Seeing Saturn


Digital sketch…

Years ago I had the pleasure of using a low powered telescope. I managed to find Juiter and then further away in the darkness was Saturn. It was amazing, the Rings were tipped up so they were much more visible than when they are in the a more horizontal plain. It was tiny, so small, but I could see it wavering slightly in the night air. I think Galileo thought it looked like it had ears?

To see planets with your own eyes, however small they appear is wonderful. The time it takes for the light to get to us means you scan look into the past. So it’s almost like time travel too!

If you ever get the chance, look up and see the sky….


_20200303_224853what would happen if the Earth was tipped up on its axis?

The world would spin so the equator was spinning at nintey degrees or so to where it is now. Every twenty four hours it would still spin West to East as it does now, but the Sun would not rise and set every day. I think it would only do that when the Earth was mid way between when either pole faced the Sun. Because the Earth rotates round the Sun. So the North or North East or North West would face the Sun for half  of the year and the South, South East and South West for the other half.

So what would happen to the poles? Even now, because the Earth is tipped at an angle and doesn’t rotate vertically, we get summers and winters. So there  twenty four hour days in the polar summer, and twenty four hour nights in polar winter. If the Earth was tipped over more the twenty four hour days and nights would last for months. The side away from the Sun would be colder, the side towards it would be hotter. Perhaps all the ice would melt at one pole and freeze much more at the other? Who knows? I’m sure scientists would have the answer. Thankfully we don’t face that question. Sadly we do face climate crisis. We need to sort out the current situation. How? I don’t know the answer to that. But perhaps we should follow what teachers put on school reports. We must try harder?!



The trees spread across the world, as man finally withered and died. Killed off in a last great mass extinction caused by  humankind’s continuous destruction of the animal population and most of the plant world. Pestilence, fire, flooding and starvation had done their jobs.

All that was left were trees, rivers, marshes, seas and oceans.

The trees kept pumping out oxygen, the world was now habitable for any incomers, but there were none. Aliens may have admired our world, but they exist in civilisations too far away. None of them had things like warp drive. A nice idea, but not really feasible.

Nothing grew, except a soup of bacteria. One day that might evolve into the next great family of animals, insects, worms, critters. If man returned millions of years later he would not recognise the planet or its contents. Maybe the trees would remember….

Green skies

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The Aurora borealis is something I’ve never seen but always wanted to. When I see photos of it I’m amazed that electrons from the suns solar wind can cause such beauty.

The electrons and other particles travel along the magnetic lines of force at the North Pole (and South – the Aurora Australis I think it’s called). As they interact with the magnetic field they glow. The different colours denote different elements. I think Green is Nitrogen and Pink is Oxygen.

The Aurora occur at the poles because they are where the magnetic field is at its weakest and drops down towards the pole. If you have seen iron filings round a bar magnet you can see how the field curves round and down.

So what is solar wind? It is the matter that pours out from the sun when there is a hole in the corona (upper atmosphere of the sun). There are coronal mass ejections where the sun spews out masses of ionised electrons which interact with Earth’s atmosphere.

There is a lot more about aurora’s but my knowledge is not good enough to explain more.




So many animals, not just big ones, but tiny ones, insects, fish, are going extinct.

Why? Because of hunting, pesticides, over fishing, plastic, fires, people encroaching on the places animals live.

Why? There are too many of us, but we could all try and live more thoughtfully. People need space, and food. But there must be ways of dealing with our needs that doesn’t cause harm. We are too busy consuming to realise we can’t always have everything we want. If we could live in a more sustainable way? I remember in the 1970’s there was a comedy programme called ‘the good life’ where a couple tried to leave the rat race and live a better life by growing their own food, making their own clothes, but it didn’t always work.

It’s too simplistic to expect that to work worldwide, but I think we should try.


Finished, Jupiter with moon.


Decided this is finished, not going to overwork it. I added a moon and its shadow. I wanted to keep the colours fresh and interesting. I liked the idea of tipping it at an angle. We tend to have images of planets on a horizontal plane because that is the way the solar system rotates ‘on the plane of the ecliptic’, but if you were on an asteroid skimming past you wouldn’t necessarily be travelling in the same plane as the planets.

Small painting of Jupiter, work in progress

I’m trying to paint the Great red spot of Jupiter and I’m using the photo on the right as a basis of it. The painting is more angled than straight on and so the red spot has a bit of curvature to it, as if the view point is down and to the right of the original photo….. But oh! Those waves and swirls, so hard to render!

Might add a moon or its shadow, thinking about it. Having a rest, still feel ill! Grr….


Drawing Jupiter

I do like drawing and painting planetsUntitled60_003

This was drawn in ArtRage oils. I used the dry brush and metallic setting for it except for the moon where I turned the metallic option off. You can’t paint smoothly with it but you can get an impression of what you want to depict. The largest brush size is the size of the moons shadow, so to build up the background you have to shade backwards and forwards to cover the whole picture. This is glorified finger painting!

You will notice the top left corner is lighter than the bottom right. That is because the app is set up to have graduated shading across the picture. There is some difficulty drawing accurately on a screen with your finger, especially when the surface is apparently fluid. The result is the moon in the bottom right corner does not look quite right. The image is imagined, not taken from a photo. The moon is not identifiable but would be one of the four seen by Galileo. (the four biggest), (no I can’t remember their names!)


Finished Mars


Finished, the colours are a bit off as I’m painting under electric light. I’ve tried to get accurate details on it although I’m still wanting it to be painterly. I don’t want my paintings to look airbrushed or filtered.

It’s the old analogue or digital argument. Everything is HD these days. But I’m not trying to get photo realism, just realism. So, now I’m going to leave this. If I have a night’s sleep I might be able to come back to it. There are thousands of craters and trenches and rills and canyons on Mars. It’s a rocky planet with a very thin atmosphere. It can be completely covered by dust storms and the details of the surface can be covered over. The carbon dioxide poles shrink and grow dependent on the seasons. In the past the surface was imagined to be covered with canals (a misinterpretation of the Italian word Canali – meaning channels). Astronomers thought the dark patches were vegetation. Now we know Mars is a rocky, desert planet. About two thirds the size of Earth with lower gravity. It has lost most of its atmosphere and water over billions of years, probably because its molten core has solidified and it now has no magnetic shield to stop solar radiation from causing the atmosphere to stream away into space.

Painting is like knitting.


The complexity of trying to paint the surface of Mars is like trying to knit a complicated pattern of cable stitch, pearl and plain knitting. I don’t know exactly how to do that, and with this painting I’m trying to get craters and ridges at least vaguely in the right place, which is like knitting the whole thing.

If I had large images of the planets I would use tracing paper to copy the main features, then transfer the tracing onto a canvas by drawing on the other side to have at least an outline to follow. But no, I do it the hard way. Holding my phone up with the image then trying to paint the right colours and features and attempting to get them in the right place. You also have to keep tapping the phone to stop the picture going off.

Well so far I’ve splodged in whites, violets, blues, rust colours and dark areas. It’s starting to work but it’s got more complicated as I’ve gone on. I have overpainted several areas. I can see that it will take a while yet.