Howard Banich: Astronomical Drawing

Comparing the reasons for drawing astronomical objects by 19th century professional astronomers and today's amateurs, and the methods used for drawing in the different eras. The forces that shape these drawings is also discussed and sheds light on the entire visual observing process.

I've become increasingly interested in making astronomical drawings of selected objects as detailed as possible. This sparked an ongoing investigation into the drawings made by professional astronomers before the advent of astrophotography, both for their motivations and the methods they used to create their drawings.

This brought up fascinating discussions about subjectivity, biases and the reliability of human vision pushed to its limits, which apply not just to drawing at the eyepiece but to the entire experience of visual observing.

My presentation highlights these topics, and will suggest a broader perspective toward observing that's informed by historical and personal experiences that may be helpful anytime you face the question "did I really see that?"


I've been observing since I was 11 years old and have been what might be considered an amateur astronomer since 1969 when I made my first telescope.

Observing has always been my main interest though, and drawing what I see is the primary way I've captured my observations. Seeing as much as I can has always motivated me, and drawing at the eyepiece has been a powerful, and greatly enjoyable, part of my observing. It's also led to increasingly larger telescopes, more expensive eyepieces, and trips to the darkest skies I can find, but I still use paper and a simple pencil to document what I see.

I've been writing semi-regular articles about my observations for the Rosette Gazette since 1992, and in past few years have been occasionally published in Sky & Telescope and Amateur Astronomy magazines."