About this site: There are quite a lot of amateur astronomy sites in cyberspace – some good, some bad and some dormant – and this is my own little bit. This site contains drawings and written descriptions I have done, based on my observations of deep sky objects. I have also included things I have written, as well as astronomy trips I’ve made and articles.
The observations were mainly made from the Isle of Wight, in Southern England, although in 1997, I made a trip to Australia to view the Southern Hemisphere skies and also trips to the Texas Star Party in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012.
My observing ‘career’ began with a 6 inch Dobsonian telescope but most of my early sketches were made when I got an 8.75 inch reflector on a Newtonian mount. Between 2008 and 2011 I had been using a 12 inch Dob but, as of September 2011, I now have an 18 inch Dob, purely for visual observing. The sketches and observations here have been made with a variety of scopes, from 8×42 binoculars right up to a 48 inch Dobsonian. For more about me, click here.
What is the Deep Sky and why observe it? The Deep Sky is, basically, everything outside the Solar System (the “shallow sky”). Galaxies, planetary nebulae, emission and reflection nebulae, open and globular clusters and dark nebulae are all Deep Sky objects.
Deep Sky objects provide some of the most beautiful sights in nature, and it is quite awe-inspiring to view objects that are so far away their distances are measured in years, not miles! In fact the galaxies are millions or even billions of light years away from the solar system. I like Deep Sky objects because I love looking at them and drawing and describing them. By sketching and describing them, you become a better observer (see the Deep Sky Sketching page, under ‘Articles’ in the navigation bar, on this site).
Astronomy is a nice stress-free pastime 99% of the time – although it does have its frustrations, ups, downs and grey areas – and doesn’t take any great expenditure apart from the initial outlay for binoculars or scope, or any technical know how above being able to read a star map.
It can be a frustrating pastime when the transparency or seeing is bad, you have one of *those* observing sessions when you just cannot seem to locate anything, you get clouded out in the middle of a good observing run, you break something important on the scope (it happens!) or there are clouds for nights on end, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. When a person is feeling a bit ‘down’, which happens to all of us at some time or other, a good observing session and losing yourself among the treasures of the night sky can go a long way to making you feel better. It’s also nice being out at night, especially in the early hours of the morning when most other people are indoors and it’s quiet apart from nocturnal animals going about their business or a dog barking in the distance.
People (mostly non-astronomers or lunar and planetary observers) tend to think that all Deep Sky objects look the same, but they’re not. They often look like fuzzy blobs at first sight, but given careful examination under the right conditions each will reveal its own characteristics and a lot of detail can be extracted from them – apart from the faintest and fuzziest of faint fuzzies which will stubbornly remain faint and fuzzy in all but the hugest amateur scopes. Sketching and note-taking aids this process hugely. If you go to the telescope without any preconceived ideas of what the object will look like; and if you understand that you are not going to see images visually through the telescope such as those the Hubble Space Telescope or David Malin, et al provide, then you will never be disappointed. In fact, you are likely to be enchanted and keep going back for more.
On a cloudy night, reading about astronomy and the science involved, passes the time. The science behind astronomy, as well as the vast distances between objects, is fascinating in its own right. Astronomy is a vast subject and whether you are actively observing the sky or whether you are reading about it as well, you are never likely to run out of material. There are enough Deep Sky Objects out there to keep observers happy and busy for decades.