Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Giant Appears

Tremendous Sunspot

On October 17th enormous sunspot group 2192 rotated into view around the Sun's eastern limb. If not the biggest sunspot of recent years, it certainly ranks close to the largest. I was lucky to have clear skies on October 17th to see the spot emerge. Here's what it looked like as it first became visible near the limb.
The spot doesn't look obviously impressive in the side view above because the entire extent of its structure can't be seen. Four days later, on October 21st, I obtained the following image when the spot was displayed more face-on toward Earth.
I've superimposed a picture of Earth within the large umbra in the next image to show how gigantic the spot is compared to Earth!
Sunspot group 2192 has been very active emitting several strong flares recorded by orbiting solar observatories. While gathering images for a time-lapse movie on the 17th I watched a jet of gas explode and shoot out into space.
The picture above is one still frame from a movie showing about 67 minutes of activity around the sunspot. It will take many hours to construct the movie which I will display in a future post. The next picture below, a combination of 8 individual images, shows the emerging sunspot along with several nice prominences spaced along the eastern limb.
Notice the transition from prominence to filament on the top left above. The transition shows a more three-dimensional appearance in the next closer view.
Relatively modest sunspot 2187 and two dark filaments were also present near center on the solar disc.
There were also some nice prominences on the Sun's western limb:
October 17th was a very productive observing day. I captured 100 video clips before the seeing deteriorated. Looks like 67 of these clips will make a nice time-lapse movie showing churning sunspot 2192. I hope to have the movie ready soon. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Imperfect Conditions

Limited Features

A great solar observing session requires cloudless skies, good seeing, and dramatic features spread over the whole Sun. Although the sky was clear on October 5th, seeing was poor much of the time. Modest features covered only about half the Sun. Imperfect observing conditions, yes, but what a lovely day! It was nice to observe without sweating, freezing, or fighting insects.

Some nice prominences graced the Sun's western limb as shown in the following 5-image mosaic made with a 2X Barlow lens. (Click on the images for a larger view.)
It's hard to capture prominences without overexposing features on the much brighter disc. The next image shows why I covered disc features with a black occulting circle above.
During a period of decent seeing I recorded videos for the following 8-image mosaic showing detailed disc features in the Sun's western half. Sunspot 2182 is below center. Sunspot 2178 is on the right above center. Sunspot 2181 is very near the right edge. Three or four vertically oriented dark filaments add to the scene.
I include the next example to show what can go wrong when constructing a solar disc picture from separate individual images.
This picture above is an 18-image mosaic. You can see how some sections are blurry and some are relatively sharp. The blurry sections were recorded when the seeing was bad causing solar features to swim around in unsteady air. One sharp section near the top is surrounded by blurry sections. It also has a different brightness than its neighbors because I screwed up the recording settings for that one image. The flaws become more noticeable if you click on the image for a larger view. Even though this mosaic failed, it does show a u-shaped filament in the lower left and an erupting sunspot near the limb in the upper right. Look for these features in the larger view. Finally, here's a closer view of the u-shaped filament.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Very Happy Birthday!

Celebrating With My Granddaughters

Happy birthday, indeed, with the help of my granddaughters! Four year-old Sophie loves birthday parties, even when the party is for Papa. Everyone must wear a party hat! Sophie retrieves several from the birthday bag. She hands one to all present. You can't refuse. Don't worry about looking goofy. In my honor she arranged a selection of stuffed animals to concentrate the party joy around me. I was honored. Highly honored.
Silly faces and winking make picture taking more fun.
Lucky grandparents corral the grandkids for pictures after the birthday party.
Little Annabelle thinks the sound of a finger running along a comb is hilarious. She has a contagious, bubbly, heart-warming laugh. You can see my hand to the right of Annabelle's head where I "played" the comb to make her smile.
I felt so happy and content this night.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Filament Triple

Features Bloom

Only five days after my last solar observing session the sky was clear again. On September 27th there were lots of nice features facing Earth. Gentle breezes and mild temperature in the 70's made afternoon observing pleasant. Seeing conditions were not particularly good, however.

Since so many solar features had bloomed, I decided to make a mosaic of the entire Sun, including prominences and spicules on the limb. For more than an hour I recorded images with a 2X Barlow lens. The first image set captured the relatively bright disc. The second image set captured the relatively dim limb. The following mosaic is a combination of 41 individual images: 22 for the disc, and 19 for the limb. In spite of processing and combining the images for several hours the final result is imperfect. Some individual images were blurrier than average, and there was too much overall brightness difference among individual disc images. The result is slight unnatural brightness variation over the disc and subtle horizontal or vertical boundaries between dark and light regions. The imperfections lessen somewhat when the mosaic is viewed at full size, so: (Click on the image for a larger view.)
Three enormous dark filaments stretch out near center and the upper right. The two nearest center were magnificent prominences a week earlier on the left limb. Sunspots dot the right half of the Sun. A few prominences are scattered around the limb. The three biggest filaments stand out nicely in the following inverted version of the previous image.
The first two mosaics were made by stacking the best 40 frames from individual 400-frame videos. The next image was constructed by stacking the best 100 frames from individual 1,000-frame videos. This picture is cropped from a 21-image mosaic and shows most of the sunspots and the three major dark filaments. At top right is sunspot 2175 next to a curved filament. Below center, stretching diagonally upward from left to right, are sunspots 2172, 2173, and 2171.
The inverted version follows.
Next is a close view of sunspots 2172, 2173 and 2171 stretching diagonally across the picture. The detail here is fairly good in spite of the mediocre seeing. This is a wonderfully complex sunspot grouping!
I still haven't managed to create a flawless mosaic of the entire Sun, but I'm getting closer.

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