This is one I have attempted to view through the telescope but which is fairly difficult to view. Through the telescope and in any image taken in the visual spectrum the Horsehead nebula is a dark patch of dust and gas against the glowing background nebula. This painting is based on an image taken by Hubble in the infrared, a wavelength in which the gas of the nebula can be observed. It's just a very tiny part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.
As all of my iPad paintings have been, this was done with Procreate using an iPad Air 2 with a generic stylus.
My first effort at using the iPad and Procreate to paint was the Eagle Nebula. To be honest I started that first project assuming I would not get very far. I'd never painted and expected it would be a huge mess. But it wasn't half bad and I enjoyed the process far more than I expected I would. In fact I enjoyed it so much that when I finished I decided to try another, the Orion Nebula. When I finished that I thought I'd give the Lagoon Nebula a try. I chose the Lagoon Nebula because I'd recently viewed it as it is a great summer object and one I always view at least a few times each season.
A couple months back I started to see quite a few mentions of an iPad app called Procreate. It had been out for a couple of years but with Apple’s release of the iPad Pro and Pencil, Procreate was getting some new attention because it is an app specifically designed for painting on the iPad. I’m not a painter which is why I’d not given it more than a passing glance before. That said I have spent the past few years focusing more on increasing my graphic design skills, specifically vector-based work. I began with Illustrator because that is the industry standard. But have branched out to others because I don’t like Adobe’s subscription model. In any case, my time spent working in vector apps led to several for-fun illustration projects which has opened the door a bit to a larger creative flow. Enter Procreate and the idea of sketching or painting with an iPad.
I’ve not upgraded to an iPad Pro yet as my Air 2 is still quite fast and fully capable of doing what I do with it. I’ve never noticed the slightest bit of lag. So, when I started playing with Procreate it was not with Apple’s fancy new Pencil but with a generic $3 tablet stylus. It’s got a rubbery ball end that works much better than a finger for seeing where I’m touching the glass and allows for a much smaller point of contact. Nothing so accurate or fine as the Pencil but it still works pretty well.
The Pillars of Creation
My first really go at something was unintentional. It started as a doodle of a book cover which had a close up image of the “Pillars of Creation” which is just one small part of the Eagle Nebula. Ten minutes turned into twenty which turned into an hour and then two hours. I couldn’t put it down. I spent the better part of a day and evening. And a couple days later I picked it up again to fix a few bits that were out of proportion which led to another evening. By the time I was “finished” I’d probably spent 15 hours on it. I’ve no doubt that someone with more skill could have done much better in less time but for me it was not only a learning process but I found it incredibly relaxing.
The Eagle Nebula
A few days ago I’d gotten the notion that perhaps I should enlarge the project to more of the nebula. Yesterday I picked up the iPad, duplicated the file, and gave it a go. As before, the hours just flew by as I concentrated on the contact between stylus and glass. I think this second, larger painting was about 8 hours. I could likely spend another few hours on this and may yet do that. Something I’m finding with this kind of work is that it’s never really finished. There’s always something that can be changed. There are many, many details within an image like this that I could give my attention to. Also, this only represents a small portion of the much larger nebula. Perhaps that will be the next project.
The larger nebula:
Image of Eagle Nebula
And, of course, the Wikipedia page for the Eagle Neblua!
Mars. The Red Planet. We’ve made great progress learning about our neighbor in recent decades. We’ve currently got two active robots performing experiments and have had others. Imagery from Curiosity is incredibly detailed as is the science coming in from it’s ongoing collecting and processing of samples. I’ve mentioned before how easy it is to get lost in NASA’s Curiosity website.
But in terms of visual, amateur astronomy, I’ve only ever given Mars a cursory glance. If memory serves, it appeared as a off-white, pinkish disc. Nice to look at on occasion but nothing like a view of Jupiter or Saturn both of which offer surface details, moons and in the case of Saturn, rings. But Now I’m wondering if the fault was mine? Did I not look hard enough? I recently revisited the planet and saw surface details I’d not previously noticed. This was a view of Mars worth repeating more often!! A quick look in my preferred astronomy app for the iPad, Sky Safari, suggests that “In a small telescope, Mars shows many of the surface features that sparked the imagination of science fiction writers.” It may be that I was looking when local atmospheric conditions weren’t good or perhaps at a time when something was happening on Mars to obscure the details.
Observation of Mars June 5, 2016, 10:30pm. Sketched with Procreate on iPad.
Now that I’ve had a good look and seen some detail I can say with certainty that I’ll be visiting the planet every chance I get. The surface details will change based on the season as well as the fact that a Mars day is 37 minutes longer than an Earth day which, if I’m thinking about this correctly, means that over time the side facing Earth will gradually change. In some ways viewing Mars is like a blend of viewing our moon and viewing a planet like Jupiter. By this I mean that, like our moon, we can observe features on the surface of the planet. But it’s not a static image. Our moon has no atmosphere and presents a static image to us. As with our observations of Jupiter, what we see with Mars will change over time. From month to month the view will change not only because of the difference in period of rotation but because of season and atmosphere. Fantastic!