Sunday 31 March 2013

Easter Sunday Proms - 31st March

Glorious blue skies dawned again on Easter Sunday, it's a pleasant surprise to see such nice weather.  I've got the PST on a camera tripod with me at the moment, and so no tracking capability.  The PST i'm using has quite a wide bandpass and not the best sweetspot, as such whilst not really producing the best full disk images in terms of surface detail it does do a nice job with the prominences; fortunately our star is putting on a fantastic show with these solar flames with plenty to see all around the solar limb.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Proms at the End of the Month - 30th March

I'm away from home at the moment, right next to the sea on the east coast of England, so it was really nice this morning to see clear blue skies with the odd fluffy cumulus cloud floating around compared to the monochrome grey slate skies that have been used to in the landlocked Midlands for what seems like ages:  I only have the PST, DMK31 and camera tripod with me and so there's a limit as to what can be captured but I was really pleased to see the lovely assortment of proms that was on view.  Will be really interesting to see how they change in the days ahead!

Tuesday 26 March 2013

CaK Sun - 26th March

Given this year marks solar maximum this someone hasn't told the sun: even in CaK light our star is pretty quiet with only a couple of small spot groups on the disk.  Even these are pretty lifeless and today NOAA forecasters gave a less than 1% chance of any flare activity.  This shot was taken with the 70mm frac @ f6 with a DMK31 camera.

Monday 25 March 2013

AR11704 - 25th March

New active region AR11704 shows a wealth of interesting features in Ha wavelengths.  Taken with the 70mm PST mod at f12 the seeing was just good enough to allow me to use these longer focal lengths.  With active regions, sunspots, filaments, filaproms, surge prominences and just plain ol' prominences it was all on view today in the suns north east quadrant.  Hopefully the weather will improve and become more spring like allowing me to get some more solar observations in!

Eastern Swathe - 25th March

The Eastern hemisphere of the sun had the most activity today and I decided to do a mosaic of this.  Taken with  the 70mm PST mod at f9 with a DMK31 camera there was alot going on to see! 

Ha Full Disk - 25th March

ha full disk by Mark Townley
ha full disk, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Rapidly passing cloud meant I tried something radical for me today with my Ha full disk: I used a focal reducer. This only needed 2 panes to make the full disk, however using focal reducers with PST mods means sweet spotting is accentuated, and this in indeed the case with this disk where on the west (right) hand side the image can be seen going off band. When we finally get some decent clear skies I may explore this setup a bit more...

AR11704 CaK Closeup - 25th March

Cak closeup colour by Mark Townley
Cak closeup colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

New active region AR11704 is the only real feature of interest in CaK on our star today. This was taken with the 70mm scope @ f9, DMK31 and homebrew CaK filter.

CaK Full Disk - 25th March

cak full disk bw by Mark Townley
cak full disk bw, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Despite our sun being quiet at the moment there is still plenty to be seen in CaK wavelengths. Despite some haze, my new CaK filter design was still achieving exposures of 1/500th sec with the 70mm @ f6, considerably shorter exposure than I was getting previously - great for freezing out those moments of good seeing!

Saturday 23 March 2013

Farside Blast - 23rd March

The nearside of the sun is virtually blank at the moment all bar a few small sunspots, but the train of spots that was with us a couple of weeks ago now is on the farside, and judging by this coronal mass ejection that happened at 13.00ut on the 23rd March they are still quite active.  NASAs SOHO observatory orbiting above Earth recorded the expanding cloud which poses no threat to our planet.

Sunday 17 March 2013

CaK Closeup - 17th March

Following on from my full disk shot there was just enough time before the high cloud thickened up to the point imaging was no longer possible to pop in the 1.6x barlow on the 70mm f6 frac and go for a closeup of the band of activity in the northern solar hemisphere.  Colour version seen below!

CaK Full Disk - 17th March

The clouds finally parted late this Sunday afternoon, if only briefly, to reveal our star through the high cloud and haze.  Shadows were visible on the ground which is more than enough excuse here in the UK to get the solar scopes out.  I'm glad to have managed to get a photograph of the band of active regions that are stretching across the solar northern hemisphere.  This image was taken with the 70mm frac at f6  with the DMK31 and homebrew CaK filter; this is one half of a Baader K-line filter, a 387nm fluorescence filter and the front filter from a CaK PST.  Given the sun was only several degrees above the horizon and the very poor transparency i'm looking forward to trying it out properly when the sun is high in the sky and the sky is blue!   The black and white image is seen below: 

Earthbound Explosion - 17th March

March has been a bit of a drought month for me sun-wise in terms of getting any observations in; the weather only seems to be clear when i'm at work, and when i'm not just seem to get endless grey skies.  That doesn't mean to say the sun has been quiet, on march 15th a magnetic filament associated with AR11692 was launched into space due to the associated M - class flare in an eruption that lasted several hours.  Travelling from the sun at some 900 km/s, or 2 million miles per hour, the CME impacted Earth at around 0600ut on 17th march.  This has triggered a strong geomagnetic storm that is still going strong at the time of writing.  Should clear skies present themselves, skywatchers should remain vigilant for the strong prospect of aurora borealis this evening.  Given that Comet Pan STARRS is currently putting on a great show in the evening sky it could be a great photo opportunity.  I took this picture of the comet on the 13th march when it was low in the twilight.
If i'm not getting any direct sunlight I guess a bit of reflected sunlight is the next best thing!

Tuesday 5 March 2013

The Eastern Swathe - 5th March

Four days of sun in a row for me is quite a rare thing, so when I finished work today I was keen to get back home and get the scope out to see what had been happening on our star.  At only 6 degrees altitude when this mosaic was taken I was really surprised at the level of detail the 70mm PST mod was pulling out.  This was taken at about 850mm focal length with the DMK31 camera, I think this setup is really going to shine later in the year when the sun is higher and the seeing is good.  The sun seems to have burst into activity over the last 24hours with this bonanza of active regions that have appeared.    The colour version of this image can be found below.

Monday 4 March 2013

Sun Through The Haze - 4th March

The weatherman promised 'wall to wall' sunshine today, which was technically correct apart from the ever present layer of high cloud throughout the day.  I got home from work as quickly as possible and setup my kit.  It was soon apparent the haze was thicker than expected - my usual exposure of 1/370s was increased to 1/45s, however the haze was reasonably uniform and so was able to get a half decent shot.  The image above was taken with the 70mm PST mod and 1.6x barlow with a DMK31 camera.  3 days in a row imaging!  Can I make it 4?

Prom - 4th March

prom by Mark Townley
prom, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

A pretty little prominence captured through the haze with the SS70 @ f9, DMK31.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Lucky Imaging - AR11683 / AR11685 - 3rd March

In solar photography we do something called 'lucky imaging' - this is where to generate a picture we first take a video file of the subject that can be formed of a couple of thousand individual frames, then clever software searches through the video file to find only the sharpest frames.  Turbulence in the atmosphere forms a 'heat haze' that blurs images, so we only want to select the best that are the least distorted, we then 'stack' a number of the best frames to improve the final image still further to improve the signal to noise ratio of the picture.

Today I was taking lucky imaging to the extreme; normally I shoot 1500 frames and then stack 200, however the only break in the clouds was so brief I only managed to shoot 98 frames - that's just over 3 seconds of video!  I then used Autostakkert2 to stack the best 25 of the 98.  The image above is the result.  

AR11683 & AR11685 show a great region of the sun, there is so much going on - a whole host of sunspots, flaring, and filaments; there was even a nice prom on view too.  The region looks very angry!  The shot was taken with the 70mm PST mod, 1.6x barlow and DMK31 CCD camera.

AR11683 & AR11685 2nd March

Despite looking a very turbulent region of the sun, the big spot associated with this active region is already showing a light bridge - a line of bright plasma cutting across the umbra and penumbra. Still, there is alot going on here; some mild flaring, swirling plasma and quite a few spots. If the sun could just pep up a bit in terms of its activity things would be better!

Taken with the 70mm PST mod @ f15, achieved by using a 2.5x powermate and DMK31 camera.

AR11682 2nd March

AR11682 70mm  f15 colour by Mark Townley
AR11682 70mm f15 colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Departing active region AR11682 looked very menacing as it is about to pass over the solar limb. 70mm SS @ f15 DMK31.

AR11681 & AR11684 - 2nd March

Taken with the 70mm PST mod and 2.5x powermate to give f15 this shot shows this angry area on the sun. Activity could well build here in the coming days with these active regions.

Prominence & Filament - 2nd March

prom filament by Mark Townley
prom filament, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Taken with the 70mm PST mod and 2.5x powermate a delicate prom and filament can be seen on the solar limb.

AR11680 70mm f15 - 2nd March

ar11680 70mm f15 bw by Mark Townley
ar11680 70mm f15 bw, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

I really liked the delicate filaments that were associated with this active region.

Emerging Active Region 2nd March

This emerging active region was as yet undesignated at the time this image was took using the 70mm PST mod at f15 using the 2.5x powermate.

Ha Full Disk - 2nd March

Ha full disk colour by Mark Townley
Ha full disk colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

A trifecta of full disks from the 2nd march - this was taken with the 70mm PST mod at f12. The longer wavelengths of hydrogen alpha allowed me to up the image scale here. I really like how this new scope is performing and the lovely detailed images it produces. It is a great compromise between size and ability to work well in poor seeing conditions. I believe later in the year when the sun is higher in the sky and seeing is good - saturday seeing was dire! This scope will pull out an extra level of detail. This is producing full disks that are 2000x2000 pixels, and if we do ever get a busy solar disk this year I may have to make a print of it for hanging on the wall using this scope.

CaK Full Disk - 2nd March

CaK full disk colour by Mark Townley
CaK full disk colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Taken with the 70mm frac @ f9 using the homebrew Cak filter that is a Baader K-line, Coronado Front filter and ND-less Lunt solar wedge as an ERF, this image shows that despite their being little current activity on our star there are rumblings going on beneath the surface. The white areas on the disk are areas of turbulent magnetic froth associated with strong magnetic fields. Sadly if the field strength is below 1500 Gauss this will not manifest itself as sunspots on the solar surface.

White Light Full Disk - 2nd March

wl full disk colour by Mark Townley
wl full disk colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Taken with the 70mm f6 with Lunt wedge and baader continuum filter and DMK31, this image shows perfectly what I was saying about in my previous post regards the suns lack of any real activity. In a year of solar maximum we would expect considerably more activity than this relatively blank disk shows.

Saturday 2 March 2013

Double Peaked Solar Cycle 24? - 2nd March

I've mentioned a couple of times over the past months on this blog as to what is happening, or not happening, with solar cycle 24.  Well 2013 has started off so far being pretty uneventful in terms of solar activity, especially seeing as 2013 is supposed to be the year solar maximum occurs in.  However recently solar physicists have been looking at past solar cycles and have decided that they haven't been single peaked, rather double peaked events, with a maximum occurring in one solar hemisphere, then a maximum occurring in the the opposite solar hemisphere.  This isn't difficult to believe, in fact if you look back at images on this blog site you will see that activity has been mainly focused in the northern hemisphere.  This means that as 2013 passes we should (in theory!) see more sunspot activity in the solar southern hemisphere, it will be interesting to see if this is the case, let's hope it is!

NASA have produced a great video about this and can be seen below...