Starry Night with a Planetary Nebula

Introducing my Lovely (Faylene) to planetary nebula began with the Ring Nebula (M57) but I was waiting for a clear night to see the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) because her favorite color is blue. The green hue of the center of the Ring is certainly beautiful, but the blue-green and red of M27 is even more captivating.

We use an astro-video in place of an eyepiece on an 8 inch computerized telescope, which enables us to run the video image from our little plastic dome, where the telescope is set up, to the inside of our little cabin. Then we can study an object side by side for quite awhile. Only a few adjustments to the telescope are necessary during a typical short observing period (usually 30-40 minutes per object). The arrangement also works wonderfully with groups, since the live image can be studied as a group.

In September 2020 we observed M27 together with a widefield configuration, using a lens before the video camera that keeps the magnification low and the field of view wide (the first image). The second night we observed it almost two months later was with the standard optics of the telescope, so the object filled the screen (second image).

One might ask, “Why not take a picture?” The answer is quite simple: photographs are forgotten and do not demand observing skills. In contrast, sketching requires repeated study and rendering of an object. No matter how good or bad the sketch is, one rarely forgets the object’s characteristics. So, we teach observing skills using sketching as the recording method. So the third and fourth images show our sketches of the object for that November night in 2020.

It was a banner night for Faylene, because she is a new sketcher and quickly learning how to study and record an object. Her sketch, with only a few observing periods, is very good. I have sketched the image before, my sketch shows a little more detail. One might think that the astro-video makes things easy to sketch, but that is not the case. While it makes seeing color possible and provides more detail, these things make study and rendering much more complex because there is simply much more to see. A 40 minute observing period stays very busy, and is truthfully not enough time to sketch a complex object. That would take several hours.

The end result is the same: we get to study, render, then appreciate the created heavens. Whether one looks at Genesis 1:14-18, Psalm 8:3, Isaiah 45:18, or dozens of other verses in the Bible, God makes it clear that He made them. The book of Job makes it clear that He expects us to study His creation. He made an orderly system of laws, the universe, and our minds — fully expecting us to see His handiwork and appreciate it. Contrary to a very popular opinion, none of it came about by itself.

With those thoughts, our date night in November ended, and our little post with the sketches ends also. It was a good night to give thanks.



For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.   

(Colossians 1:16, ESV)



Technical Note: A free course on observing the heavens from a biblical view is under DOWNLOADABLE COURSES on the site. The heavens are also the subject in several parts of the new biblical creation curriculum course (see the same location), which is available in print, eBook, or Apple Book. A free APP for Android phones is also available. Pertinent sections include Unit 1 Lesson 10, Unit 3 Lessons 3-4, and several other lessons that deal with either the biblical world view of the universe or its comparison to a naturalistic world view.


Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.