Guest blog: Bucket List Astronomy Class, Day 2

Posted by Nicole Kiefert
on Friday, July 28, 2017


Pointing out the Magellanic Clouds. Photo by Samuel I. Beard, Jr.

By Aliyah Mohammed and Cristal Hernandez

The BLAsT Class welcomed Mr. Alex Massey as the first guest speaker. Alex Massey is an artist specializing in astronomical sketching. However, he is not your typical artist. He utilizes tools such as makeup brushes, chalk, and pencils to recreate beautiful celestial phenomenon. He started the night off by demonstrating the process of creating these images. He focuses first on capturing the “big picture,” and then adds layers to create greater detail. He is very meticulous with his work, attempting to capture every bit of what he sees. Although he finds inspiration from photos, he enjoys using his handmade telescope to make his images as realistic as possible.

Alex Massey demonstrating how he typically begins his sketches. The brush he is using is one of the many makeup brushes from his toolbox. The sketch seen in front of Massey is one he previously completed in 2014 based on “The Ink spot,” which only the most intrepid students stayed to see.
After learning about his sketching techniques, the students took a walk to a local park to stargaze with Massey’s handmade telescope. He mentioned that it took him a year to design his telescope, but only took six months to build. He started off by pointing out different objects in the night sky with his laser pointer. We got to see constellations such as The Southern Cross, the two crowns - Corona Borealis and Corona Australis – Scorpius high in the sky, and a sideways Sagittarius. Then came the moment we were waiting for: Viewing the heavens through his telescope. Jupiter, Saturn, Eta Carina, Omega Centauri and The Jewel Box were just a few of the many beautiful object we were able to see.

Unfortunately, as the night went on, the colder it got. The class started with 23 people, but ended with only 5 that braved the cold for the entire 3 hours. Luckily, those students who did stick around were able to see several shooting stars and both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.

Alex Massey started our astronomical journey off right with his friendly personality, jokes and vast knowledge. It was a privilege to get to know him and the students wish him all the best! 


My name is Aliyah Mohammed, and I am a Music Therapy Major which has no relation to Astronomy, but I thought this class would be fun. I was going to take it last spring but when I found out about the study abroad I decided to do it instead. I knew I would never get the chance to go to Australia ever again so I decided to do it. I am so excited about getting to do star gazing, and I can’t wait to see what else this trip and class will have in store for us. 

Jupiter can just be made out in a photo taken with a student’s phone through Massey’s telescope.
 My name is Cristal Hernandez and I am a Junior at SHSU. I am a Victims Studies major, but I have always been fascinated with the sky, stars, and the moon. I took Solar System Astronomy two years ago, and was planning on taking my last science class next semester, but when I heard about this trip, I knew I had to be a part of it. Although our trip has just begun, I am already in awe at how beautiful the night sky is here. We went on a short walk on our first night and were able to see the Southern Cross, and many other stars as well. I’m super excited for the rest of this journey and I can’t wait to see what else is out there!

Ben Blume looks through Massey’s telescope as the Milky Way arcs overhead. // Photo by Samuel I. Beard, Jr.

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