Apr 13

Vatican Astronomer Br Guy Consolmagno inspires young Irish Astronomers

St.Cronans Stargazers Astronomy Club Bray Co Wicklow with Vatican Astronomer Br Guy Consolmagno and Deirdre Kelleghan
Image Bernard Kelleghan

St Cronans National School Bray had a very special visitor on Wednesday March 20. None other than the Vatican Astronomer Br Guy Consolmagno SJ. Originally I had invited him to drop in and shake hands with St Cronans Stargazers our astronomy club, but he very generously offered to give a talk on astronomy for the whole school. 500 boys and their teachers were treated to a wonderfully pitched talk about the Vatican Observatory, the pope’s interest in the subject, the wonders of astronomy and all things that give joy in the vast universe in which we live.

The boys asked very intelligent questions, Br Guy gave them a listening ear, and his answers inspired and intrigued the entire audience. Br Guy Consolmagno SJ is an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory. He presented Principal Maeve Tierney with  a signed copy of his famous book Turn Left at Orion for the school library.

Br Guy was delighted to visit Bray, after lunch in the Martello and a walk on the prom he dipped his hands in the Irish Sea, a rare moment for him in his busy global speaking schedule.

I first met Br Guy back in 2005 at the Whirlpool Star Party, at the time I had no clue who he was but we had a warm conversation about binoculars and observing. I was invited to this premier event  to give a talk about  Enceladus ( one of Saturn’s ice moons) and found out  next day that Guy was there to deliver a talk about Turn Left at Orion.

We met up again during International Year of Astronomy 2009. Br Guy was on a speaking tour in Ireland. The first of his talks was at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies and Dunsink Observatory, followed by Gonzaga College.  We then continued on to COSMOS (Now - Irelands leading Star Party) in Tullamore and then to Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork. If my memory serves me right, Br Guy delivered six different talks in five days to varying audiences. Everyone of them was a polished gem in communicating the science and wonder  of astronomy.  

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Jul 12

Action Sun at St Pauls Senior Girls School Dublin 12 - What's up for July 2012 from Jane Houston Jones

3rd class girls St Pauls Senior Girls NS Greenhills Dublin 12
We built the sun at school

3rd class girls St Pauls Senior Girls NS Greenhills Dublin 12
We built the sun at school

St Pauls Senior Girls National School in Greenhill’s Dublin 12 is just a few minutes’ walk from the house where I grew up.  It was fortuitous to have the opportunity to carry out my third Action Sun for a school in this area.

On June 25th 47 young girls from third class, took part in building the sun. This was a very positive group all eager to get going and get busy. Streamers of orange and red paper flew through the air in vast amounts. In a short time the photosphere began to grow in the schools courtyard.

The activity of Action Sun supports the school curriculum in its art as it uses mixed media to create the sun. The program uses paint and paper to convey activity and explosive movement on the solar disc. Action Sun also supports primary school art as it enables children to use the characteristics of the materials to make structures and features on the solar disc. Making the sun in this way is both creative and explorative. Learning a little science through the arts facilitates the use of many kinds of intelligences.  The learning process in the making is as valuable as the finished suns. Textures and spatial   organisation also comes into the creation of this work. The girls at St Pauls School were very good at working as a group, helping each other out. They also made good decisions during the activity which showed they were an excellent team. This is kinesthetic learning, learning by doing.

Action Sun compliments science in the primary school curriculum on several levels.   A short information talk in between making the suns features informs the children about our suns role in the solar system. We talk about the scale of the sun and the Earth. We talk about the energy of the sun and its function in relation to the other planets.  The mini talks make sure that the children understand that the sun is our main source of heat and light.  By building the sun the children learn by hands on investigation. The children literally explore the physical features of the sun with their hands in mini scale. A quick review of the evaluation sheets shows the quality of the learning. Several children not only drew sketches of the complex sun but also put in arrows to the different features and labelled them all correctly. The action of throwing the paper was very popular, signing their names was also a highlight and for some children carrying the sun into the hall was the stand out moment of the day.

When I look at the sun in my solar telescope I see a huge amount of detail and very often in the past I have shared that view with children. However it takes a long time to show this view to a large group as the sun presents as a small disc with tiny features. It is difficult for children to comprehend the enormous scale of our nearest star.  I put Action Sun together to bridge that gap and help more people achieve some understanding of this wonderful star in safety with a big fun element.

The features of the sun itself were totally new to this young group, but at the end of the programme words like photosphere, chromosphere, filaments, prominences and sunspots were all a little more familiar. We closed our eyes at the end of the build and held our faces up to the sun to feel its heat and remind ourselves that it takes eight minutes for its light to get to us here on Earth, a 93 million mile smile. Building the sun took about 90 minutes. The 7.9 X 4.9 meter tarpaulin was pre prepared at home using four litres of matte black masonry paint. During  the activity we used approx 3,500 individual pre cut  pieces of crepe paper ,15 litres of washable  PVA glue, 6 litres of yellow paint , 1 litre of red paint,  plus the energy of forty seven eight and nine year old third class girls.

My thanks to Sarah Jayne Reid for setting up Action Sun at St Pauls and to Phil Curran for all her efforts prior to, during and post the build. Thanks to Ms Keating, Ms Daly and Principal Sr Maureen for their support during the activity.  NASA Sun Earth Day bookmarks, posters and other educational material were provided to the teachers.  The solar feature data for this Action Sun was an observation of the disc made from my PST earlier that morning.  The Solar Dynamics Observatory website was pointed out to the girls so they could continue to watch the sun safely.


More images on my blog here

Whats Up for July 2012 from Jane Houston Jones

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Apr 12

News from Ireland

As the city gears up for Dublin: City of Science 2012, we take a journey with amateur astronomer and artist Deirdre Kelleghan whose equal passion for science and art is demonstrated in her work. Deirdre is a Discover Science and Engineering Science Ambassador 2012, Vice Chair of the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies, National Co-ordinator for Astronomers Without Borders, as well as being UNAWE rep in Ireland. Deirdre will also be contributing to the Dublin City Public Libraries programme of events for Dublin: City of Science 2012.

The city on a sun drenched day.  The Spire reflects and swirls the vibrant life of Dubliners mingled with mirrored   clouds and the dominant blue light from our nearest star. Flower sellers petals are jollied by the brightness.  Mica within the Liffey’s walls sparkle; ice cream melts down smiling faces. Celtic skin hovers in winters long lost vitamin, a gift from the sun, 93 million miles from the city. We enjoy our sophisticated fully functioning star, down here on one of the left over bits from its formation.

When we analyse light from our sun or any star we can see the arrangement of elements within its spectra.  Looking into a star’s pattern of elements is like looking at the code of that star, its personal finger print, its DNA.  Humans are bound together by the same elements which were created during   the birth and death of stars. Our essence is ultimately recycled throughout unimaginable eons of time, black space and accreted molecular clouds.

Read More here On Life and Light full version

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Apr 12

My April Blog - Astronomy to Inspire and Educate Young Children: EU Universe Awareness Workshop from 26 Mar 2012 through 30 Mar 2012 - What's Up for April 2012


Windmill in central Leiden
'The Rhine is one of  the longest rivers in Europe' this long lost primary school fact popped into my head as I ate my delicious Goats Cheese, Nuts and Honey Salad. I was sitting on the deck surrounding my hotel in Leiden, watching Dutch families enjoying the waterway. Their Sunday picnics were neatly arranged onboard, as they glided along in the welcome sunshine. 

When I arrived in Amsterdam some hours earlier I admired the fact that the train station was in the airport and then the bus station was in the train station in Leiden.  This was joined up thinking and so was the week ahead of me.  

Professor George Miley and Pedro Russo had invited me to come to Leiden University to take part in a UNAWE workshop and series of talks with other like minded individuals. It turned out to be a very eclectic mix of outreach educators all with a common affiliation too UNAWE or AWB or both. In the invited group of 59 individuals there was 26 countries represented. It was inspiring to be part of such an erudite gathering of minds and intentions.

I was particularly pleased to be asked to give a PechaKucha 20X20 presentation about my new activity for children called Action Sun. This Art/ Science activity is designed to bring the sun to Earth in real time using paper paint and energy.

A PenchaKucha talk is 20 slides with 20 seconds to speak about each slide. The slides change automatically so you have to stick to the subject and get your points across in double quick time. Twelve other PenchaKucha's followed mine from a wonderful bunch of presenters.

2.    Jaya Ramchandani (India): Universe in a box
3.    Grace Kimble (UK): Evaluation
4.    Angela Perez (Colombia): Astronomy Clubs for Children
5.    Claudio Paulo (Mozambique): Astronomy education in Mozambique
6.    Cristina Olivotto (Italy/Netherlands): Space Camps for Children
7.    Catalina Movileanu (Romania): UNAWE Romania
8.    Premysl Velek (Belgium): Scientix
9.    Eric Chisholm (Canada): Astronomy & Art projects for Children
10.  Avivah Yamany Ryadi (Indonesia): Transit of Venus 2012 and Children
11.  Thilina Heenatigala (Sri Lanka): UNAWE Sri Lanka
Mponda Sibuor (France ) Astronomy in Tanzania
13.  Carla Natário (Portugal/ Netherlands): Transit of Venus 2012 UNAWE
Project  Timor-Leste

To my delight Action Sun was very well received and I hope it will be part
of Dublin City of Science 2012 shortly.

The activity I have created  helps groups of children to  understand the sun and some of  its features safely without the need for viewing the solar disc visually.  I have developed both an outdoor and indoor version all of which will be extremely colourful and I hope satisfying to the children who will  take part in it over the next few months.

It was an honour to hear talks given by  scientists and educators who had a wealth of experience over many years in outreach. It was a joy to meet several people who were only known to me via e mail and with whom I had engaged on interesting astronomical projects. One of the most useful activities of the week  for me was talking part in the evaluation working  groups  and meeting up with some people who were very adept at that aspect of outreach education. 

One of the most uplifting experiences was seeing the vast numbers of children and young people being touched by astronomy in many ways. Professor Mark Baileys Human Orrery in Armagh, Olayinka Fagbemiro (Nigeria) with her enormous smiling childrens group in Africa. Marcello  Souza's fun energetic outreach in Brazil , Mponda Sibuor beautiful work in Tanzania all stick in my mind. It was also amazing to listen to Maria Luchetti tell her story of twenty years doing creative but very practical astronomy outreach teacher training  at the Rosa Sansat teacher training facility (via   translator Rosa Ros (Barcelona, Spain)

Before I left the University I recorded a piece to camera for Brazilain TV via Marcelo de Oliveira Souza and a piece to camera for 365 Days of Astronomy for UNAWE via  Jaya Ramchandani . The entire experience gave me new eyes to look at both myself and others. It gave me a huge respect for outreach education being carried on in Africa and other countries with many difficulties in their  everyday lives.

The group  attending the workshop week were collectively delighted when Professor George Miley founder of UNAWE  was presented with  The Order of the Lion (the Netherlands highest honour) at the official opening of the talks at the old observatory in Leiden.

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Feb 12

EAAE Summer School in Poland

The Polish branch of European Association for Astronomy Education is inviting all members of EAAE to the second POLISH EAAE SUMMER SCHOOL that will be organize between July 2nd and July 6th, 2012. The organisation  offers free accomodation in bungalows belonging to Youth Astronomical Observatory (MOA) in Niepolomice. It is a small nice town 15 km from Cracow - the main tourist target in Poland.

The main aim of the meeting is to create possibility to exchange ideas and experiences concernig astronomy education at all school levels. We will have free access to small telescopes and planetarium in MOA. Workshop on astrophotography is also planned.

An official confirmation will be given to all participants.

Some lectures and workshops will be on English. During the activities on Polish you will be free to see very interesting places in Cracow and nearby (for example the university building Copernicus studied in).

The bungalows are not specially comfortable (although with shower and small kitchen) but there are good hotels in Niepolomice and you are free to book a room at your own expense.

If you would like to join this summer school just send an email to

 obserwatorium(małpa)wp.pl specifying:

  1. your name and country
  2. your workplace
  3. date of your planned arrival and departure
  4. preferred accomodation (free bungalows or hotel on your own espence)
  5. your proposals and expectations concernig the meeting.

Learn more about this Summer School at http://lo2.nazwa.pl/obserwatorium/summer_school2012.html

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Dec 11

Mars Science Laboratroy Launch #NASATweetup Blog #2 Thanksgiving - Endeavour - Saturn V - First Day Tweetup

The Astronaut Memorial at KSC

On Thanksgiving Day we returned to Kennedy Space Centre . Jane @jhjones wanted to share with  me the memorial wall to fallen space explorers.  This magnificent structure of polished granite reflected the blue sky, white cumulus, and the American flag amongst the Astronaut names which were pierced by sun beams of remembrance.


Our morning included a pseudo trip to Mars, the Exploration Space experience, and of course mini Tweetups with pink tagged busy Tweeps including @bphuettner @Conductor222 .

Lunch with  the enigmatic #labcoatbear in the rocket garden was unmissable, another opportunity to enjoy some Florida rays and good conversation.

Afterwards a long walk on Cocoa Beach was fresh, warm and therapeutic.  Somehow I resisted urges to run into the sea which was so inviting. This beach is like a gigantic version of Keel on Achill  in Ireland, it included formation flying pelicans adding a Jurassic feel to the wildness.

Flounder with lots of Florida shrimp at the very Hemmingway 'ish   Sunset Waterfront Bar & Grill completed our day, we were joined by some of Jane’s colleagues just after the sun bowed out spectacularly on the space coast.

NASATweetup at the Twent Friday November 25th

At the badging office  circa very early  I met two of the dynamic Stephanie’s @schierholz and  @stephist with @doug_ellison . Then I introduced myself to  the other foreign nationals  including @FailedProtostar for transport to the NASA base.

Fully processed and complete with @LockheedMartin souvenir sweatshirt I came to stand within a few yards of the VAB. The Tweetup Twent was huge and accommodated tightly the 150 Tweetup worker bees 🙂  many of whom were already tweeting away at a rate of knots.  Within a short while I had access to KSCCOMM- PRESS Wi -Fi  via my encryption key - my Twitterportal  to the world was open for business. Trent Perotto @NASA and @NASAJPL gave a welcoming talk and he was followed by Dr Jim Green, and a host of other NASA/ JPL  science and engineering glitterati.  My Tweeting was too my delight being picked up and RT'ed at home in Ireland , in the UK  and USA.  A fast  lunch before an amazing tour of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the VAB, and my  ’ have to see’ moment the Saturn V rocket.

Bus 2 was my ride for the afternoon, our guide was a wonderful passionate young woman Kimberly Goudace. I have to admire the professionalism of all NASA and JPL staff who together made the Tweetup event an unforgettable experience. If any of them had to be at their work at 4am, 5am, 6am they were on duty with a smile and a positive attitude even if they were in unfamiliar time zones.   Kimberley did not even have a job; she was a former Space Shuttle engineer who still carried out her work to the n’th degree.

As we walked through the VAB her enthusiasm and knowledge filled the enormous void as she led us to the penultimate surprise, a close up view of Endeavour. This shuttle was being prepared for  its museum 'shelf life after space' trip to California.

The Saturn V experience for me was joyous and profound, nothing could have prepared me for the encounter and size of this lets go to the Moon vehicle.  My first reaction was how will I get this into my camera? Then I made a spontaneous unscripted video
( below in my website link) where all my knowledge of the rocket went out the window as years of anticipation poured out forever.

At launch pad 34 we were kindly allowed to walk around and ponder the loss of life at this place.  The past’s devastation visible in deconstructed remains of tormented concrete and twisted metal.

The beautiful sunset light yellowed the bareness and touched our souls as crepuscular rays created nature’s memorial to the Apollo 1 astronauts lost to a fire in the challenge of exploring space. LAUNCH COMPLEX 34Friday, 27 January 1967 18:31 Hours


More images here on my website blog

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Dec 11

Blog #3 Mars Science Laboratory #NASATweetup Silent Rocket Timewarp - Lunch Video

Mars Science Laboratory on top of an Atlas V Rocket

On the evening pre launch NASA tour we were privileged to stand within 150 yards of the Atlas V with MSL perched on top. Silhouetted against the sun this 191 foot assemblly of scientific ambition   stood  a little less than half  the height of the Apollo Saturn V. At 363 feet The Saturn V  was the largest rocket ever built and is more comparable height wise to the familiar  stainless street sculpture the Spire of Dublin which is  398 feet.

After an unlimited photographic bonanza we left the launch pad to head back toward the Vehicle Assembly Building.  On our journey groups of red haired hogs appeared , munching in the evening grass as the sun set on an unforgettable day.
Ahead, an invite to a Marstini party and a visit to an Observatory. The party was in a suburban house were everyone seemed to take it for granted that there was a swimming pool in the patio.

The Gale House (named in honour of the landing place for MSL  Gale Crater ) was occupied by a large group of Tweeps who had somehow managed to put a very cool party together. It was nice  to meet up with other folks who had been in touch with me via Twitter before I left Ireland. @TashaVerse such a good welcome , Jen Scheer @flyingjenny said hi because @commanderbyrne had told her too oh !! what a twangled world the Twitterverse  is. 🙂 @Joi_the_Artist showed me some of her richly coloured drawings while I sipped my Marstini before being introduced to @MarsCuriosity and several others  whose @  names have escaped me.  After some delicious food, I headed to the BCC Planetarium and Observatory with Jane  @jhjones for to join in the public evening. The indoor Moon set up impressed me, I wanted to bring it home to Ireland.

In the observatory we looked at Jupiter through a 24 inch scope, while soft spoken astronomers called out the positions of Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. On the roof I looked at Orion rising on its side, the words of Robert Frost’s poem never  rang so clear and true.  The constellation looked like it had fallen down the sky, or perhaps it was me who had tumbled down the planet. The sideways view caused by the clockwork artistry of the workings of the night sky.

Next morning I was picked up at 6am on the dot by @Stephist and was twittering away by 06:25.

@TheScienceGuy Bill Nye  looking very dapper spoke about everything . The chief administrator of NASA Charles Bolden gave an impassioned talk about MSL being the precursor of future  human Mars missions.  Lori Garver  the deputy administrator  of NASA spoke with great excitment. Astronauts Leyland Melvin @Astro_Flow and  Doug Wheelock  @Astro_Wheels conducted the astronaut only sport of 'let’s have a midair chest crash just because we can' ,  and  William James Adams @iamwill joined them to speak  about education . The Black Eyed Pea star has invested millions of his own dollars in educational programs for young people. @Camilla_SDO said hello to me at the mornings Eyes on the Solar System demo. During the launch group photo that cheeky chicken came flying through  the air for me to catch so it could preen its feathers bang on centre of the photo front row.

At T minus 30 I hugged the blow up MSL beside the countdown clock and was then asked to give my thoughts to camera by Lou Braga @Photog4NY so I did.  It was very surreal to be there beside this iconic digital clock as I had watched it for years on TV following various launches from Apollo to that pending moment.   5, 4, 3, 2, 1 the moment was real, the Atlas V with MSL ascended in silence. I looked at it rise and in that muted moment my past present and future merged. The sound followed and engulfed me totally. I watched till the smoke trail dissipated into imperceptible particles before returning to continue tweeting. After spacecraft separation and a huge cheer in the twent,  I sat down at my table.  54 years of tears decided to pick that moment to flow. I knew then  I was in the right place in my life.

On the plane home as I eased back time to my reality the winder came off in my hand, a timeless moment but for me time had truly stood still when the silent rocket left this planet for Mars.

MSL launch video

More images here on my web site blog

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Oct 11

Deadly Moons for Our Lady of the Wayside National School, Bluebell, Dublin 12 Sept 27th 2011

Moon artists at Our Lady of the Wayside National School

Deirdre Kelleghan

Bluebell,  what a lovely fresh word evoking joy, wonder and energy. These were the qualities I found in the children who took part in Deadly Moons at their school in west Dublin on Tuesday September 27th.   This group had multicultural backgrounds, Irish Travellers, Irish, Polish, African the Philippines and other communities were represented in their little faces.

The woman in the Moon ( adapted )  from a Traveller legend was one of the stories I told about the full Moon. I used Peter Riesett’s   black and white harvest Moon image to put over this story as his photograph  clearly illustrated the Woman in the Moon hidden in the lunar maria very well indeed.  Several children were captivated by this story which I found on The Barefoot Pavee website.   I like to tell tiny stories about various moons in the presentation as children listen and retain stories better than just plain facts.

Once again Saturn’s moon Tethys was a must do for some children, while the image of our Moon in false colour prompted many positive vocal gasps. Lennox was very keen to try to draw the harvest moon in black and white including the Woman in the Moon. Eddie age 9 was such a busy helpful  boy, he produced an energetic drawing of our moon in false colour including Tycho and its rays. Ben age 8 created a gorgeous subtly shaded moon in false colour and added an explosive Tycho crater ray system afterwards.  There was great variety in the drawings produced   by this group , Atlas by Aaron age 8 , Callisto by Saviour , First Quarter Moon by Alannah age 9 and a half, all wonderful drawings !!

The entire group were very engaged, there was a lot of energy in the room all going into the drawings and the learning.  As each moon was finished they were put on display until all the work was on the wall, looking great.

Our Lady of the Wayside National School is under the DEIS scheme and benefits in many ways because of it.  Creativity in the Classroom facilitator Liz McMahon  invited me to run my workshop for the children of Ms.Dalton's 3rd and 4th and Ms. McDermott's 3rd and 4th classes. The school also had an excellent audio visual set up, this is one of the many extra‘s this school has at its disposal because it is in a designated disadvantaged area.

Liz McMahon  is intending over the next few weeks to build on what the children have learnt and continue to create drawings and creative works inspired directly from their experiences at my workshop. Our Lady of the Wayside National School Bluebell Dublin

Moon cards provided by Jane Houston Jones JPL/NASA were given to each child. Educational outreach material which was also provided by JPL/NASA was given to each teacher for the classroom.

A few children who lived near the school were invited to talk to me after the workshop to see how it all went for them.  The interview is here, unedited just the way it unfolded, some quiet children, some very vocal children, all little gems.



Deadly Moons Drawing Workshop in Bluebell Dublin an informal chat with some of the children


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Sep 11

Solar Sketch September 1st - Astronomy Education Outreach Podcast - What's Up for September 2011 - GRAIL to the Moon

September 1st 2011 Solar Sketch East limb proms,Active Region 1283 , Fibrils show Magnetic field lines
Large filament. 10:50 UT
PST 40 / 8 mm TVP eyepiece - 50 X
Pastel , Conte, Pencil on black paper 

There were  several  proms on the solar limb that morning but these busy proms  on the eastern limb seemed to be the most interesting to me. Some of the magnetic field lines around AR 1283  stood out for several seconds in good detail so I sketched them in with pencil over the pastel. That's why they appear a little shiny as pencil does that  when used over pastel. Fibrils in the suns chromosphere  line up along magnetic field lines giving up  secret invisible information about their shape and extent of some of  the magnetic activity in the Active Regions.

Obviously I am re tuning and re focusing the telescope constantly  to capture all these features on the same plain , on a piece of paper. The sketch is CD size.




Science Chat talks to astronomer and artist Deirdre Kelleghan about her prize winning Deadly Moons project, and the book she's co-authored, Sketching The Moon  an Astronomical Artists Guide - Link below
Follow Deirdre on Twittr @skysketcher

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Aug 11

The Sky by Eye from Durrus Co Cork Ireland plus What's Up for August 2011 - Windy Worlds plus Juno to Jupiter


A drawing of the night sky in Durrus Co Cork n Persei to a Cyg

August 17th /18th    2010

Time : 23:45 UT - 00:45 UT

August 2010 I was staying in a cute house  close to the village of Durrus in Co Cork. This little place is the gateway to exploring the outstanding Sheeps Head peninsula.  The night sky down there was seriously beautiful to the eye; one did not need a telescope to enjoy it.


Earlier in the evening I had a look into Sagittarius before it got too low, then as the night followed on I was inspired to do a naked eye drawing of the sky above my head.




To give me the best option for a sketch I retreated to the back garden, away from the car park lights. I turned off the lights in the house; the village light pollution was minimal. Dark adaption came to me in about 25 minutes, and death would come to anybody who turned on a light.

Bliss greeted my eyes as the wonders of the summer sky opened up for me, the seeing was good.
We had brought along comfy canvas beach chairs, one of these was fine to sink into and observe.  My tools for the drawing were a sheet of black paper, a clip board, a white gel pen, finely grated white pastel, blending stick ,cotton wool,  and a red head light.

My working area was the star n Persei and from that visualy  along the galaxy  to a Cyg. I carefully added the stars in each visible  constellation .  Larger brighter dots according to magnitude and so on and so forth till I had a star map on my paper which mirrored the sky above my head and toward the North East. The Double Cluster and Andromeda were crystal clear naked eye objects, not usual from my home garden at all. The placement of these objects was very helpful in lining up significant stars like alpha Cyg ie Deneb in the constellation Cygnus and all the stars that made  paths in the sky to each other.

A small wad of cotton wool loaded carefully with finely grated white pastel was how I added the magnificent Milky Way and all its visible star laden tendrils. When my drawing was almost finished a long trailing Perseid shot from n Persei, went flying past Cassiopeia and ended its journey just short of   delta Cep . At its leading end for a nano second I noticed a sickle shaped flick of white. This meteor and its unusual flick was added into my drawing . It was a few weeks before I could look this up and discover that some Perseids produce visible bow shocks in front of themselves as they enter our atmosphere.  However so far I have only come across records of Perseids bow shocks that were caught on film, so would love to know if anyone has seen one by eye while observing. skysketcher@gmail.com

Deirdre Kelleghan

What's Up for August 2011 Windy Worlds and JUNO to Jupiter

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Mar 11

The Big Moon Ball Project & NASA Solar System Exploration Page Honour for Me

Children from St Cronans Stargazers draw moon phases

The Big Moon Ball Project – A work in progress

The Moon? The Moon? How on Earth do you explain the Moon to small children?  In many other talks I had done so in graphic from and with images but wanted to try something different. I figured I would have a go at an interactive workshop in a field, as one would of course.

Made me a Moon ball and put it on a stand, borrowed a super two million candle torch, put it on a stand.  Then I invited my new astronomy group St Cronans Stargazers to join me at our usual place.  As it was midterm a small but smiling group turned up, perfect for a first run!  We pretended the torch was the sun and the children were the Earth and I became the Moon.  For the first orbit of the Earth I spoke about the phase they see from the Earth as they looked at me (the Moon Ball) moving from New to First Quarter, then Full, then Last Quarter, then back to New.

The children got the idea very quickly as the sun (torch) illuminated the phases while they (the Earth) turned in unison in the field at the end of my road. The Big Moon Ball beamed the moons phases into their eyes.  Clip boards and paper were provided for the second orbit of the Earth .The children sketched the four main Moon phases as they happened and wrote down the names. The parents were very helpful, standing at the points of the phases and also helping the children see their clipboards and their drawings in the dark.

Of course this workshop would be so much more powerful if the Moon was in the sky at the same time. I am continuing to develop the activity; it suits the Irish cloudy sky syndrome and is also an indoor workshop.  Every child wanted to hold the Moon Ball and help put it in the car afterwards. A whole bunch of fun was over in a blink the children had lovely practical drawings for their folders, and were on their way to understanding the Moons movements.

The Big Moon Ball Project was welcomed by Engineers Ireland as part of Engineers Week Ireland
Huge thanks to my husband Bernard for help with the sun and for taking the photographs.
The Moon Ball is getting an upgrade, the far side is being painted in now and the near side is developing more details, craters, rays and mountains.  More images on my website here

Cool News /  Hot Stuff

NASA Solar System Exploration Page I am really delighted and honoured to have  my Solar Dynamics Observatory  inspired painting on the site for the month of March ,check it out. !!

Deirdre Kelleghan


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Jan 11

Say Hello to Astronomy evening from Bray Ireland and a Partial Solar Eclipse from Greystones Beach by Deirdre Kelleghan

Tony Jackson and Sean Stanley from St Cronans School show their sketches of Orion and its wonderful nebula M42

January 3rd I held an almost impromptu star party for the new astronomy group attached to St Conan’s National School in Bray Co Wicklow. The group is so new it has not got a name yet so for the moment we will call it St Conan’s Young Astronomers. About 50 children and adults arrived at the green Sans Souci Wood, a very cold evening for stargazing.

On offer the sky had a very close conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus plus the Galilean moons in the same view.   Jupiter and Uranus will not be this close again till 2024 .The magnificent winter constellation Orion the hunter rising over Sans Souci House was impressive even in the slight haze.  The star forming cloud M42 in the sword of the Orion was a prime target.   Several other messier objects and constellations got a run out.

Parents and children lined up to see the largest planet in our solar system shine and show off in the sky over Bray.  As part of the experience I encouraged some of the children to draw Orion and its nebula after they had seen it in the large binoculars. Four of the boys did a great job on the sketches Sean Stanley, Kevin Morley, Sam Ferrie and Tony Jackson. We were joined by several enthusiastic neighbours and friends all braved the cold to learn a little appreciation for the night sky.

Partial Solar Eclipse South Beach Greystones Co Wicklow

January 4th a fantastic sunrise greeted the families and individuals who turned up at the beach at 08:30 hours. The solar disc was already partially eclipsed as it rose over the sea in-between thin gray cloud slivers.  Some of the St Cronan’s boys arrived with their parents to see this phenomenon.

Random dog walkers were delighted to be taken by surprise and handed special eclipse glasses
to view the event.  Smiles all around beamed from the golden sun splashed faces. The attendees sported trendy eclipse glasses provided to me by NASA Goddard. There were hollers and woops!!! of delight from both kids and adults (including me) as the moon appeared to slide over the left hand side of the rising sun.

The colours created by the sun seemed to warm the winter and bring joy with every passing minute to our motley gathering by the sea.

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Sep 10

Moon Sketch from West Cork - I am the Moon Look at Me - International Observe the Moon Night - What's Up for September 2010

I am the Moon – Look at Me  by Deirdre Kelleghan

15 Day Moon Durrus, West Cork Ireland 26th August 2010 23:05 UT – 00:08 UT Pastel and conte on black paper 200 mm Dob/ FL 1,200 mm / 32 mm eyepiece

I am the Moon – Look at Me by Deirdre Kelleghan

We are privileged to live on a beautiful but fragile planet moving through space at 18.5 miles per second. We are born, live and die here; in our lifetimes we owe it to ourselves to become even a little knowledgeable of our place in the Universe.  Just a small fraction of us ever get to leave the planet and become acutely aware of the startling reality that we do in fact live in space.

We all admire humans and robots who explore off planet, but each of us here on the Earth can still reach out to grab a bit of wonder for ourselves by simply looking up. Our moon is a beautiful object whether you look at it with an instrument or just by eye.

The Moon is our nearest natural orbiting satellite, so let us stand a while and look at it together.

Let’s think about what we see when we gaze upward.  On International Observe the Moon night the moons appearance is described as waxing gibbous.  The gibbous shape of the moon on September 18th is exactly in-between the first quarter and full moon. This phase gives us the opportunity to view naked eye most of the Maria. In the northern section close to the terminator, Mare Imbrum, (The Sea of Rains) just a bit to the right is Mare Serenitatis,  (The Sea of Serenity) below Imbrium is Mare Insularium, (The Sea of Islands). Below Serenitatis, is Mare Tranquillitatis   (The Sea of Tranquillity), the place where men first stood upon the moon.

Just three days previous most people would refer to it as a half moon but have a think for a minute or two. The Moon is a spherical object, like a ball, it moves around our planet approximately once every twenty nine days.  On its journey it presents a different shape to us depending on its position to the sun in relation to the person viewing the near side from Earth.  The sun illuminates the moon’s surface and reflects that light towards our eyes. When the moon is at first quarter, half of its surface is lit up by the sun. At all times one half of the moons surfaces is bathed in sunlight while the other half rests in total darkness.

The Earth and the moon do a little orbital dance together which the sun lights up for our pleasure.

This dance involves the larger Earth partner holding the moons near side face towards itself the entire time .The orbital waltz created by the Earth and the moon as they swing around the sun together produces various phenomena during their annual soiree. These include eclipses, both lunar and solar, depending on the angle and varied positions between the three of them, the dancers and their light.

When you use your eyes only to look at the moon on International Observe the moon night, what are you looking at exactly? You will see the moon present itself to you when it is positioned a little more than one quarter way around the Earth. You will see the bright limb of the moon; you will see the line that separates daytime on the moon from night time on the moon. It is called ‘The Terminator’. Look closely and observe the darker markings ‘The Maria’ large lava filled impact basins. You will see the brighter higher areas and maybe if you have good eyesight you will see some of the larger craters and their rays. The lovely small rounded area to the upper right of The Sea of Tranquillity, close to the limb, is Mare Crisium (the sea of crisis).

With even a small pair of binoculars your view will be enhanced with detail. With a telescope depending on the size and quality of the eyepieces your view will be awesome.  There is a lifetimes worth of observing to be had with the moon alone. The contrast, the rich lunarscape, the play of light against the blackness of space, it is an exploration adventure available for all to view.

What\'s Up for September 2010 - The Moon

In this podcast Jane Houston Jones talks about the Moon and International Observe the Moon Night

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Aug 10

Get Comfy The Perseids are Coming - Introducing Meteorwatch 2010 - What's Up for August 2010 from Jane Houston Jones

Get Comfy the Perseids are Coming By Deirdre Kelleghan

Skellig Rocks image Bernard Kelleghan

About 24 years ago we had a holiday in a remote location in the west of Ireland. The house was high on a grassy ridge on Bolus Head looking over St Finian’s Bay in Co Kerry.  From this vantage point the 350 million year old Skellig Rocks rose like stegosaurus plates from the Atlantic Ocean. They were 16 kilometres out to sea but their jagged presence dominated the view to the South. It was early August and when darkness fell the predicable blinking of a distant lighthouse was the only manmade object discernable at sea level in the blackness.

One moonless evening, the sky was crystal clear, the summer triangle was dramatically intersected by our galaxies river of stars, so much more touchable than the suburban view.  I lay on the sun -dried grass looking for Perseids, one, two, three, four, five, six, plus several in the corner of my eye within a few minutes.

Time to take action, I went into the house and dragged out several mattresses, and encouraged (made) my family and our guests come outside, lie down and look up. I have a vague memory of sofa cushions being shoved through windows at one point to help the nest building.

As usual they thought I was mad, but soon they were seeing one of the year’s wonders in perhaps the darkest place on our island. We watched for satellites and my mattress guests (two families, four adults, four children) had never seen them either, so in between meteors we looked at these metal objects orbiting about 200 miles up.

A perfect viewing spot, we watched on a slight incline toward Perseus in North East, but the meteors came from what seemed like every direction. We watched many many meteors sizzling into our atmosphere in dots and dashes with long gaps and differing lengths.   The Perseids are the result of   tiny cast - off particles from Comet Swift Tuttle, shed as it passed through our solar system on its 130 year orbit of our sun.  Once a  year the Earth’s journey round our sun brings our atmosphere and these remnants into contact with each other .These particles hit the  atmosphere at huge speeds and burn up thereby offering the observer natural fireworks. Ancient elements revealed by their colours as they vaporise in front of our eyes.

I will never forget the perfection of the viewing, the WOW’s, the laughter, the joy of my family seeing this beautiful meteor shower for the first time ever.

Over the years since I have watched the Perseids from a deck chair in my garden, some escape the eye under hazy lights in suburbia. It is always the most exciting shower of the year and rarely disappoints. If you are lucky to have clear skies between now and mid August, no equipment is needed, just you and your eyeballs. If you want to fill out an observing sheet to record, the colour, length, duration, direction, location, hourly rate of your Perseids then they are easy to find and fill.

Post midnight is the best time to view.  The Earth has left the Belt of Venus long behind and has rolled toward the night were other suns populate the soft deep cloak of space.  The Perseids bring nano seconds, and multi seconds of wispy joy to all who take the time to look up from mattresses or other comfy viewing places.  My apologies, to holiday homes everywhere.

Introducing Meteorwatch 2010 Check this out , contribute your observations , images, learn a little and most of all have fun.

The Perseids in association with ,The British Astronomical Association lots of good informaton on observing, imaging , and you can contribute your own observations and enjoy The Perseids even more . You can follow Meteorwatch on Twitter via @VirtualAstro
Hope it is clear and you all have a lovely time lookng up.

What\'s Up for August 2010 - The Perseids from Jane Houston Jones

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Apr 10

Hubble Anniversary Image Art Astronomy Workshop in Dublin Ireland

The 20th Anniversary of the launch of The Hubble Space Telescope was celebrated in St Peters National School Walkinstown Dublin 12 on April 23rd.  As an outreach educator I decided to put on my Astronomy hat and my Artists hat that morning and bring the enormous printed image of the Carina Nebula to the attention of the children and teachers from 5th class.

The Carina Nebula was the image of choice by both The European Space Agency and NASA to mark the 20th Anniversary of Hubble.  The image shows a section of a powerful and beautiful star forming region in the constellation Carina. This constellation is only visible from the southern hemisphere.

It was therefore doubly engaging that this extraordinary image at this wonderful school in Dublin was also playing a part in informing young pupils about the view of the sky from different locations on the planet.

Nature created this awesome visually rich stellar nursery. Hubble became the servant who has worked so long to bring the wonders of our surrounding universe down to Earth.

I wanted to really engage children with this image, and bring it to them in a very personal way.

The idea of putting it on the floor instead of a wall has the immediate effect.  An art / astronomy workshop was in my opinion the way to grab young people’s interest and invite them to learn in an exciting and productive way.  The children of 5th class at St Peters National School sat around the image and I gave them a simple explanation about what they are looking at and how it was achieved.

The children had a lesson in star formation, distance in space, the colour indications within the image, details of The Hubble Space Telescope and the significance of this new camera and its work.

Through my workshop I wanted to literally bring the Hubble Anniversary image down to the ground in Dublin for the education and inspiration of children, the future scientists, space explorers, astronomers and artists in this country.

I am sure you will agree that the images speak volumes about the success of my workshop which was also a Global Astronomy Month event.


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