Monday, 20 January 2014

Micro-Flares - 19th January

While I observed the sun on Sunday morning I was pleasantly surprised to see the brightening of a small flare erupting away on the surface of our star.  Despite only being a small B6 class flare this was still the largest explosion that was happening at the time in at least a 4 light year radius.  The dots that are dancing around is dust on the camera sensor - time for a clean me thinks!  This animation represents a time period of about 12 minutes, which really does show how dynamic our star is!  It's the reason I like solar astronomy - the view is continually changing, something say the Orion Nebula or Andromeda galaxy never does; the closest we have is Jupiter which changes its appearance on a timescale of hours not minutes.  This animation was taken with the Coronado DS40 at f20 with the DMK31 camera.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ha Full Disk 19th January

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

Activity seems to be increasing again on our star over the past couple of days, with several new active regions appearing over the limb. Looking at the prominences and the STEREO spacecraft data there would appear to be more to come too. The higher sun worked in my favour today, and I was able to use the DS40 to produce a 6 pane mosaic taken at f20 with the DMK31 camera. I really like all the intricate filaproms that are visible on todays disk!

CaK Sun 19th January

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

Now we are past the winter solstice, with each passing day the sun gets progressively higher in the sky, the days become longer and the nights shorter. Despite it only being just past the middle of january this really struck me today - I now have a viewing window of about an hour and half compared to a mere 45 minutes just a few weeks ago; in a few weeks time when we are in february I will be able to observe straight for a 3 hour run. The sun was a mere 16 degrees altitude when this image was taken, but was high enough to let me image with the 40mm at f20 with the DMK31 to produce a 6 pane mosaic. I have been tweaking the filter arrangement and this shows when viewed full size the spicule ring, spicules and proms quite clearly - quite rare in CaK images! It will certainly be interesting imaging later in the year with the sun much higher in the sky and with the 100mm scope.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

AR11944 Calcium Sun

ar11944-cak-colour by Mark Townley
ar11944-cak-colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Viewing the sun at near ultra violet wavelengths shows quite a different view of the sun than is seen in either white light or hydrogen alpha wavelengths. The white regions are areas of magnetic froth, with the brightest white spots around the sunspots representing the emerging flux region; an upwelling of the plasma flow before it returns to the solar surface along magnetic flux loops. The sun always has plenty to see in this wavelength, and I look forward to the sun being higher in the sky so that I can capitalise on the better seeing. This shot was taken with the 70mm scope at f12 with DMK31 camera, Beloptik Triband ERF and homebrew CaK filter with a DMK31 camera.

CaK Central Swathe 11th January

The suns central belt was bubbling with magnetic froth visible white in this image. This was taken with the 70mm scope at f12 with the Beloptik triband ERF and homebrew CaK filter, DMK31 camera.

CaK Sun 11th January

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

The sun was looking very busy when in Calcium K wavelengths on saturday as this full disk image shows. Taken with the 40mm @ f10 with homebrew caK filter and DMK31 camera.

Ha Mosaic 11th January

ha-mosaic--colour by Mark Townley
ha-mosaic--colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

A collage of 2 images, this image shows the Ha sun always has something of interest. Despite the low sun of january, with each passing day our star climbs higher and higher in the sky, and as it does slowly but surely it's light passes through less and less atmosphere resulting in an image with slightly more detail! Roll on spring and summer!

AR11949 11th January

ar11949 colour by Mark Townley
ar11949 colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

While it might not be the largest of sunspots this is no less photogenic. Looks like something is heading over the limb judging by the surge prom spikes that are visible. 70mm PST mod @ f16, DMK31 camera.

AR11944 The Crackling Giant

ar11944 colour by Mark Townley
ar11944 colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Monster active region AR11944 crackles away with minor C-class flare activity in this shot taken with the 70mm PST mod at f16 with the DMk31 camera.

Ha Full Disk 11th January

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

A full disk in Ha is always an object of beauty, regardless of active the sun is. Well saturdays sun was reasonably busy with plenty to see. This was taken with the coronado DS40 at f10 with the DMK31 camera.

AR11944 - the Bringer of Aurora? 11th January

ar11944-wl-colour by Mark Townley
ar11944-wl-colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

There has been much talk this week of aurora visible here in the UK, well this picture shows the culprit that is the origin of all these rumours: AR11944, the huge sunspot group seen here on the limb of the sun in this photograph. At one point earlier this week the main spot was over 3 times the size of Earth, and the largest spot on the Sun in nearly a decade, it was even visible to the naked eye it was so large. The active region crackled with flares throughout the week sending a coronal mass ejection squarely towards Earth. A combination of social media and BBC stargazing live led the population of the UK to believe that aurora would be visible from the UK. This ended up materialising simply not to be true. It has to be a real 1 in 50 year auroral storm to be visible from the urban population centres of the UK, but as usual the media over inflated the chances of visibility. Yes, aurora are often visible from the northern coasts of Northern Ireland and Scotland, but this is due to the low horizon and the fact the view to the north is over 100's of miles of light pollution free Atlantic Ocean. In the towns, cities and countryside in most places in the UK the horizon is often obstructed due to trees and buildings etc, and then the sky is sullied with light pollution. Most of the time from the favourable locations in the UK the aurora is only visible as a low arc on the horizon with maybe some faint rays shooting up from this. It is only when you get directly underneath the auroral oval in places like Iceland and Lapland that the aurora becomes the bright all sky display that the media portrays. I have only seen the aurora twice in the UK; once some 30 years ago when light pollution was virtually non existent in rural locations, and back in 1999 when a huge storm descended over much of the northern hemisphere of our planet. These types of storms are very few and far between and require flaring from our star considerably larger than what we had this week. It's a shame the media don't portray these things accurately. Interestingly, as a result of this media conditioning, i've had several people say to me over the past couple of days how they saw the aurora in the UK; they didn't see the aurora, it wasn't visible here from the middle of England. Yes, they saw something they thought was the aurora, but because media said they should see it then they did... It's amazing the grip media has on people. Anyway, enough of my rant! I hope you like the picture, i'm glad I managed to photograph this spot before it disappeared over the limb. The shot was taken with the 70mm @ f12, DMK31, Lunt solar wedge, continuum filter and triband ERF.

Central Solar Swathe 11th January

wl central swathe colour by Mark Townley
wl central swathe colour, a photo by Mark Townley on Flickr.

Sunspot activity is slowly but surely getting more and more closer to the suns equator as be seen in this shot. This shot is a mosaic of 2 images taken with the 70mm scope at f12, beloptik triband ERF, Lunt wedge, UV/IR cut and Baader continuum filter.

Saturdays Whitelight Full Disk 11th January

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

A nice range of sunspots was visible on the our star on saturday as can be seen in this full disk image. This was taken with the 70mm frac at f6 with the beloptik tri-band filter. I also used a baader continuum filter in conjunction with this: I never thought I would say this but there was too much light(!), and even with the exposure at 1/10000th second on the DMK31 camera I still needed to use additional ND filtration. I used the Lunt solar wedge with a UV/IR cut without it's ND filter, so in future will try with the ND3 filter, not sure what exposure time this will give me, so may have to get a 'family' of Baader ND filters to get the exposures short, but within the range of the camera.