through the FOV where the double stack effect really pops out.  I set up the SolarMax,  and what an extraordinary Chromosphere appeared!

 The lone sunspot inside from the larger platform prom was distinctly arachnid in appearance.  Plages radiated out accompanied by masses of fibrils.  Just in from the pyramid was a curious set of four filament waves!  I’m actually not sure what the geometric description would be!  And the pyramid prom showed itself not to be a limb structure, but starting from inside of the limb – a forked filament reached out from the chromosphere forming the base structure of the colossal pyramid, reaching out through the limb of the Sun.  Quite a spectacular structure.

The area next to the massive detached arch also had a fabulously long filament reach across the disc, to kiss the lower set of smaller proms.

The difference in capability between the Daystar Quark and the SolarMax is quite stark.  Each has their own unique strength, and together they make for an amazing set of observing opportunities.

Alex Massey.