Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Solar Handbook
At the moment I’m reading through the Solar Astronomy Handbook by Beck,Hilbrecht, Reinsch and Volker. This book with more than 500 pages is a very complete observers guide to the Sun. It was published in 1995, so you won’t find the newest observing techniques like webcam imaging in this book. However, it tells you everything you want to know about Solar Observation in white light, H-alpha and even amateur magnetic field observations. There are also some chapters on how to observe and register solar eclipses (visual, photography, filming etc.) I am reading this book because I want to learn how to register my solar observations in white light and H-alpha, how to count and classify sunspots, active regions, prominences etc. Anyway. this is the most complete work on solar observing that I could find at the moment. If you have any questions about the Solar Astronomy Handbook, please give a comment or send me an e-mail.

Willman-Bell inc. publishes this book under ISBN 0-943396-47-6


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Clear Skies!
Posted by Math on 10/19 at 01:42 PM | (0) Comments | filed in: Books and magazines | Print
Sunday, October 16, 2005
PST lecture
Last Friday I gave a lecture about observing the Sun in H-Alpha with the Coronado PST. At the local astronomy club people got interested in the PST after I showed them the first images I shot a few weeks ago. To give them an idea of what to expect from the Coronado PST, I made a small PowerPoint presentation about using the PST, observing the Sun in white light and H-alpha, and my first results with the PST. It still amazes me (and many others) what you can see (and photograph) on the Sun with this little instrument. Filaments, plage's, active regions, flares, prominences, sunspots, its all visible with the Coronado PST. This is definitely the best value for money you can get for observing the Sun.


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I also hope to show you some more result with the Baader Herschel wedge (white light), but the Sun is going lower and lower in the sky during the coming months. The Sun disappears behind the trees and stays invisible from my backyard for quite some time, so I will have to wait until next spring for more solar observing sessions. But....... when the Sun goes lower in the skies, the Moon rises higher and higher, so this is the season for lunar observing and imaging. I will keep you updated!

Posted by Math on 10/16 at 04:40 AM | (0) Comments | filed in: Equipment | Print
Monday, October 10, 2005
Three prominences
On Sunday 9 October 2005 I observed the Sun for a while with the Coronado PST. (In white light there was absolutely nothing visible). Along the solar limb there where 3 major areas that showed some very delicate prominences (see image 1 and 2). Also one really large filament was visible (see first image). The Sun was low in the sky and there were some very thin clouds that obstructed the view every now and again. The two images below where the best I could get (click to enlarge).


image image

Posted by Math on 10/10 at 07:00 PM | (0) Comments | filed in: Solar log | Print
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Coolpix 4500 and solar images
In the last few weeks a few people asked me how I connect my camera to the Coronado PST. On the image below you see the Nikon Coolpix 4500 connected to a Vixen Lanthanum eyepiece using an adaptor. The eyepiece combined with the adaptor and camera goes into the focuser of the Coronado PST. You can get adaptors from Scoptronix for many camera / eyepiece combinations. Just send them an e-mail with the details of your equipment (eyepieces you use and camera you want to connect) and they will tell you which adaptor(s) to order.


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Click to enlarge

If you want to see the exact setup of my connectors for the Coolpix 4500, the Televue plossl eyepiece and the Vixen Lanthanum eyepieces, follow this link to the equipment section of my website. Here you will find a photo album with images of the complete setup.
Posted by Math on 10/09 at 08:59 PM | (0) Comments | filed in: Equipment | Print
Sunday, September 25, 2005
The Sun is "on fire"
On Wednesday the 21st of September the Sun was on fire. It is hard to explain in words what I saw. Early in the morning I pointed the Coronado PST at the Sun. Large parts of the solar limb seemed to be alive with large prominences, and on the solar disk I could detect a large active region, AR 0810 and a few filaments. AR 0810 was visible as a sunspot (dark, black), with a large bright area (plage). There was also a large filament between the active region and the limb of the Sun. The most spectacular features where the large prominences. One of them was completely detached from the Sun and seemed the hover in space.

It is amazing what you can see with the PST. I shot the image below later that day. It should give you an idea of what I saw, but I have to admit that the image doesn't come near to what I actually saw through the small solar scope. The filaments looked like very fine threads and I cannot capture them as I visually saw them. But that goes for a lot of objects. I once observed M 13 under very good conditions with a superb telescope. There is no single picture that comes even near to what I saw that night. Any camera cannot beat the eye-brain combination. I'm sure of that.

Anyway, here's the best image I could shoot (and process) of this "flying" prominence. It was shot with the Nikon Coolpix 4500, image size 2272 x 1704, highest quality, iso 100, 1/8 second, f / 8.2. I used a 15mm Vixen Lanthanum eyepiece (magnification is about 26x) and 4x optical zoom. Image processing: level adjustment (in different color channels), brightness/contrast, hue/saturation (only in magenta) and unsharp masking.


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What I also learned that day, is that there are probably two factors that are very important for getting good images: get the image focussed as good as possible and shoot a few series, so you can catch a moment of good seeing. I shot a few series in the morning, and I didn't get one good image. Around 12 O'clock local time I shot another series, with the same equipment and settings. I got significantly better images than a few hours before. Only two things could have changed: I re-focussed the camera and probably got lucky with moments of good seeing.

Enjoy cool smile
Posted by Math on 09/25 at 05:35 AM | (0) Comments | filed in: Solar log | Print
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Painting and the Sun
This week the weather is ideal for touching up the paintwork around the house. The sun was still warm and there was almost no wind. Between the painting sessions, I rolled out the EQ-6 with the PST and the TAL 100RS to observe the Sun every now and again. The PST just amazes me every time I use it. There where many details visible on the solar disk. In active region 0810 the sunspot and a large plage was clearly visible. There where two or three filaments on the solar disk. At the edge of the sun things where spectacular as you can see on the images below. There where two large groups of prominences. A fantastic sight.

image image
Click on images to enlarge


The images where shot with the Nikon Coolpix 4500, a 15mm eyepiece, full optical zoom, exposure 1/30s, ISO 100, f / 5.1, 2274x1704 pixels. Processing: level adjustment, contrast and brightness, hue/saturation and unsharp masking.

I also had the chance to have a look at the Sun in “white light” with my new Herschel Prism mounted on the TAL 100RS. On the image below (taken with the Coolpix 4500, a neutral density 3.0 filter and a Baader Continuum filter, ISO 100, exposure 1/500s, f / 2.6, 2272x1704 pixels. Processing: Contrast/brightness and unsharp masking) you can see active region 0810 in white light. The green color is caused by the Continuum filter. I didn’t find the time for more detailed images, because…. a lot of paintwork was still waiting.


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Posted by Math on 09/20 at 01:34 AM | (0) Comments | filed in: Solar log | Print
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Deepsky, Herschel and Tirion


Observing the deepsky
This weekend is packed with astronomy. Last night I enjoyed a few hours of stargazing with Leo, a fellow astronomer. We toured Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Andromeda and Perseus using big binoculars (15x80 and 20x90) and the Sky Window / Sky Mirror. Occasionally we used Leo's 10-inch Dobson. We visited a few of old friends: Stock 2, the double cluster, ET (NGC 457), Herschel's Garnet Star, M 31, The hockey stick, Alpha Persei Moving Cluster, Algol, and later that evening a nearly full Moon. The seeing was not to good, but it felt good to have a few hours of deepsky observing after two weeks.

Posted by Math on 09/17 at 03:44 PM | (0) Comments | filed in: General | Print
Friday, September 09, 2005
Double rainbow
Two weeks ago I got my Baader Herschel wedge. I could not get my 4-inch refractor into focus using my 1.25 eyepieces. I could not turn the focusser inward far enough. Yesterday I visited a fellow observer who is going to shorten my TAL 100RS refractor by two inches. I hope that I can use the Herschel wedge with this "shorter" refractor. I will keep you updated. Just before leaving I shot this image of a beautiful (double) rainbow.


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Posted by Math on 09/09 at 09:00 AM | (0) Comments | filed in: Atmospheric optics | Print
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