Monday, March 24, 2014

Enormous Filaments

Many Features!

Afternoon skies were clear on March 21st, one day after the vernal equinox. It was occasionally breezy, but seeing conditions were slightly better than my previous two observing sessions in Williamsburg. The Sun put on a good show! Sunspots, active areas, and filaments were nicely spread across the solar disc.

The first portrait below is a 26-image mosaic showing most of the action on the disc. From left to right below center are sunspots 2014, 2010, 2008, and 2004. From left to right above center are sunspots 2013 and 2005. Check out all the dark filaments! In particular, notice the three enormous nearly parallel filaments on the lower right! They look like scratch marks from a monumental cosmic claw! (Click on all the images below for a larger view.)
Filaments are held above surrounding gases by magnetic fields. Their levitation shows up well in the next image, an inverted version of the previous picture.
Now take a closer look at some of the features. First, check out those huge filaments near sunspot 2004. The upper filament is roughly 25 Earth diameters long! Its twisty partner underneath is even longer!
The inverted image displays very nice filament float.
Large sunspot 2005 had an active area to its upper left with a filament stretched out toward the upper left.
Sunspot 2014 (lower) and sunspot 2013 (upper) were near the eastern limb. A small active area was gushing near the limb at center.
Sunspots 2010 (left) and 2008 (right) occupied center on the sun's disc as seen in the following cropped segment from a 12-image mosaic. This image, filled with interesting detail, is one of the nicest portraits I've been able to capture recently.
Not many big prominences were present besides this one on the southeastern limb.
All pictures here were made with a 2X Barlow lens. I'm still gathering adapters to eliminate interference fringes which appear in images made with higher power Barlows.   

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunspot Belt

Warm, Sunny Afternoon

Afternoon temperature was near 80 degrees on March 11th. Clear skies stretched above. Gentle puffs of warm wind rustled my hair. It was a good day for solar observing.

Initial alignment of the telescope mount was much easier than my previous attempt. I placed the round tripod feet on circular marks drawn during my last observing session. When the telescope slewed to the Sun, eyepiece crosshairs were only about 5 arc minutes away from dead center! Seeing conditions were mediocre again.

Several modest sunspots were spread like a diagonal belt across the solar disc. You can see them in the first image below - a 12-image mosaic made with a 2X Barlow lens. On the left is sunspot 2002. Next, near center, is a pair called 1998. Then comes 2003. Finally, near the right edge, sunspots 2001 and 1996 are about to rotate out of view. Click on the images for a larger view.
Let's take a closer look at some sunspots. The next picture shows large sunspot complex 2002 imaged with a 5X Barlow lens. Unfortunate interference fringes (circular arcs) ruin the scene. I'm ordering equipment that should remove these annoying features. Even with the fringes you can see complex structure and seething white energetic emissions.
The next image, made with a 2X Barlow lens, shows sunspot pair 1998 left of center and sunspot 2003 in the upper right corner.
Now look around the solar limb. The next two images show part of the eastern limb with a prominence and two filaments.
Inversion of the previous image shows filaments floating.
Finally, the next two images show prominences on the western limb.
Departing sunspots 2001 and 1996 can be seen on the upper right in the picture above.

Warm days should be more frequent now. I'm bound to get a day with better seeing.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Winter Sun

Earliest Images Yet!

I've never captured solar images in February because the low winter Sun has always been blocked by trees and houses at my Lynchburg observing site. Now, my new unobstructed site in Williamsburg makes year round observing possible. On February 24th the sky was beautifully clear, and afternoon temperatures reached the mid 50's. The gusty breeze was a bit too strong, but it seemed like a good day to use my telescope for the first time in Williamsburg.

It took longer than usual to set up because I hadn't yet painted alignment marks for the tripod legs. After leveling the mount and pointing it north, the initial slew to the Sun was inaccurate mostly in elevation. I adjusted the mount and quickly centered the Sun in the eyepiece. The first video clip was obtained at about 2:40 pm! Observing at 2:40 pm was always impossible at my old site because the Sun was inevitably behind tree branches then. So I began my first imaging session with the Sun west of the meridian. Seeing conditions were mediocre. Frequent strong wind gusts blew some of my equipment around.

A few modest sunspots were scattered across the solar disc. The first image below shows active region 1987 to the right of center, sunspot 1989 near top center, and emerging sunspot 1990 near the Sun's limb at lower left. Sunspot 1990 was returning for its third trip across the Sun after spending almost two weeks rotating around the side facing away from Earth. It was called 1944 on its first trip and 1967 on its second trip. Click on the image for a larger view.
The next image shows a large complex active area with many small sunspots. The largest one on the left is 1982, and the one on the far right is 1981. This group looked more dramatic in white light images than it did in hydrogen-alpha. Click on the image for a larger view.
I'm looking forward to getting more efficient at my new observing site and taking full advantage of improved conditions there. I'm particularly curious about seeing conditions. So far it's been windy almost every day. It's too early to tell if wind will be a year round problem.

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