Three Second Chess

Is worship a way of life or only something done in church and meetings? The scriptures make it clear that worship is a walking relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a loving purposeful acknowledgement of Him anywhere, which is usually not in religious meetings. So work, hobbies, and even the mundane things we have to do are fertile ground to know Him and to worship Him. The following sketches and making of the report took place during two separate times. The first time was an observing period during the late night hours of June 21, 2009; the second (two days later) was when the report (below) was written. The report and sketches were posted on a secular forum on the internet where amateur astronomers post their sketches and stories. A few are believers but most are not. So there was opportunity to worship during the observing period, during the sketching, during the writing of the report, and during its prayerful posting to the internet forum. Some of the project was delight, some was work, and some was just things that had to be done, but all the tasks were committed to Him or He was directly acknowledged during the process. It was worship as well as an intended testimony that the heavens are His and point to Him.


The Setting.

On the longest day of the year (June 21) central Virginia had the first reasonably clear night for over two weeks. The heavens showed themselves late through lots of moisture and some haze but they were beautiful. My observing time began with a simple delightful sky survey. Sketching started later but I wanted to cover several objects and get some practice doing them quickly. There is a game called Three-second Chess. Each player is allowed 3 seconds to think then immediately make a move. It forces some quick thinking but keeps a person focused on the overall game. As applied to sketching, I wanted to do something in parallel by concentrating on the overall shape and appearance of some chosen objects but not allow any digression into detail on particular features. It forces a rapid lay down of key stars, object boundaries, and overall features. The practice helps in other observing periods.


The Technical Part.

Telescope equipment: 12.5 inch Dobsonian on Compact Platform and fitted with Mallincam Hyper Color Video Camera (50% gain; 7 or 14 second integration periods); 80 mm refractor for finding and centering

ThreeSecondChess_500pxMonitor and sketching equipment: 4 inch B&W monitor for precise aiming and focus; S-Video input from camera to nearby sketch station with 19 inch HDTV monitor; observed magnification: 178X

Object 1: A pair (M51/M101) around Ursa Major (medium: charcoal on 12×18 white sketch paper)
Object 2: Lagoon Nebula central region in the South (pastels on 9×12 black Strathmore Artagain paper)
Sketch time: a self-imposed limitation of 20 minutes per object

The Story.

As much as I love the study the heavens, that love seems more acute when I have not seen a clear night for a couple weeks. The sketching time was already primed with an hour of looking around, and giving thanks to God for the beauty of a dozen objects that I surveyed in a quick run through the center of the sky. It was so intense at times that I stopped to raise my hands and exclaim back to God the words of Psalm 19. So with a glad heart, a warm evening, and summer sounds in the background, I went for a pair for favorites (M51 and M101 in the first sketch), purposing to do them together with charcoal on white paper. Between equipment adjustments and moving back and forth to sketch, it took about an hour total. By then it was after midnight and the Milky Way was as pretty as I had seen it in months. Taking advantage of the color video camera I chose to apply the same rapid sketch techniques to the central region of the Lagoon Nebula. In this case, I made no attempt to get star field detail beyond the anchor stars but chose the concentrate getting an overall shape with a quick application of color. The colors were so vivid that I translated the intensity with force on the pastel to paper. The result was pretty outrageous but it was fun. By the time I unwound from the excitement and began putting away, I tried to stay awake to see more but I was more than tired. I was barely conscious when I hit the pillow after 2 am. It was a good night to give thanks. It was a distinct privilege to observe so much of my gracious Father’s heavens in such a short time from my own backyard.

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