On January 29th, I stepped outside to the first reasonable sky in weeks. It was 3 degrees, but very still.
Ireland has recently been bothered by a conveyor belt of storms carried by the jet stream. We had Storm Isha in mid-January, which coated our windows in sea salt. Storm Jocelyn quickly followed this event, which added to the blur. Then, an unnamed strong southerly wind landed Saharan dust upon our freshly cleaned windows. I planned to do another naked-eye sky drawing that evening, hoping to include a new comet on the block.
The naked eye drawing above is the result of that session. I set up my drawing board on top of our bin. My adjustable stool was a perfect seat to choose a target. Earlier, my better half carried out the 8-inch dob in case 144P (Kushida) was available. My new drawing pad had much blacker paper than my previous one. However, it just wasn’t as black as my pastel. So, as usual, I covered the entire page in pastels before I started. Spreading the pastel held on its side all over the paper horizontally or vertically can leave streaks behind. Using my hand in a circular motion helps a more even development of the background I am trying to achieve.
I chose the Hyades cluster in Taurus, M45 and as many stars as I could see. It was a lofty ambition as so many bright, dim and faint stars were on offer. Jupiter was dazzling, and Uranus was also present in its quiet way. Aldebaran’s orange tone stood out well in the blackness. Uranus is tinted blue in the drawing, above the head of the meteor, and almost parallel with Aldebaran.
Maybe Comet 144P (Kushida)
Before I began to draw, I looked in the telescope to see Comet 144P (Kushida), but it wasn’t playing along. It would have been cool to include it, but hopefully, the next clear night will fix that for me. February 8th – 11th, this comet should be very close to Aldebaran. That night, the seeing wasn’t as good as usual; a quick look at M42 told me that story. However, there was enough going on to work with. I wondered if some of the Saharan dust that dropped over Ireland still lingered in our atmosphere.
Skipping across the atmosphere
Half an hour into my drawing, a meteor entered the scene. It was one of those that performed like a stone skipping across water. It left a temporary Morse code trail of its existence before vanishing forever—a dot-dash hello/goodbye. I was pleased to include the bow of Orion towards the bottom left of the drawing. The shapes of the gas and dust in the Milky Way weren’t as defined as in this previous drawing.
Before finishing, I tried again for Comet 144P (Kushida) in the dob, but there was no joy. Cygnus was behind me, so I did a 360 with the dob and looked for 12P (Pons – Brooks). Bingo, I found it; even its green tint was visible. Within minutes, a sea mist arrived and swallowed it all. I felt like adding my voice to the Atlantic roaring below me.
Here is a good article from Sky & Telescope that mentions and gives information on 144P (Kushida) and (12P Pons – Brooks). Next time, I will use my large binoculars to spot 144P and zone in with the telescope. Every clear night sky offers us beautiful opportunities to look at and appreciate the vista. Making an effort to do a naked eye drawing can be deeply rewarding. Fingers crossed, I have a next time.