Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sun Day, April 17th - Get Out And Enjoy!

Written by Tammy Plotner

In keeping with global astronomy month, it's time to get out and enjoy another favorite astronomical target - the Sun! It's a star that can be seen from both hemispheres and a great way to involve your friends, neighbors and family in the pleasure of observing. What's more... there's activity going on right now, too!

If you're lucky enough to have an h-alpha filtered telescope, it's a great time to set up your equipment and catch a host of solar prominences, flares and plague activity. Just check out this image below taken by John Chumack and done with a Lunt Solar Systems 60mm/50F H-Alpha dedicated solar telescope and B1200 blocking filter.

These images were taken recently, and to make the current solar action even easier to see, John colorized the next in blue!

Don't have h-alpha? No problem. The white light view is awesome! On the west limb is exiting sunspot 1186 and hot on its heels is the more compact and darker 1190. At center stage is prominent 1191 and to its northeast is 1193.

If you don't have either an h-alpha solar scope, or a proper white light solar filter, you can still observe the Sun with simple equipment! Got binoculars or a small refractor telescope? Then you've got the basis for a great projection set up! Safely cover one side of your binoculars or telescope’s finderscope and aim towards the Sun by aligning the shadow. Project the light onto a surface such as a paper plate or piece of cardboard and adjust the focus until you see a clear circle of light and focus the sunspots. The projection method is used by several famous solar telescopes, including Mt. Wilson Solar Observatory! Always remember... never look into the optics while aimed at the Sun and that your optics will get hot during use.

No telescope or binoculars? Then let's keep trying... this time the pinhole camera method! Get two pieces of cardboard – one will need to be white or have white paper attached to it for the screen. Cut a small square in the other piece of cardboard, and tape aluminum foil over the square. Now make a pinhole in the middle of the foil. This is your “projector”. With the Sun behind you, hold the pinhole projector as far away from the screen as you can and see if you can catch some dark patches on your projected circle that indicate sunspots!

If you're looking for a solar filter for your telescope - or your own dedicated solar telescope, be sure to visit OPT's Solar Observing Products pages. For a lot of other great projects and ideas on how you can celebrate Sun Day, be sure to visit Astronomers Without Borders Sun Day pages. Now, get on out there and enjoy Sun Day!

H-Alpha images are courtesy of John Chumack of Galactic Images, the white light solar images is courtesy of SDO/HMI and many thanks to Astrononomers Without Borders for the Sun Day logo!

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