Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Korea Trip - Part 1

Flying Over the Arctic

A large portion of our recent flight to Korea took place above the arctic circle at approximately 71 degrees north latitude. The route passed westward along the southern edge of the Arctic Sea over northern Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, before heading south over China towards Seoul. A final westward detour avoided nightmare North Korea before landing at Incheon Airport. Fortunately, I had a window seat on the north side of the plane. During most of the lengthy flight land below was obscured by clouds. Infrequent gaps did, however, reveal unfamiliar scenes. While passing over the upper northwestern side of Hudson Bay I saw this strange desolate terrain below:
Soon after leaving Hudson Bay a nice multi-ringed glory appeared against clouds below as we traveled along the northern shore of the Northwest Territories. First, look at the image with no enhancement.
Check out the enhanced version of the glory below.
I saw several examples of broken sea ice while flying over the East Siberian Sea north of Siberia after we crossed the International Dateline.
Odd shapes were common whenever clouds cleared over Siberia.
A frozen Siberian mountain range was the last terrain visible before clouds completely blocked the view below.
Since the entire trip took place in daylight, there was no chance to see any auroral displays from the plane. A journey closer to the winter solstice would be better for aurora viewing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Seething Sunspot Movie

Longest Movie Yet

The movie promised in my last post is now finished!

Large, complicated sunspot group 1476 was centrally located on the Sun's face during my last solar imaging session on May 11. Here's how the Sun looked in white light at the time I was observing. (This is an image from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, not one of my images.)
Giant sunspot group 1476 is centered in this SDO image.
Now look at a magnified image of the same sunspot group in hydrogen-alpha light taken with my telescope. (This is actually one still frame halfway through the movie I made.)
Sunspot group 1476 in h-alpha (Click for full detail.)
Once a minute, for two hours, I recorded a 400-frame video clip of  this sunspot group with my Lunt 100mm solar telescope, a 2X Barlow lens, and a DMK41 camera. These 121 video clips captured solar activity from 9:54 am to 11:54 am EDT (13:54 to 15:54 UT) on May 11. When the 121 still frames derived from these videos are played at the rate of 10 frames per second they produce a 12-second movie showing two hours of solar activity. This is the longest solar movie I've made so far. The full size 30MB movie was too large to upload, so I had to split it into two parts and do significant cropping on each. (It may take a few minutes for the movies to load, so be patient. The movies should run automatically, but, for some reason, they sometimes don't. You might have to click on the movie to make it start.) 

The first movie below is the left side of the full frame showing a small, energetic, white flare with accompanying gas jets.
The next movie is the right side of the full frame including the largest dark umbral region. Narrow, white, energetic regions writhe and glow.
The movies loop continuously. If you watch different portions of the frame as the loops cycle, you can see interesting action almost everywhere. Slight blurring appears from time to time due to atmospheric turbulence.

Hours of painstaking manual alignment failed to remove the slight jitter in these animations. The problem is primarily caused by unavoidable image rotation as my alt-azimuth telescope mount tracks the Sun's movement across the sky. I'd like to get a high quality equatorial mount with arc-second tracking accuracy, but a lottery jackpot would have to come first. I found a perfect, beautiful, quality mount sold by Astro-Physics. The price? Close to $7,000!!! Yikes!!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Finally! No Clouds!

May Sun

After more than four weeks of clouds, rain,and strong wind, a perfect crystal clear day for solar imaging finally arrived on May 11th! An extremely large sunspot group, number 1476, was centered on the Sun's disk facing directly toward Earth and threatening to send eruptions in our direction at any time. During more than three hours observing I captured 142 video clips, each yielding a single image after processing. About 120 of these images will eventually become frames in a movie of sunspot group 1476. It will take several days to produce this movie. In the meantime check out some of the nice still images I was able to get on this lovely May day.

First is a panorama composed of three separate images showing the complex structure in sunspot group 1476.
Sunspot group 1476 (Click for full detail.)
Here's another panorama, this time composed from seven separate images, showing sunspot group 1476 almost centered on the Sun's disk. This is the first time I've been able to construct a decent panorama spanning the entire width of the Sun while using my 2X Barlow lens. Apparently, the image below cannot be expanded to its full 4015 pixel width within this blog format. It's a shame the enormous detail present can't be viewed.
Sunspot group 1476 on the solar disk (Click for a somewhat bigger image.)
Two other small sunspots were also present accompanied by a pair of filaments shown below in a mosaic made from four individual images.
Sunspots 1478 (lower) and 1477 (upper) and two filaments (Click for full size.)
Finally, I was able to capture a bright triangular prominence on the Sun's limb.
A beautiful flame-like prominence (Click for full detail.)
Now I have 120 video clips to process over the next few days. These will, I hope, ultimately produce a movie showing two hours of activity in sunspot group 1476. This movie may appear in my next post if it is not too large to upload.

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

John Lennon