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.  .