Archive for April, 2015

The Sun 26th April 2015

April 26, 2015 Leave a comment


Quite a difference on the north east (top left) limb of the Sun today compared to two days ago. The huge hedgerow prominence has now rotated onto the side of the Sun facing Earth and rather than seeing it side-on we are now looking at it from the top as a floating filament against the background chromosphere. It has all but disappeared in my little 40mm hydrogen alpha telescope and is represented by the darker smudge at top left, close to the tallest prominence. The tall prominence is the last visible trace of the longer hedgerow prominence on the limb before it also rotates westward and turns into a filament. Another dark filament can be seen on the right of the disk close to the active region 2331 and 2327 sunspots.

limbproms2Above: Close up view of the prominence and filament region on the north east limb

cakdisk-15-04-26-10-19-10vdAbove: The Sun in CaK light showing sunspots and active regions 2331, 2327, 2325

Images taken 9.53 – 10.19 am (UTC+1) Coronado Ha PST 40mm, Coronado CaK PST 40mm, Imaging Source DMK41 mono video camera. Processed in Registax 6 and Photoshop CS2.

Explore the asteroid Vesta in 3D with a new NASA web application

April 25, 2015 Leave a comment

vesta3dmainAbove: The main 3D interface (click image to enlarge)

In July 2011, four years on from it’s launch in 2007, the NASA Dawn spacecraft parked itself in orbit above the second largest asteroid in our Solar System and proceeded to take a series of high resolution photographs as well as gathering a wealth of other scientific data. Now NASA have combined the images and data into a spectacular 3D web-based application which lets everyone explore the surface in amazing detail. To use the NASA Vesta Trek application go here

It is useful to take the brief interactive tour that you are presented with at the start to familiarise yourself with the layout and various analysis tools that are available. Initially your view will be flat in 2D, but just head to the 3D button at bottom left of the screen and you get the much more visually appealing and fun-to-use 3D view. If you click on the menu buttons at top right a panel slides out from the right (click the menu buttons on the panel again to hide the side panel). This panel has some great information buried in the various layers, which each have a visibility button and transparency slider so that you can adjust single or multiple stacked layers of information as desired.

The data layers available include element composition of surface layers, with some detailed layers showing Hydrogen and Iron distribution based on Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector analysis of the interaction of cosmic rays with the surface materials. In addition there is an excellent geological map, a true colour image and useful colour or black and white hillshade tools that really bring out the relief.

vestageologyAbove: The geological map layer (click image to enlarge)

vestacolorhillshadeAbove: The colour hillshade layer brings out terrain relief (click image to enlarge)

In the Tools menu I had great fun with the Line tool to derive elevation profiles of craters and the strange ridge terrain around the bulging equator of the asteroid. Simply select the Line tool and draw a line across something interesting in the terrain with the mouse. Now left click on the yellow line and from the popup box select Calculate Elevation. Another pop-up box appears with a terrain elevation model measured in elevation and distance. If you run your mouse left to right along this elevation chart you will see a corresponding marker move along your drawn yellow line so that you can see where you are on the line – genius !!

vestaridgeelevationsAbove: Investigating the terrain of the equatorial ridges with the Line tool (click image to enlarge)

Bringing education and the use of cutting edge technology bang up to date NASA have even provided blueprint data so that if you happen to have access to a 3D printer (I want one now !!!) you can even print out an accurate 3D model of the asteroid as a whole, or selected individual features in the terrain – how cool is that !!!

The Dawn spacecraft left Vesta in late 2011 and moved onto the dwarf planet Ceres. In February 2015 Dawn arrived at Ceres and is now starting to map it’s surface. I’m looking forward to seeing the Ceres data presented in a similarly interactive way and i’m particularly interested in finding out more about the currently unexplained bright spots visible in some of it’s craters.  You can follow the Dawn mission here

vestanorthpoleAbove: The terrain at the north pole of Vesta (click image to enlarge)

The Sun 24th April 2015 – Huge Prominence !

April 24, 2015 Leave a comment


Occasionally the activity on the Sun is just visually stunning and this is one of those occasions. I had been tracking solar activity remotely via the GONG worldwide solar monitor here and noticed this huge extended hedgerow prominence developing on the NE limb. Having missed an opportunity to image it yesterday I though I would get up early before the cloud and rain rolled in this morning to capture some images. I was extremely lucky to get a decent view in rapidly deteriorating conditions. Within 15 minutes of starting to take images the cloud had completely covered the Sun ! As a bonus there was also a prominence lifting off the surface in the west – what a fantastic sight ! Images taken 7.35 to 7.50 am (UTC+1) 24/4/15 Coronado PST Ha and DMK41 camera


Above: A close up view of the huge hedgerow prominence on the north east limb

liftoffprom2-15-04-24-07-49Above: On the right a prominence can be seen lifting off from the surface of the Sun due to the magnetic field disconnecting, hurling hot gas plasma thousands of kilometres off into Space

Categories: Solar Tags: , , ,

The Sun – 18th April 2015

April 18, 2015 Leave a comment

video0019-15-04-18-12-19-00-rotatedAbove: Ha Disk

video0020-15-04-18-12-27-56Above: CaK Disk

There’s a nice string of sunspots on the Sun now with active regions 2321, 2324, 2325, 2326 and 2327 all visible. Prominence activity is low in Ha, but there are some fine filaments arcing around the main sunspots and further out on the north limb.

Images taken 18/4/15 12.14 – 12.27 UTC+1 using Coronado Ha PST and CaK PST and DMK41 camera. Processed in Registax 6 and Photoshop CS2.

Venus with the Pleiades and Hyades Open Star Clusters 14th April 2015

April 14, 2015 Leave a comment

m45venus1--5Click Image to Enlarge

I couldn’t resist another go at Venus passing the Pleiades cluster tonight, but this time I took a wider view and included the Hyades open cluster too. The Hyades is the V of stars to the left with the much closer red giant star Aldebaran glowing brightly at the top of the V. The Hyades cluster is about 625 million years old and the nearest open cluster to the solar system. Please click on the image to enlarge it as the small image above is heavily compressed by WordPress.

Image taken 14/4/15 20.27 UTC+1 Sony RX 100, ISO 1600, f.4.9, 37mm, 2.5 sec Luminance x 11. Stacked in Deepskystacker 3. Processed in Photoshop CS2.

The Sun 14th April 2015 – Active Region 2321 Sunspots

April 14, 2015 Leave a comment




Atmospheric visibility was pretty shaky today with lots of turbulence and high wispy cloud passing over so I was pleased to get this set of images in less than ideal circumstances. Active region 2321 is superb with lots of spot and pore detail and harbors enough energy for some flares. Two new sunspot groups are also rounding the eastern limb (left side of images) so it is going to get pretty crowded on the Earth facing side of the Sun.

Images taken 12.12- 13.23 (UTC+1) with Coronado PST CaK, Lunt CaK diagonal at 100mm on Vixen 115s, DMK41 camera.

Categories: Solar Tags: , , , ,

Venus and the Pleiades Cluster 12th April 2015

April 12, 2015 Leave a comment


Dashed out into the back garden just before 9pm to catch this lovely close encounter between Venus and the Pleiades open star cluster (M45) low in the west at 9.02pm. A close conjunction like this occurs every eight years in mid April. Image taken with a Canon 350d and Tamron LD DI 70-300mm zoom lens at 70mm (then cropped) ISO 400 3.2 seconds.

Star Cluster NGC 6603 in the M24 Small Sagittarius Star Cloud

There’s nothing particularly impressive or image worthy happening on the Sun at the moment so instead of concentrating on our own star I thought I would show you a few thousand ! The bright knot of stars at the centre of the image below is the open star cluster NGC 6603 buried deep in the heart of the brightest part of the M24 Small Sagittarius Star Cloud, close to the centre of our galaxy.


NGC 6603 was discovered by John Herschel around 1825-33 and includes 30 stars with an approximate age of 200 million years. The component stars shine at magnitude 11 or 12 and the larger stars dotted around its location in the foreground are magnitude 6.5 – 7.5. The surrounding star cloud as a whole is aged between 200 and 600 million years old. Lets take a closer look at the NGC 6603 cluster………

NGC 6603 cropped There’s a lovely chain of stars in the cluster heading towards the top right of centre.

Image taken 28/3/15 4.56am New Mexico time 10.56am UT on iTelescope T3 (Tak TOA 150, SBIG ST-8300C) RA: 18h 18m 24.1s DEC: -18° 24′ 00″ (J2000)