Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Sunspot Parade

Modest Sunspots

By 10 am on November 26th, Thanksgiving day, the temperature was 52 degrees. Thin clouds had completely cleared. There was no wind. It was an amazing mild day for late November, warm enough to sit without a jacket at my telescope.

The following 24-panel mosaic shows most of the solar features on display this balmy morning. A large prominence floated above the limb on the right. Three modest sunspots were on parade along a diagonal line across the disc. Two filaments were on the right. Seeing was not particularly good while capturing images for this mosaic. Consequently, some component parts are a little blurry.
The previous mosaic was constructed by stacking the best 40 frames from individual 400-frame video clips. Seeing improved a bit while the next mosaic was captured. Next below is a 10-panel mosaic with each panel made by stacking the best 100 frames from individual 1,000-frame video clips. The three sunspots are sharper here. (Click on the images for a larger view.)
Seeing kept improving, so I tried capturing 2,000-frame videos to make the next 4-panel mosaic spanning only the three sunspots. I stacked the best 100 images from the 2,000 frame videos. From left to right the sunspots are numbers 2459, 2458, and 2457. The detail is really good in this image! (Click on the image for a larger view.)
Some nice prominences and spicules on the Sun's western limb are shown in this 9-panel mosaic.
Next is a closeup view of sunspot 2458.
Finally, a close view of sunspot 2457.
The temperature rose to 56 degrees as the Sun approached the meridian. Unfortunately, seeing kept getting worse after the brief excellent spell. I quit before noon. It was a pleasant surprise to get these images on Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dramatic Filament Ring

Tiny Sunspots

As fall proceeds solar observing opportunities diminish. The Sun is low in the sky, and it gets uncomfortably cold. Remarkable solar features have been rare lately. On November 14th, however, a giant filament was on display. Conditions were good before noon. It was completely clear, 52 degrees, and somewhat windy. Seeing conditions were better than predicted.

The dramatic, long-lived filament ring was nicely centered on the Sun's face as seen in the following imperfect 36-panel mosaic. Tiny sunspots are almost invisible. (Click on the image for a larger view.) Can you find any sunspots in the larger view? One tall wispy prominence hangs above the right limb. Seeing was good for most of the 36 images used to construct the mosaic, but it deteriorated during capture of the last few blurry images near the top of the Sun.
An inverted view always displays filaments nicely.
The large curving filament was captured in good detail in the following cropped portion of a 13-panel mosaic.
Only one small sunspot was easily visible on the disc. Sunspot 2454 is right of center in this region from the left side of the large disc mosaic above.
The filament ring lifted spectacularly off the solar surface and disappeared on November 15th. I was lucky to find it intact and so well placed on November 14th.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Lost Opportunity

Complicated Sunspot

October 30th was the perfect fall day for solar observing. It was 60 degrees and not one single cloud appeared in the blue sky. A light breeze ruffled my papers. I settled in for a comfortable uninterrupted afternoon with my telescope. Good fortune ended when I tried to open FireCapture, the software that operates my camera. An error message appeared. The "Java Virtual Machine Launcher" told me it "could not create Java virtual machine". Why did this have to happen on such a perfect day?

I had installed a Java update two days before October 30th. Apparently, the update changed a crucial setting somewhere in the mysterious hidden jungle of computer code. So, most of the beautiful afternoon went by while I tried to fix the problem. I looked for driver updates and online troubleshooting tips as wasted minutes ticked on. Nothing solved the problem. Eventually, I operated the camera with bare bones software shipped with the camera itself. This software was a very poor substitute for FireCapture. I struggled with unfamiliar settings and inefficient features. In the end, I was able to produce only two decent pictures.

The next two images show amazing sunspot 2443 not long after it rotated into view around the Sun's eastern limb. A large prominence was located nearby. The sunspot was flaring with lots of neighborhood motion. I had planned to make a time lapse video of this activity, but the software problem canceled that plan. A few days after these images were made the sunspot was more centered on the solar disc. Then its complicated structure was more clearly visible. Two large umbras on the right were trailed by a bunch of smaller umbras stretched out in a long line. This is one of the most unusual sunspot arrangements I've seen. Both images below are 2-panel mosaics. Since they were taken at two different times, there is a slight difference between the images, mostly visible in the prominence and limb features.
After packing up my equipment I emailed the genius who created FireCapture asking for help with my Java problem. He unexpectedly responded quickly with instructions for how to reset parameters within FireCapture. Thanks to his amazing generosity the software now properly operates my camera. But I lost the opportunity to image the Sun on a perfect day.

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