Last night I was looking up at the moon, it brought back to me a wonderful April evening in 2007 when the phase was exactly the same. That evening was to offer me a great experience in lunar sketching.
When I was about fourteen years old I had my first looked through the South Refractor at Dunsink Observatory in Dublin. For months I had pestered my dad to bring me out there, a bit of a long drive in those days, before motorways existed.
Jupiter was on view that evening, it was crystal clear. The planet must have been quite high as I could look through the Grubb standing on the floor of the dome.
At that time I had my own little white 50 mm Tasco telescope on a short plastic tripod. There was not much to see in it, however the moon always got a look. Since that first planet view at Dunsink I wanted to revisit the moment, and look once again through the eyepiece of this well constructed classic telescope. Over the years I paid several visits to the observatory on public nights, but always cloud, rain, both, or just life got in the way.
An idea popped into my head one day so I put it into action. I requested time to sketch something through the eyepiece of the magnificent Grubb at the observatory. This request yielded a positive answer, but it took many months for it to come to fruition.
April 30th 2007 I got a phone call from, Professor Evert Muers at the observatory
“would you like to try a sketch tonight”?
I was out the door and on the M50 with my gear in less than 10 minutes, it was an hour’s drive to the Observatory.
His greeting was warm, the dome was opened, the scope set up, the steps in place.
My position for the next hour and ten minutes was probably the most uncomfortable sketching position in which I had ever worked. I was neither seated or standing, and a big telescope to move.
The Grubb was so well-balanced, easy to operate, a joy to hold, and a privilege to use.
Left alone for the most part I quickly got into my zoned in or zoned out
(depends on your point view) sketching mode.The eyepiece was low powered generating about 125X, it is used mainly for public viewing sessions.
Apart from the difficult sketching position, I felt so at home in dome, it felt very me. Up and down moving the steps,to follow the Moon as she charged along heading for her bed below the horizon. My concentration waned after an hour, more work to do than in my garden. I was stiff the next morning but I was high as a kite, because I got to do something with this instrument made so carefully many years ago in Dublin. A full circle moment in my life, moments that seem to happen with more frequency these days.
In brief periods, when the image was still I could see much more detail and fine tones of grey than in my 8 inch dob. Eddington gave me great shapes and that ridge was so slender, only 2% of the Moon was in darkness and even a little of that was seeping through the blackness into the day.
I admire Arthur Stanley Eddington for his communication prowess during his life.
A poem he wrote came to mind on the way home.
“Oh leave the Wise our measures to collate
One thing at least is certain, light has weight
One thing is certain and the rest debate
Light rays, when near the Sun, do not go straight. “
Apart from this poem being about gravitational lensing, the phrase “light has weight” sticks out for me as an artist. Drawing the sunlit wall on the western side of Eddington, 138km or so of sunlit weight, which was up till that lunation invisible, non – existent until our sun made it so. This was a very special opportunity to sketch , apart from the personal satisfaction for me one of the things this illustrates is the need and benefit of public observing sessions at observatories.
Sharing the night sky with a child, can light a spark of interest that can last for a lifetime as it did in my case. It has given me great pleasure for almost two decades to share the moon , planets and other astronomical objects with the public at Dunsink Observatory and other places in Ireland.