There’s a big black spot on the Sun today

Photo: Sun with sunspot AR2529, April 13, 2016. Photo by James Guilford.
Sunspot AR2529

Changing a word from an old Police lyric, there’s a big black spot on the Sun today. Sunspot AR2529 is the dominant feature on an otherwise quiet star. Visible to the unaided eye through solar-safe filters, the sunspot is several Earth-diameters across and roughly “heart” shaped! This image was recorded Wednesday, April 13, at 2:19 PM. The bright orange color resulted from use of a solar filter covering the camera lens.

Here is what SpaceWeather.com says about the sunspot: “Since it appeared less than a week ago, AR2529 has been mostly, but not completely, quiet. On April 10th it hurled a minor CME into space. That CME, along with another that occurred a few hours later, could deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field on April 13th.” A CME is a Coronal Mass Ejection wherein the Sun flings plasma from its atmosphere out and into space. CMEs reaching Earth can cause auroras.

Photo Info: Cropped from full frame, Canon EOS M3: ISO 250, 1/1600 sec., f/8, 400mm lens. Photo by James Guilford.

Sun lights up day and night (some places) in early November

Photo: Train of Sunspots, November 4, 2105. Photo by James Guilford.
Train of Sunspots, November 4, 2015. Credit: James Guilford

An impressive train of sunspots has been making its way across the face of our nearest star this week. In the photo above: Designated AR2447 (small group to the left), AR2443 (bigger and darker, near center), and AR2445 (far right), the “Active Regions” have the potential of unleashing flares. In fact, AR2445 was the source of a flare that caused this week’s “northern lights” sighted across northern latitude locations around the world. Now rotating over the Sun’s limb, AR2445 won’t be aimed at Earth for a while — if ever again — but AR2443 has potential for high-energy flares.

Photo credit: James Guilford. Canon EOS 7D II: ISO 400, f/11, 1/1250 sec., 400mm lens with Astrozap film solar filter, heavily cropped, November 4, 2015.

Partial solar eclipse gets great exposure, reviews

Photo: Solar eclipse sequence by Stan Honda.
Solar Eclipse Sequence from Voinovich Park, by Stan Honda

Members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) were present across the Greater Cleveland Area both hosting and participating in observation of the October 23 partial solar eclipse. The club hosted an event at Voinovich Park in Downtown Cleveland, assisted with an event at Gordon Park with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and observed from the Chapel Hill Mall parking lot (Cuyahoga Falls), Mapleside Farms (Brunswick), Bradstreet Landing (Rocky River), and the Avon Lake Boat Launch. Members watched and, in some cases, imaged the sunset eclipse.

Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse, October 23, 2014, by Dave Watkins.
Note the Large Sunspot Group Near Center, Long Filament Near Top – Image by Dave Watkins

Member and event organizer Jay Reynolds wrote, “At Voinovich Park, I had so many compliments about the quality of the event and the generous members ‘letting us use their equipment’ and ‘sharing with us’. Six people commented ‘how nice everyone was’, ‘What a great group to do this’, ‘We are so lucky to have such a proactive group’, ‘They really connected us with something special, I had no idea’, and ‘This was great’.”

Photo: Observers at Voinovich Park, by Jay Reynolds.
Observers at Voinovich Park, Cleveland, by Jay Reynolds

The eclipse and the CAA received widespread media coverage, according to Reynolds, including pieces on WTAM, Fox 8, WKYC, and others. Channels 3, 8, and 19, during their evening news broadcasts, credited the club with the event. Reynolds also learned that WKYC (Channel 3) was streaming the event live via the Internet and recorded more than 1,000 viewers.

Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse. Photo by Dave Nuti.
Eclipse Image Through the Eyepiece – Christopher Christie’s Telescope, Photo by Dave Nuti

Carl Kudrna: “I can report a nice turnout at Bradstreet’s Landing too. I had about 20 folks/children at my scope, and using the transit viewing filter too. We had a good view all the way to maximum then the sun started hiding behind trees along the cliffs. We had great views of the huge sunspot area at low center. Couldn’t see the sunset but we watched there till around 7:00. One young lady and her daughter had the only other scope there – a nice scope from the ’70s – a 60mm Unitron with a handsome wooden tripod. Due to the absence of a filter for it, they used the projection method of viewing the sun…. It was a great time.”

Dave Watkins: “I ended up at the north west corner of the parking lot at Chapel Hill Mall in Cuyahoga Falls. There were about 10 people there. Somebody called security on us, so we got a visit by the mall security. They said they got a call about a large group of people behaving strangely.”

Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse with airplane. By Matt Franduto
Lucky Catch – See Airplane Near Bottom of This Image! – by Matt Franduto

Matt Franduto, observing from Mapleside Farms with another club member, wrote of his photo (above), “It was late, Carl and I were getting a little frustrated with the clouds and I was having a little trouble keeping the sun centered for my imaging.  I snapped off a few shots, not really expecting much.  Then I got home and saw the {airplane}.” He believes this may be a “once in a lifetime shot!”

Astronomy enthusiasts often complain about Northeast Ohio’s often less-than-perfect skies (being polite here) but one man disagreed with that assessment.

Photo: Suzie Dills and Stan Honda, by Jay Reynolds
CAA Member Suzie Dills with New York City Visitor Stan Honda, by Jay Reynolds

“A special guest, Stan Honda, came all the way from New York City in an 8-hour drive to see the eclipse and to take photos at Voinovich Park,” reported CAA President William Murmann. “Stan is in a club that has star parties in New York’s Central Park, where he said they basically can just see the Moon and a few bright objects. Stan emailed me earlier this month about coming to Cleveland to see the eclipse. It was great to meet him!”

Photo: Eclipse Viewers in Avon Lake. Photo by James Guilford.
Eclipse Viewers at Avon Lake Boat Launch’s Fishing Pier. Photo by James Guilford.

Steve Korylak and James Guilford viewed and photographed from the Avon Lake Boat Launch fishing pier along Lake Erie. A good-sized crowd of perhaps 100 gathered there and the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, Bay Village, led public viewing.

Streaks of Cloud and a Giant Sunspot Group Cross Sun's Face - Photo by James Guilford
Streaks of Cloud and a Giant Sunspot Group Cross Sun’s Face – Photo by James Guilford

Lakefront viewers were hoping for a colorful sunset with the eclipsing Sun sinking into the waters of Lake Erie. That didn’t happen. Instead, as the eclipse progressed, it descended into a bank of Lake Clouds streaking, at first, the brilliant crescent-shaped Sun, then covering it entirely. The clouds made for a dramatic and mysterious view, memorable in its own way.

Photo: Eclipsing Sun sinks into Lake Clouds. Photo by James Guilford.
Eclipse Ends in Clouds, by James Guilford

 

Big sunspot takes aim at Earth

Photo: The Sun with sunspots July 12, 2012. Photo by James Guilford.
Just below center-left, is AR1520, as seen from Northeastern Ohio on July 12 at 6:18 PM EDT.

Dominating the face of our Sun, this week, has been an enormous group of sunspots including those designated AR1520. The active Sun has been very interesting to watch, of late, as the dark spots rotated over the star’s limb and towards the center of its disk, facing Earth. Hydrogen-alpha observers have also been rewarded with good numbers of prominences spouting into the blackness of space. Forecasters stated AR1520 had great potential for flare activity and on Thursday, July 12, the forecast was fulfilled — just as the sunspot was aimed directly at Earth.

According to SpaceWeather.com, “Big sunspot AR1520 unleashed an X1.4-class solar flare on July 12th at 1653 UT. Because this sunspot is directly facing Earth, everything about the blast was geoeffective. For one thing, it hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) directly toward our planet. According to a forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the CME will hit Earth on July 14th around 10:20 UT (+/- 7 hours) and could spark strong geomagnetic storms. Sky watchers should be alert for auroras this weekend.”

NASA’s orbital solar observatories, of course, captured images of the flare as it erupted. Very rarely is any individual human observer watching when the detonation occurs but one can get lucky. CAA Vice-President Mike Williams was very lucky. “I was looking at the spot {with my personal solar telescope} when it popped,” he said. “Wow what a sight!”

As so often seems the case, weather forecasts for the weekend include plenty of clouds to interfere with the view. Still, aurora fans should stay alert to active displays and the potential for clear skies; it could be a good show!

UPDATE: The CME impacted the Earth’s magnetic field at ~ 1800 UT or 2:00 PM EDT, July 14.

Photo above: The Sun with prominent AR1520 accompanied by smaller sunspots. Canon EOS 50D: ISO 400, f/11, 1/1000 sec., 400mm telephoto lens with AstroZap white light filter, 6:18 PM, July 12, 2012 — “just before the clouds rolled in,” according to photographer James Guilford.

Now all we need is clear skies

Photo: The Sun as it appeard the morning of May 24, 2012. Photo by James Guilford.
The Sun with (center) sunspot #1486 and (upper-right) sunspot #1484. Converted to monochrome.

“I spent some time this morning experimenting with solar photography. On June 5 the transit of Venus will take place and, since the next one after that won’t happen for another 115 years, I thought I should try for this year’s! Call me impatient. I discovered to my dismay that my very expensive, modern-design, Herschel Wedge won’t work for photography with my six-inch refractor telescope and DSLR. I could not crank the camera “in” close enough to achieve focus with the wedge in place. Rats! I’m going to make quick queries to see what I can do to resolve the issue if I’m to use the wedge any time soon … and June 5 is soon!  So with the telescope still set up in the mid-morning sunshine, I removed the wedge and covered the telescope’s objective lens with the very inexpensive AstroZap filter made using Baader AstroSolar film. I connected my trusty (and light-weight) Canon Digital Rebel XT to the scope’s eyepiece holder for prime-focus imaging and made several bracketed exposures. Later I discovered the results were very good though not quite as good as shots made with my Canon EOS 50D and Canon 400mm telephoto. The difference in quality may be attributed to seeing conditions –the images were made days apart– but either setup will do just fine for recording the upcoming historic celestial event. Now all we need is clear skies on that day!” — James Guilford

Mother’s Day: AR1476 and her “children”

Photo: Sunspots on May 13, 2012. Photo by James Guilford.
AR1476 and her “children” on the face of the Sun. Photo by James Guilford.

Sunday, May 13 dawned reasonably clear and so, with cloudy skies anticipated, a few rushed observations were made of our Sun. AR1476 continues to dominate the solar disk through it has been joined by several smaller but notable sunspots. A CME was Earthbound and expected within a few hours with minimal effects expected. Also visible in this photo are granulation and other disturbances in the solar atmosphere. The photo above was made by CAA member James Guilford: Canon EOS 50D: ISO 400, f/8, 1/1,250 sec., 400mm, AstroZap white light film solar filter, May 13, 2012 at 9:15 AM.

CME on its way though aim is off a bit

Photo: Sunspot group AR1476, May 2012, by Jay Reynolds.
AR 1476 as photographed May 10 through the clouds by Jay Reynolds.

Sunspot group AR1476 finally spit out a coronal mass ejection (CME) though perhaps a bit late for a direct shot at Earth. The active region has been the focus of much attention from solar-interested scientists and amateur astronomers of every ilk. The huge grouping is rotating away from the center of the Sun’s disk and will soon pass over its limb. In the mean time, clouds and inclement weather are moving into the Northeastern Ohio area, obscuring the fascinating markings … visible to the unaided (but properly-protected) eye.

SpaceWeather.com reports: “On May 11th at 23:54 UT, a coronal mass ejection raced away from the sun faster than 1000 km/s. The fast-moving cloud will deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field on May 14th around 14:30 UT, according to a revised forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab. Mars is also in the line of fire.”

Photo Notes: AR 1476 as photographed through the clouds May 10, 2012, by Jay Reynolds who was birding when lake effect clouds reduced the brightness enough to get this photo. Canon 400mm telephoto, 1/1,250sec., f/13. Extreme caution is warranted when photographing the Sun. A clearing in the clouds or a hole in a solar filter can instantly and permanently damage the eyes.