Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Limb Detail

Lately, when the Sun has dramatic features, my skies are cloudy. When clouds clear, the Sun is relatively bland. Such was the case on August 24th when there were no major sunspots. Although we are near the predicted solar activity maximum, there have been few enormous, complicated, photogenic sunspots. Because my observing opportunities are so rare I need to use any one that comes along, even when showpiece surface features are absent. So, on August 24th, I tried to capture details near the solar limb.

This 12-image mosaic, made with a 2X Barlow lens, shows most of the solar disc on August 24th. Two small, barely visible sunspots are rotating around the Sun's western rim on the right. The biggest sunspot, number 1823, is to the right of center. Tiny sunspot 1828, with a dark filament to its lower left, is left of center.
Click for full detail.
Next is a solo portrait of the most prominent sunspot, 1823, showing some limb detail to the right of the sunspot.
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Well, that's it for disc detail in this post. I've previously mentioned how difficult it is to capture disc detail and limb detail together in the same image. Limb features are underexposed when disc features are properly captured. Disc features are overexposed when limb features are properly captured. Since there were few disc features to be seen on August 24th, I decided to experiment with camera settings. I tried to adjust exposure time, gain, and gamma factor to capture at least some disc features while simultaneously getting good limb detail. The next image is one experimental result - an 18-image mosaic, made with a 2X Barlow lens, of the entire limb and part of the disc.
Click for full detail.
Although disc features are overexposed, you can still see them. The prominences and spicules along the limb show up quite nicely, especially in the larger image obtained by clicking. In this image limb details also include a kind of haze just above the spicules. The haze can be removed manually, but it's quite a tedious time consuming job. Notice the large filament at the bottom to the left of center. You can follow its extent as it crosses from the disc over the edge. It shows how a filament seen against the solar disc becomes a prominence when viewed on the solar limb. Here is a solo portrait of this filament-to-prominence transition:
Click for full detail.
A few solar imagers who post their work online somehow manage to capture very high resolution images of regions near the limb. I've seen pictures showing exquisite detail and seamless transition from disc features to limb features. I wish I knew the secret to obtaining these images. The image above is relatively poor compared to some of the best work online.

In the final image below, I blocked out the disc to exhibit limb detail alone. The false yellow color seems to show well on computer screens. I spent hours manually removing the hazy noise in this image. It's the best prominence and spicule image I've produced so far.
Click for full detail.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Brief Observing Window

Five Sunspots

A cold front passed through Lynchburg leaving a nearly clear blue morning sky on August 2nd. I quickly set up my telescope and discovered very steady images on the computer screen. Initial inspection of the Sun revealed five modest sunspots, but no dramatic filaments or prominences. Prominences were not prominent! I decided to image only disk features for this session.

The 22-image mosaic below, made with a 2X Barlow lens, shows most of the solar disk on August 2nd. Three sunspots appear along a diagonal line running from left to right on the upper portion of the disk. They are numbered 1809, 1808, and 1807 from left to right. Another two sunspots lie along a parallel diagonal line in the lower portion of the disk. They are numbered 1810 and 1806 from left to right. Steady atmospheric conditions allowed this mosaic to show very good detail which will become apparent when you click on the image to get a larger version.
Click for full detail.
Next is a nicely detailed view of sunspot 1809 alone.
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The following 5-image mosaic captures sunspot 1806 and its surroundings in sharp detail. In particular, notice the region to the left of the sunspot. The grass-like spicules are very vivid!
Click for full detail.
Sunspot 1806 itself displayed complicated structure seen in the magnified image below made with a 5X Barlow lens. The spot rests in a depression surrounded by a swirling forest of spicules. Dark stripes running diagonally from the darkest region down to the smaller group of dark spots probably follow magnetic field lines between regions of opposite magnetic polarity. When I obtained this image clouds were beginning to cover the Sun. Although I'm fairly happy with the image, I'd like to get sharper detail in the future. I had good seeing this time, but blasted clouds got in the way.
Click for full detail.
I finished my first video clip at 8:45 am. Unfortunately, increasing clouds ended my observations at 9:55 am. I managed to get 36 video clips in the brief one hour and ten minute observing window available. It's too bad I couldn't take advantage of the good seeing conditions for a longer time.

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