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. 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.

Here comes the Sun(spots)

Photo: Sunspot Group by Christopher Christe.
Sunspot group AR1476 via telescope & smartphone by Christopher Christe

A string of clear-sky days has allowed amateur astronomers to get a good look at a string of sunspots. AR1476 was rotating towards the center of the Solar disk on Thursday, May 10, when CAA member Christopher Christe aimed his telescope (a six-inch Newtonian) for a look. Protected using a Baader solar filter, Chris could clearly see the huge sunspot group and, holding the lens of his camera-equipped smartphone to the eyepiece, shot a photo. As smartphone cameras become more common and continue to improve, we are seeing them employed in astrophotography more often.

Today (May 11) AR1476 was aimed squarely at Earth. made the following comments: “NOAA forecasters estimate a 75% chance of M-class solar flares and a 20% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours. Any eruptions are likely to be geoeffective because the source, sunspot AR1476, is directly facing our planet.”