Sunday, 22 April 2018

Ha Full Disk - 22nd April

If you take a look back at my recent full disks with the Lunt 50 there is a distinct haze and softness to the images.  I had noticed that visually there was a bright offset circular patch when looking through the eyepiece, this was quite clearly an internal reflection, and some clearish skies this afternoon allowed a bit of experimentation that led me to conclude there was a reflection between the ITF on the blocking filter and the internal optics of the Lunt 50.  Always the key to supressing a reflection is to use a circular polarising filter so I tried one on the nose of the blocking filter.  Immediately through the eyepiece I was pleasantly surprised how black the background sky was now, and also how much more contrast there was on the disk.  Exposure time was longer as might be expected, but still within what is acceptable at this image scale.  The resultant image is also sharper.  Taken with the Lunt DS50 and PGR Chameleon 3 camera.

AR12706 in Ha - 20th April

As we head towards solar minimum activity on our star will get less and less, so it was a pleasant surprise earlier in the week to have both good weather here in the UK and also an active region rounding the suns eastern limb.  The southerly plume brought some of the warmest April weather since 1947, and with the high temperatures wobbly seeing, but using the ED80 and double stacked Quark I was pleased with this shot of this active region - AR12706.  The PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera was used,

CaK Sun - 20th April

A quick whizz overview of the sun from Friday 20th April.  The full disk was taken with the 40mm scope somewhere around 500mm focal length, the closer view with the ED80 stopped down to 60mm.  Both with the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 camera.  Nice to see a bit of activity for a change!

Ha Full Disks 20th April

I was able to get home early after work on friday, and seeing as the sun was shining I decided to grab some solar images.  First up some full disks, single and double stacked with the Lunt 50 and PGR Chameleon 3 camera.  There are some stacking artefacts around the limb, but have since deleted the raw data so can't restack and can't be bothered to paint out.  To be perfectly honest i'm just glad to see the sun!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Hazy Sunshine 16th April

After 2 weeks of virtually wall to wall cloud the sun was making fleeting appearances through some broken cloud on Monday afternoon.  I got back from work and set the scope up but the haze, as indicated by the brightened background in this image, was thick.  The visuals were better than this image, with a nice flame prom visible and a couple of very small active areas; sunspot activity was negligible though.  Taken with the single stack Lunt 50 and PGR Chameleon 3 camera.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Small Prominence - 5th April

Hazy skies contributed to a bit of background glow on some of thursdays images, but I was pleased with how this prom shot turned out and the subtle detail within it, especially as it was taken with the new 60mm f6 scope.  This was taken with a Daystar Quark and the PGR Blackfly IMX249 camera.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Tenuous Filaments - 5th April

This has to be one of my favourite shots from Thursday and is worth clicking on to view full size.  The seeing must have been playing ball for this image as got a lovely feathery edge to the Sun, along with some nice small scale detail in the prominence.  Tenuous filaproms grace the surface too - these clouds of cooler plasma held aloft by magnetic fields.  This shot was taken with the 60mm f6 scope along with a double stacked Daystar Quark and the PGR Blackfly IMX249 camera.

Swirling Plasma and Small Proms - 5th april

The sun is certainly getting quieter as we approach solar minimum, but that doesn't mean nothing is happening on our star, things are just smaller scale.  This shot taken with the ED60 and double stacked Quark shows this well, with the small remnants of the old active region in the left of the picture, and a particularly small prom on the limb.  I like the field of view this setup gives for this sort of thing.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Close Up Proms with the Airylab HaT - 5th April

Despite the clear blue skies the seeing wasn't up to the resolution of 8" aperture with the HaT, I shot a number of images and these are about the best that came out.  Taken with a native Quark and PGR Blackfly IMX249 camera.

EX - AR12699 - Filaments and Magnetic Fields - 5th April

2 solar rotations ago at the start of February the winter sun was graced with the sight of an active region yielding a number of spots.  A rotation later it emerged on the solar limb as nothing more than a region of plage.  On it's second rotation it took a bit of rejuvenation and for a few days following some minor flaring very small spots briefly appeared.  In calcium wavelengths this bright plage is easily seen, however in Ha wavelengths it can be see a region of churned plasma with a central dark filament forming the boundary between the opposing magnetic field lines of the ex-active region.  This shot was taken with the 60mm f6 ED60 scope and double stacked Daystar Quark along with the PGR Blackfly IMX249 camera.

Ha Full Disk - 5th April

It was a case of look carefully on the sun on 5th April.  At first sign there is nothing happening, but look closer and there are a number of very small filaments all over the face of the sun.  The clouds of cool plasma are held aloft above the suns surface by magnetic fields.  Proms were in a small scale and also short supply.  Taken with the double stacked Lunt 50 and the PGR Chameleon 3 camera.

CaK Full Disk - 5th April

Finally some clear skies, and I must have forgot how to use the 40mm CaK scope as I did an awful attempt at focusing on this disk.  All pretty quiet apart from the relic plage from our active region from a few rotations back visible mid disk.  Taken using the home brew CaK filter and PGR Chameleon 3 camera.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

AR12699 - Return of the Plage: Take 2

 When you look at the SDO image above you might be fooled into thinking something big is coming around the solar limb near the solar equator (left hand side).  Sadly this is just the remnants of AR12699 from February, and all that will be visible now is some decaying plage, visible in CaK wavelengths, and possibly discernible in Ha wavelengths.  For most people this will go totally un-noticed.  It should be visible on the LASP solar irradiance plot as a slight up tick in the graph as the slightly brighter plage rounds the limb.  When sunspots are visible the opposite effect happens with a trough or down tick in the graph as the cooler, darker sunspots actually reduce the total solar irradiance as they pass over the Earthward face of our star.  Will be interesting to see over the Easter fortnight how visible this relic plage actually is.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Proms on a Spring Day - 25th March

The first day of spring here in the UK was a warm and bright day, quite different from the weeks of a long cold winter that went before.  There was on and off high cloud and the seeing was far from steady, but it was nice to get the scopes out and see what was happening on our star.  Not much really, a blank disk apart from a nice group of proms on the western limb.  This is where the 8" HaT comes in, with it's ability to get in on the smallest of details as we head into solar winter and an absence of larger scale activity.  It took a number of files being recorded to get something, and this is less than ideal, but certainly better than nothing.  Taken with the Daystar Quark and the PGR Blackfly IMX249 camera.  

Full Disk With The Double Stacked Lunt50 - 25th March

The double stacked Lunt50 is going to be a bit of a work horse through solar minimum.  The extra contrast double stacked etalons brings teases out any filaments whilst also highlighting the areas of brighter plage.  Using the PGR Chameleon 3 it is possible to get the full disk all in one shot, saving the need for creating a mosaic.  

A Trifecta of Full Disks on the First Day of Spring - 25th March

Sunday 25th March marked the start of British Summer Time, with the clocks going forward an hour and the lighter evenings now with us.  For once the weather forecast was promising and I was keen to put the new Tecnosky ED60 through it's paces.  This little scope has a focal length of 360mm and with a an ED fpl-53 doublet promised to be a nice scope.  I tried one visually for the eclipse in America in august and was very pleased so when one was available I picked one up with the intention of it being a quick grab and go full disk scope.  Today allowed testing, and while 60mm is too small to show granulation on the sun it certainly presented a mottling that hinted at it.  Views were also impressive in CaK wavelengths.  Using a double stacked Quark both visually and photographically things were impressive encompassing a full disk in the eyepiece.  Overall I am very pleased with the scope, it is light, compact and performs very well, with the 60mm aperture meaning it is very suitable to poor seeing conditions and also for travel being light weight.  Be sure to click on the image for a full size view to see the finer details.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

AR12702 - Catch It Before It's Gone!

Over the past few days a small emerging flux region has developed in the suns northern hemisphere, initially this was a bright area in both Ha and CaK wavelengths, however now a small group of spots have developed.  Unlikely to develop into anything more if there is a chance in the next couple of days to take a look is worth doing.  As the area passes over the limb there is a good chance there will be prominences associated with it in Ha light.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Take a Journey To The Sun on The Parker Solar Probe

Want to get the hottest ticket this summer without standing in line?

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission launching in summer 2018. The mission will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and your name will go along for the ride.

“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”

Understanding the Sun has always been a top priority for space scientists. Studying how the Sun affects space and the space environment of planets is the field known as heliophysics. The field is not only vital to understanding Earth’s most important and life-sustaining star, it supports exploration in the solar system and beyond.

The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the Sun's atmosphere about 4 million miles from the star's surface. The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles. The mission will revolutionise our understanding of the Sun, where changing conditions can spread out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds.

To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 F. This state-of-the-art heat shield will keep the four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind at room temperature.

The spacecraft speed is so fast, at its closest approach it will be going at approximately 430,000 mph. That's fast enough to get from Washington, D.C., to Tokyo in under a minute.

“Parker Solar Probe is, quite literally, the fastest, hottest — and, to me, coolest — mission under the Sun,” said project scientist Nicola Fox, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “This incredible spacecraft is going to reveal so much about our star and how it works that we’ve not been able to understand.”

Submissions will be accepted until April 27, 2018. Learn more and add your name to the mission here:

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Ex-AR12699 Nothing More Than Decaying Plage - 4th March

Ex AR12699 made it's return over the weekend, however sadly activity in the region has decayed significantly, and despite hopes there would be some sunspots left all that has returned is an area of decaying plage.  This can be seen above in a crop from the latest SDO AIA1700 image.  Here on Earth observers should be able to detects hints of this in Ha and also CaK wavelengths, where at higher resolution in white light it may be possible to detect it too.  .

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Ex-AR12699 To Return Within a Week? 27th February

Taking a look at the SOHO data for the far side of the sun it would seem that AR12699 that passed over the suns limb over a week ago that there are still signs of activity visible.  Loops to the centre of the disk opposite indicate a bipolar active region, and whilst maybe not as active of it's previous rotation there is hope there may still may be sunspots visible.  At the very least a region of plage visible in CaK wavelengths, and possibly white light, should be visible, with the ex-active region likely proceeded with the view of prominences on the solar limb a day or so before the (ex?) active region itself is actually visible.  However the area develops, or not, it gives solar observers something to look forward to seeing in the coming days ahead.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Supergranulation on a Blank Sun - 24th february

Todays sun is totally blank of all our usual features; active regions, sunspots and the like.  However look a little closer and this calcium image of our star shows 'Supergranulation', this pattern of convection cells on the Suns surface was discovered by A.B. Hart in the 1950's using doppler techniques to identify the flows of plasma on the photosphere.  Supergranulation has an approximate size of 30000km in diameter with a lifetime of about 24hrs and a surface flow speed of between 300m/s and 500m/s.  This image was taken with the ED60 at f6 with the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 camera, this first impressions with the scope at these short wavelengths is very favourable.  

I had planned on quite an observing session today, giving a number of scopes their first airing for the new year, however immediately on setting up the HEQ6 mount was dead and would not fire up; investigation revealed a fried inductor on PCB, likely caused by a short as can be seen in the image below.  Looks like a new board is in order. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

A Blank Sun on Saturday - 17th February

After the excitement of the recent active region (ar12699) the sun has returned to a blank and quiet state more typical of our star as it descends into solar minimum.  There were some small proms and a few small hints of filaments, but, on the whole that was it for old yellow face. This shot was taken with a double stacked Lunt50 scope and a PGR Chameleon 3 camera.  Hopefully we'll get a bit more activity in the days ahead!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Ha Full Disk - 11th February

The sun is getting ever higher with each passing day now, and each day gives an ever so slightly longer window for observation as old yellow rise clears the roof tops and trees of the urban skyline.  After dire conditions on Saturday I was optimistic Sunday may bring some clear skies as a low pressure system passed west to east into the north sea and pressure rose.  The air high above the UK was very cold and this led to much instability with towering cumulus shower clouds building which rattled through on a brisk north westerly wind.  The air in-between these clouds was very clear and the sky a rare deep blue so I risked a soaking and setup.  I'm still getting the hang of the Lunt Double stacked 50, as the ideal frame for imaging is just off centre.  I'm pleased with this shot though given conditions, it really was shooting between the clouds.  I'm more pleased to capture AR12699 which was just passing centre disk and may well be one of the last major active regions of the current solar cycle.

Friday, 9 February 2018

A Quick and Dirty Full Disk: 9th February

I got away from work early on Friday afternoon, and to my surprise the sun was visible in the slimmest of gaps, that is viewing with the scope through an open front door with passing cloud!  I decided to try the ED60 f6 with the Lunt wedge for a quick view.  The air was boiling away with the temperature differential in the open door, and was difficult to find focus - i'm not even convinced I did!  Still I was able to see AR12699 which is the largest active region for a while in this declining phase of the solar cycle.  Camera was the PGR Ch3 with a green filter and UV/IR cut.  Better than nothing, especially as that was what I was expecting for a while yet!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A New Setup For The 2018 Solar Season

It's a new year and while we may be on a downward trend in this solar cycle there is still plenty to see on out star.  Here in the UK seeing conditions are often the main governing factor to successful imaging and as a result it is often the case that smaller apertures are able to deliver.  I was very happy to be able to use a Williams Optics 60mm f6 ED scope whilst at the eclipse in august 2017 and was very impressed with it's performance against the Borg50 scope.  A variation of the 60mm recently came up in the Astrograph sale and taking the opportunity to save a bit of money on the regular book price I bought one.  With a focal length very similar to the Lunt50 Ha scope it is easy to get a full disk with the PGR Chameleon 3 camera, and my 2" Lunt wedge fits in very nicely in it's 2" focuser.  I'm also very keen to see how this scope performs at CaK wavelengths too.  Cosmetically it is a nice match for the Lunt 50 on the side by side mount, and apart from imaging should be a great combination for outreach.  With the sun getting ever higher in the sky as we slowly head from winter towards spring, all I need is for us to be able to have some clear skies to get some observing in.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Sunday Sunshine - 4th February

The weather has not been in any way lending towards observing the sun this winters season, endless cloud and grey is not the way toward seeing what is happening 150 million kilometres from Earth.  The weather forecast for this weekend was again unfavourable, but from dawn there were hints of brightness in the sky, and from about 11am solid skies turned into a mobile and transient cloud cover.  I had other commitments for the day but with an hours window I quickly got out the double stacked Lunt 50 and setup.  It was just nice to observe through the eyepiece, and, for several minutes this is what I did, scrolling in and out of the tuneable range of the Lunt taking in the doppler shift that was clear to see with the prominences.  I knew I was on band when the ghostly filament clouds snapped into view on the disk.  Despite the lack of activity it was nice to say hello with our solar friend at the start of a new year.  The little surge prom on the limb was interesting, and, if time allowed would have made for an excellent timelapse, particularly at higher resolution.  Taken with a double stacked Lunt 50 with kick a$$ moonlite focuser, a bit of barlow to get full frame and the solid and reliable PGR chameleon 3 camera.  Hoping for some clear skies next weekend now, fingers crossed!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

First Sun of The New Year - 7th January

The sun is very low in the sky for me around the winter solstice, and for a couple of months hides between the trees and rooftops of the urban skyline.  Clear blue skies on this sunday morning tempted me out in the frost to catch a 20 minute window as the sun glides between the rooftops of neighbouring houses.  The wind was from the east so I knew seeing was going to be poor, and coupled with said rooftops steaming as the heavy frost sublimated in the winter sunshine.  I didn't have long to set up for the shot, so this really is very rough and ready, but is always nice to get a view of our star after such a long break.  Taken with the Lunt DS50 and PGR Chameleon 3 camera.

Iceland Aurora December 2017

I was fortunate to be in Iceland over the Christmas period in December 2017, and as always in Iceland one of my favourite things to do is look out for the Northern lights.  Cloud was a problem but then on Boxing Day and for the following 3 nights the Aurora put on a good show.  Not the best i've seen, but certainly not the worst.  Temperatures of -10c on the night didn't make observing the aurora a pleasant experience but the view certainly helps to forget the cold.  All images were taken with the trusty Canon 350D, 30s exposure, ISO800 with the Sigma 10-20mm lens on 10mm f4.  A link to all images can be found in my Flickr below.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Lunt 50 - Single Stack / Double Stack Comparison - 19th November

I've had my Lunt50 for a month or so now, but, at this time of year here in the UK it's never the best for observing with the low sun and less than ideal weather. I had first light proper last weekend, but in my enthusiasm lost all logic and reasoning and as a result never really ended up with an image I was 100% happy with through continually fiddling with the pressure tuner and double stack unit. Since then i'd given it some measured thought as to setting up the scope, and was ready for whenever the sun may reappear.

The weather forecast was not great for the weekend, but around Sunday lunchtime the clouds broke up a bit giving some transient gaps so I decided to setup and see if I could capture anything. Tuning the scope with some features on the disk was really easy compared to last weekends blank sun, and as a result I decided to get some images in single stack and double stack setup. I'm quite pleased with the performance in single stack, it reveals a lot more detail than my SM40 etalon would. SS image was at prime focus with the PGR CH3.

In previous threads and about the web there has been considerable discussion about the suitability of the LS50 as a scope for imaging in that people cannot reach focus. I struggled with the B600 that came with the scope, but the obvious solution was to use the Coronado BF15, this has much less optical length than the B600 and then reaching focus with a variety of configurations is possible. As an added benefit the BF15 lets through considerably more light than the B600 - I was getting 7ms DS 4ms SS with the B600, with the BF15 it is 1ms SS 3ms DS, quite a difference!

A side by side comparison of the black and white images:

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ha Full Disk - 12th November

It has been some time coming; the full disks I was getting from my trusty DS40 came to an end last year when a slip de-contacted one of the etalons.  I was able to recontact it but I was never completely happy with the results, there was banding and an uneven field of view.  I purchased a 50mm double stack etalon around this time as it was a bargain price, and then only very recently got round to buying the Lunt50 scope to go with it - once you double stack you never go back!  Totally the wrong time of year with a very low sun and poor weather, not to mention the demise into solar minimum, but it is nice to get the full disk overview in Ha.

Conditions couldn't really have been much worse, a direct northerly wind meant the temperatures at 500mB were very low, meaning much instability in the atmosphere.  Throw in the 'Cheshire Gap' effect where the weather blows in straight in between the high ground of North Wales and the Peak District funneling clouds over the West Midlands, and the clear blue skies were just a wolf in sheep clothing.  This time of year the low sun has dropped into the trees from my yard, and I only have a some brief windows of branch free viewing in between the foliage, so I was keen to make the most of things.  

I'm not used to the pressure tuner system, let alone the double stack, but I was pleased with this result that I got at prime focus (350mm) with the DS50.  The camera was the PGR Chameleon 3.  Not much to see on the sun at the moment, the filaments appearing to be associated with the long distant relics of active regions of old.  Not sure how much use I will get out of the scope this winter, another year passes and the trees on my souther horizon get bigger meaning less viewing time.  I will certainly try though if blue skies present themselves.