Astro Sketching

Psalm 19 Astronomy Sketching (draft June 12, 2021)

I took up my artistic hobby again after 40 years of inactivity and started doing astronomy sketching because I stink at astrophotography. Below are some of my drawings.


My first drawing was of Comet NEOWISE sketched on August 14, 2020 from Central Texas.


Ganymede Transit of Jupiter 07/10/2020

I purchased my first telescope, a Meade DS2130 5” GoTo reflector, in September 2009 for $80 off of CraigsList in Austin, Texas.

I remember being out at a dark location one summer night at my dark sky location,Lago Vista, TX,  in 2011 and looking at Jupiter. It was a very clear night in Central Texas with excellent seeing and I was using my Celestron 8NGT Newtonian telescope (also purchased on CL!). On that night I could only see three of the Galilean moons. I kept asking myself over and over, “Where is the 4th moon?” Then about 30 minutes later I noticed a small white pimple on the right side of Jupiter. As I watched in awe, I could see in real time as the pimple grew and then completely separated from Jupiter as the 4th moon.

And I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “This must have been the same awe Galileo felt when he first observed this same thing for the first time!” That’s when it sunk in to him that the small “stars” were revolving around Jupiter. I still feel that same awe every time I witness a Galilean moon move out from the front or back side the beautiful gas giant planet!

This sketch is based on the transit of Ganymede on the early morning of July 10, 2020. Ganymede is that pimple popping up on the right side of Jupiter. I used midnight blue card stock paper instead of the black sketch pad paper. The sketch was scanned on an HP printer and saved as a jpg image. I did minor corrections to contrast and temperature to correct for the HP scan differences to the original sketch.

Regards, Ed

Summer Constellations and Planets

Below is my first attempt to sketch the summer constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius along with the planets Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter. This was as they appeared in Central Texas on August 21, 2020.

I used midnight blue card stock paper, polychromos pencils, and chalk (for the Milky Way.)

The only filtering was contrast correction in PowerPoint to compensate for the HP printer color scan difference.

Regards, Ed


Waxing Moon – August 2020

Below was my first sketch of the waxing Moon on August 28, 2020 from Central Texas. I submitted it to the Reflector Magazine, a quarterly publication of the Astronomical League. It was published in their December issue. The AL has over 18,000 members in the United States. I got several emails from Christian astronomers interested in our ministry (see the new locations post under Events tab.)

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.” – Genesis 1:14-18.


Waning Moon – October 2020

Below is my sketch of the waning gibbous Moon from October 7, 2020 from Central Texas. This is the complementary side of my waxing post from July 2020 Moon.

I wanted to catch the triple craters Theophilus, Cyrillus, and Catharina on the terminator edge near the center of the Moon and just below Mare Tranquillitatis.

I used Faber-Castell polychromas pencils on black art paper.

I added white chalk to brighten the illuminated portions of the Moon.

Celestron Evolution 8 with 2″ 56mm eyepiece.

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?” – Psalm 8:3-4.


Waning Gibbous Moon – November 2020

Here’s a waning gibbous crescent Moon just before sunrise on November 12, 2021 from Central Texas. I was using my antique Galileo-style paper Mache telescope with small, thin lenses that gave significant chromatic aberration.

Orion Nebula with Galileo-style telescope

Here is my sketch of the rising Orion Nebula on November 17, 2021 as seen through my paper Mache Galileo-style scope with 17x magnification.

When Galileo trained his spyglass to the constellation Orion, he discovered there were over 500 stars in the constellation  – too many for him to attempt to sketch with his narrow field of view spyglass! 

Galileo wrote, “…I had intended to depict the entire constellation of Orion, but I was overwhelmed by the vast quantity of stars and by limitations of time, so I have deferred this to another occasionThere are more than five hundred new stars distributed among the old ones within limits of one or two degrees of arc” (Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo by Stillman Drake, p. 47). What he did draw were the 90 or so stars in Figure 1. 

What caught my attention was that Galileo didn’t mention anything about the Great Orion Nebula! I thought to myself, “surely he should have seen that nebula as it’s visible as a smudge even to the unaided eye.” So, last night I took out my antique paper Mache scope with a magnification of 17X and peered at Orion’s sword and sketched what I saw of the Orion nebula. I could easily see the nebula and it appeared as a typical “white fuzzy” object. Granted, it wouldn’t have looked like a typical white fuzzy object to Galileo upon seeing it for the first time. But it definitely looks like some type of fixed smudge or “cloud.” Due to my limited FOV of about 0.87 degrees I had to scan a second FOV to capture sigma Orion.

After some online research, I learned that historians suspect that Galileo may not have trusted what he was seeing when looking at the nebula due to a combination of poor-quality optics and a narrow field of view. Galileo’s observation of the Orion nebula may well have been “deferred…to another occasion” but we will likely never know.

From December 20, 2020 Saturn and Jupiter conjunction: Ganymede occulted star HIP 99314!

This is awesome!

So tonight I set up in a nearby cove before sunset and aligned my Celestron Evolution 8″ to the Moon. Then I slewed to Jupiter and Saturn and centered them in the eyepiece. I couldn’t see any of the moons of either planet at this point because it was just at sunset, about 5:20 PM CST (11:20 PM UTC). It wasn’t long before neighbors came by to ask what I was doing and I told them I was looking at the Christmas Star i.e. the Great Conjunction of 2020. So I invited them to look.

We the word got around and a couple of other neighbors came by. I could see the first of Jupiter’s moons around 5:35 PM – Europa and Io on one side and Ganymede on the other. More neighbors came by and in between chats I saw that Callisto had come into view too. Then as a neighbor named Tara was looking in the scope I said, “do you see the two moons above Jupiter?”

“Yes,” she said. I stated that the top one was Europa and the bottom one closest to Jupiter was Io. Then I said, “do you see the two moons below Jupiter?” And Tara said, “yes, no wait. I see three moons.” So I looked into the scope and sure enough there were three moons perfectly aligned to Jupiter’s equator. “Wow Tara! You’re right. There is another object below Jupiter but that’s got to be a star because we can’t see any of the other 75 moon of Jupiter with this small of a scope.” I look at Stellarium and it indicates that the star HIP 99314 is in the line of the moons of Jupiter. We’ll imagine that! My sketch posted last night in this forum had HIP 99314 pointed up (north?) of Jupiter. So Jupiter had moved about the width of Earth’s Moon in one night.

So then darkness fell and I invited some friends over to watch. Well around 6:40 PM I was showing my neighbor, David, the conjunction. And so I ask him if he see’s the two moons above Jupiter and he says yes. Then I ask if he see’s the three moons below Jupiter and he says no. No?! So I look and sure enough there is only Ganymede and Callisto. The Stellarium software wouldn’t cooperate so I wasn’t sure what happened to HIP 99314.

But the intrigue continues! About 7:30 PM another neighbor named Stu stopped by. When I asked if he could see the two moons below Jupiter he said, “yes, but I see three moons.” No way!! Sure enough Ganymede had moved enough that HIP 99314 was now a distinct point again.

This is why I love astronomy and especially sidewalk astronomy!

The upper left image below is of Ganymede before the occultation of HP 99314 starting at twilight at 5:45 PM CST (11:45 PM UCT). The upper right is when Ganymede is occulting the star at 6:40 PM CST (12:40 AM UTC). And the bottom left is when the occultation is over at 7:30 PM CST (01:30 AM UTC). I included arrows pointing at Ganymede and the bottom right is the legend. Such a FUN evening. I can’t wait until tomorrow night!

Ganymede occultation HIP 99314 12202020 4 panel 545p to 730p with PS19 r2.jpg

Winter Constellations – January 2021

Here is my sketch of the winter constellations from Central Texas USA around 9PM CST (3AM UTC) on January 15, 2021. The star field is from Stellarium software of the night sky as seen from Austin, Texas coordinates. I wanted to capture the four main eye-catchers of the winter sky: the bright star Sirius, the constellation Orion, and the star clusters Hyades, and Pleiades.

Sirius in the constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog) is the brightest star of the northern hemisphere. Sirius is also where the name for Sirius Satellite Radio came from and it’s the “eye star” in their dog logo. I love showing people this bright star when it’s low on the horizon as it twinkles a variety of yellow, greens, reds, and blues like a diamond!

The constellation Orion is prominent in our winter skies. I used to think it was the Big Dipper when I was a kid and that Pleiades was the Little Dipper. It wasn’t until I took a class on astronomy at Texas A&M in the fall of 1984 that I learned where those two dipper constellations were truly located. The constellation Orion goes back to tens of thousands of years in human history all the way back to ancient Babylonia and Egypt.

Pleiades in the zodiacal constellation Taurus was often referred to as the Seven Sisters from Greek mythology and they were the children of Atlas and Pleione. It’s interesting to note that the Pleiades are the logo of the Japanese car manufacturer, Subaru. Their star logo pops up on the car’s LED screen of my wife’s Subaru Forester every time the engine is started.

According to Wikipedia, the Hyades were the daughters of Atlas and the half-sisters of the Pleiades. Hyades is in the center of the constellation Taurus and are the stars forming the face of the bull in the mythological drawing. The bright star, Aldebaran, is the left eye of the bull.

Lastly, the Bible mentions both Orion and Pleiades three times: Amos 5:8, Job 9:9, and Job 38:31.


Black artist paper

Faber-Castell polychromatic white and light blue pencils

Faber-Castell acrylic pastel sticks (for the Milky Way)

Uni Posca white fine-tip marker

Some minor color corrections and editing out smudges using MS PowerPoint and the Snipping Tool.

He alone stretches out the heavens
    and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear[a] and Orion,
    the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
    miracles that cannot be counted.” – Job 9:8-10.

Winter Constellations 01162021 adjusted.jpg

Orion Constellation, January 24, 2021

Here’s my rendition of the constellation Orion. I tried drawing this on Wednesday night through my Orion 8″ Skyquest Dobsonian scope with 56mm 2″ eyepiece (yah, using an Orion to draw Orion)! Orion is my favorite constellation because it’s so easily recognizable and has M42 – the great Orion nebula.

Anyway, I quickly realized because of the mirrors that everything I was drawing was flipped in the true orientation. So, I used the Celestron SkyPortal software to sketch out the constellation in correct orientation.

This is sketched on navy blue card stock paper. I used Faber-Castell polychromic pencils to draw the stars and constellation lines. I used their soft pastel acrylic sticks to blend in the Milky Way on the left side of the constellation. I also edited the photo in PowerPoint to bring out the color, add star names, and overlay yellow dots onto some stars.

“He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
    who turns midnight into dawn
    and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
    and pours them out over the face of the land—
    the Lord is his name.” – Amos 5:8

January 20, 2021

Cedar Park, Texas USA

Regards, Ed (E-Ray)

Orion Constellation Original BGeuse January 2021 with names and verse tiny 2.png


Orion the Cowboy Lasso’s the Moon, February 21, 2021

I was out walking my dog late last night – the first night in 10 days that it was above freezing in Central Texas after the Icepopalypse. There were thin fast moving clouds when we started our walk. Those gave way to suddenly clear skies. And as we started to head back home in the southern direction there was the waxing Moon in Taurus and Orion looking at the Moon. The line by Jimmy Stewart from It’s a Wonderful Life struck me, “Mary, why, why, I’ll, I’ll lasso you the Moon! Yah, that’s what I’ll do!” And then I thought, what if Orion was a Cowboy. 

So here’s my first attempt at “Orion the Cowboy Lasso’s the Moon.” I’ll need to work on the art work for my next rendition and improve the detail of the cowboy and lasso. 

Black card stock paper

Faber-Castell polychromos pencils.

Regards, Ed

Orion the Cowboy Lassos the Moon 02212021.jpg


Orion the Cowboy Lassoes the Moon – Texas Themed Winter Constellations – February 2021

A few weeks ago, I was out walking my dog, Kody, just before midnight and saw the Moon close to the constellation Orion. The image of Orion the Hunter with a bow shooting at the Moon popped into my head. Then the scene the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life ,where George Bailey is wooing Mary on a walk after a high school party crossed my mind. In the scene, George is saying to Mary, “What is it that you want, Mary? What do you like? You want the Moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”

The idea of Orion lassoing the Moon popped into my head. So, since we’re in Texas, the inspiration took off from there of “Orion the Cowboy” lassoing the Moon. After my first drawing in mid-February I decided to expand the idea to include the other surrounding winter constellations.

I bought a neat sketch pad app called Procreate for my iPad. I can use an Apple pen to easily sketch anything including cartoons. You can build layers much like Adobe Photoshop. So, I decided to try it out to make outlines for the constellations. These are digital sketches which makes it easy to use a digital eraser to make corrections. These images were gleaned from internet photos or drawings and sketched over. I modified the horns on Taurus to that of a Texas longhorn bull.

Here is my rendition for Texas-themed winter sky constellations. I tried to accurately add the main stars within each constellation but took some liberty in spacing them to look more appealing.  The stars outside the constellations are placed with artistic flair to improve the appearance of the drawing. 

The constellations are from the left to right:

– “Owlus Minor”: The Little Owl (instead of the Little Dog, Canis Minor),  

– Canis Major: The Big Dog, aka Kody,

– Orion the Cowboy lassoing the Moon, 

– Lepus the jackrabbit,

– Taurus the Bull was modified to have horns similar to that of the Texas longhorn mascot, aka BEVO (Texas A&M Aggies and Texas Longhorn fans will understand the name BEVO),

– Opuntia, aka the Latin for Prickly Pear Cactus (instead of portions of Eridanus the River and Cetus the sea monster),

– The waxing Moon being lassoed is making a cameo appearance. The original is from my August 28 drawing that was published in the photo gallery section of the December 2020 edition of the Astronomy League’s quarterly Reflector Magazine.

Now I’ve got to figure out how to expand to Texas-theme for spring, summer, and fall constellations. I’m already thinking about which constellations will be an armadillo, bobcat, rattlesnake, bucking bronco, and a Cowgirl!

Regards, Ed LaBelle, aka E-Ray

Psalm 19 Astronomy Society