Sketching at the eyepiece will give you a record of what you see and share the views. It’s pretty quick and easy , a simple dot becomes a star and a bit of shading , galaxies or nebulae. In addition, relaxing your eye and sketching will let you tease out more details .
This is especially so with planets. Very often you can just leave the focus and let the details come in and out of view.
A dim red torch and a clipboard are the essential bits of gear , if you can find a comfy seat , it helps relax and enjoy the view.
Pencils and pens.
A white hybrid gel pen will give you controllable points , either slight or a big more for brighter stars.
I found that white chinagraph pencils are soft enough to give shading without lines. Keep it in your warm pocket in winter and it’ll be nice and soft.
A black marker is useful for mistakes, make sure it doesn’t show up on your card.
Black A4 , you can cut into two A5 pieces .
Marking the circle fov.
With your chinagraph pencil , lightly draw around a cereal bowl which fits your paper. Leave a bit of space each side and top for notation.Marking a circle both sides will let you flip over if you’re not happy first go. You can add a smaller circle around any higher magnification details that you have drawn .
Let’s start !
Get comfy , put your card on a clipboard and keep your head light low.
Choose something simple to begin with, a galaxy such as M81 + M82 or a planetary nebula such as NGC 6543. Double stars are ideal to draw.
Put this in the middle of your fov with enough space around it to show some field stars.
Draw your target first. Then note the position of the brightest stars and dot these in. Then fill in around your target and the star fields. Use angles and shapes to get their position. Light edges and fuzziness can be edged by rubbing your finger over these areas. A blue pencil can be useful to add the colour of some bright planetary nebulae such as “The Eskimo nebula”. Similarly with coloured stars.
Try to avoid a picture of just a double star alone in the fov. Most stars have companions , even if this means drawing a widefield view first , then add a smaller circle.
Let’s finish !
You’ve got a sketch. Before you move on , you can add the cardinal points , west and north. This’ll help compare it with other drawings.
If you turn off tracking or note where the fov is drifting towards , this is west. Everything in the northern hemisphere drifts west. Look at a star at the edge of the fov and see which direction it exits. Check where your central target is heading , the exit direction is west.
If you are using an odd numbers of mirrors ( one for a refractor diagonal) , then mark the direction of drift “W” for west. North will be 90 degrees clockwise from west.
If you are using an even number of mirrors (Newtonian) , then mark west. North will be 90 degrees anti-clockwise from west.
You can find similar drawings from other observers and compare yours with their alignment . Or if you’re that bored , take up golf !
Include the name and constellation at the top. Below make note of the date and time. You can add the scope and magnification and anything else noteworthy . It’s your individual record .It’s quick and instant . It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw , it’s points and shading.
Improving with editing.
Scan your sketch . You can then darken or monochrome it with a basic editing app. There’s no point in changing any drawn details , as what you saw was at the eyepiece.
Drawing on white paper.
It’s better with a very bright target to draw planets on white paper. Some 4b and 6b pencils will give you shadings and a soft line. Don’t worry about getting the shape of Jupiter’s disc right. Simpler to draw some circles with compasses before heading out. With lunar views , try to just draw one or two craters, keep it simple to begin with.
I’ve tried astrophotography and it’s a quite involved compared to the quick and individual record of what you can sketch at the eyepiece. It’s also much cheaper ! It never fails to amaze me the number of folks at star parties who have absolutely no record of observing and who are similarly amazed when seeing simple sketches. Hopefully if we ever get clear skies at Rosliston it would be useful to get some sketching done.
Here’s a few , looking forward to yours under
Clear skies !