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Mercury Transit of the Sun 9-5-16

Well I consider myself extremely lucky to have seen this event as the cloud cover was horrendous for most of the day. These images were actually taken through the thinnest of that cloud between 15:30 – 16:50 and the quality of the images is pretty dire, but nonetheless a good record of how I saw things from the back garden. I was amazed at just how small the planet looks against the Sun, not much bigger than the sunspot group nearby.

The transit began at 12.12 BST, and ends at 19.42 BST so you have a few minutes left to see it in the UK ! Mercury is 4,800 km in diameter and orbits the Sun in 88 days. Transits of mercury are fairly rare events with 13 taking place every century in November or May.

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The Sun in CaK light showing sunspot group 2542 to the right of centre and Mercury to the left of centre

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The Sun in Hydrogen Alpha light showing curving filaments and Mercury top left of centre

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The Hydrogen Alpha disk showing Mercury upper left of centre

Categories: Planets, Solar Tags: , , , ,

Giant Sunspot Region AR 2529 17-4-16

April 22, 2016 Leave a comment

The Sun’s activity is now heading towards solar minimum, but it can still occasionally surprise us with some large surface features such as sunspot active region AR 2529 which appeared over the last weekend. To give you some idea of scale you could fit five Earth’s inside the dark area of that sunspot ! It is so large people have reported seeing it at sunset behind thin cloud with the naked eye.

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Images taken 17-4-16 12:10pm, PST CaK, DMK 400

Categories: Solar Tags: , , , ,

The Sun 26th April 2015

April 26, 2015 Leave a comment

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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.

The Sun 24th April 2015 – Huge Prominence !

April 24, 2015 Leave a comment

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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 http://halpha.nso.edu/ 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

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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.

The Sun 14th April 2015 – Active Region 2321 Sunspots

April 14, 2015 Leave a comment

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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: , , , ,

The Sun 27/3/15 – Big changes on the limb and a few new sunspots

March 27, 2015 Leave a comment

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Ha Disk

The splendid hedgerow prominence from yesterday has gone ! The magnetic field holding all of that plasma together became unstable and the material was ejected off into space at around 13:00 today. Things change fast on the Sun and that is why it is such a fascinating object to observe. The coronal mass ejection from this event is not predicted to have any major impact on Earth.

So what else is there to see ? Well there is a good smattering of feathery, curving filaments across the disk in Ha light and Active Region 2305 is smack in the centre, but not really putting on much of an energetic show. It has split onto three sunspots now and the CaK view shows up lots of other small spots and pores (2310, 2312 1and 2313)  extending off to the limb. In the east (east and west are inverted in the disk view above) there is one large prominence left on the limb.

hapromsclose-15-03-27-15-52 The single large prominence on the east limb

HaArclose-15-03-27-15-49-36Active Region 2305 in Ha light showing the filaments to the left and finer curving magnetic flux around the sunpsots

cakdisk-15-03-27-16-00-02vdThe Sun in CaK light showing active region 2305 at the centre and additional spots and pores

The Sun 26/3/15 – Active Region 2305 and a large ‘Hedgerow’ Prominence

March 26, 2015 Leave a comment

DiskandpromsHa view with large ‘hedgerow’ type prominence

Sunspot2305Active Region 2305 Sunspots in CaK light

Active region 2305 is near the centre of the sun and facing Earth which could give us some nice aurora if it flares. The region has a beta-gamma delta-magnetic field which is capable of producing the most energetic X-Class flares and if this area erupts in the next couple of days the ejected material could have a large impact down here.

Imaged with Coronado PST Ha (40mm) and Lunt Solar Cak wedge (100mm) with DMK41 camera.

Categories: Solar Tags: , , , , ,

90% Solar Eclipse over Mid Wales 20th March 2015

March 20, 2015 2 comments

hadisk1alt23Above: Ha view with single sunspot region 2303 visible and some curving wispy filaments

The Sun is throwing an embarrassment of riches at me this week with a first ever view of the aurora on Tuesday night and now a perfect blue-sky view of the 90% solar eclipse from the front garden ! I was well prepared this time with all batteries charged up and a ‘Plan B’ mobile solution which could be powered from the car if the notorious local river fog blotted out the view. The weather conditions turned out to be perfect though with early cloud passing over from the north west leaving a clear blue sky completely through the eclipse event from first to last contact. The whole event lasted between 8.40am and 10.40am with maximum coverage at our latitude of just over 90% at 9.30am.

The neighbours gathered around close to the maximum and watched via the video footage on the laptop screen while I captured footage via the DMK41 mono video camera on the Coronado PST Ha and CaK scopes mounted on the EQ6 drive. It was a very pleasant event and everyone had a good view. There was a terrific quality of light at maximum with lots of long shadows cast across the landscape and a deep navy blue sky.

The images are all single frames selected from the 1000 frame footage of the videos as my stacking software (Registax 6) has issues with aligning points when both the sun and moon are moving relative to each other in the video footage. Even so I am very pleased with the results which make up a fine record of the event.

caksun1alt3Above: CaK View with Sunspot region 2303 visible

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hadisk5maxaltAbove: 9:30am Maximum coverage for our latitude at just over 90%

hadisk6minaltAbove: Near last contact at 10:38am – just a small bite out of the sun at bottom left

haproms1alt2Above: Some fine prominences on the limb

Don’t miss the UK partial eclipse on 20th March 2015 – last one until 2026 !

Partial Solar Eclipse in UK - August 2008

If you happen to live in Svalbard or the Faroe Islands you will be treated to a 2 minute and 46 seconds total solar eclipse early on the morning of the 20th March 2015, the last total solar eclipse in Europe until 12th August 2026 ! For the rest of us in the UK we will have to be content with somewhere between an 80% and 95% partial eclipse, which is still quite exciting and visually spectacular.

In the UK the partial eclipse will start 8.25 am (based on London location) and finish by 10.45 am (based on Inverness location) with maximum eclipse coverage at 9.31 am (based on Birmingham location). The time only varies very slightly by a few minutes across the UK and you can get more detailed information here http://www.solareclipse2015.org.uk/chasing-the-shadow/about-the-eclipse/

The last time I saw a partial eclipse in the UK was on 1st August 2008 and the weather was awful. The cloud did part very briefly though and I managed to get the image above at maximum coverage. Fingers crossed the weather on 20th March will be better and I will certainly be trying to get some better images this time with the Ha and CaK solar telescopes.

As ever, please protect you eyes with the appropriate safety precautions in place before looking directly at the Sun.

Categories: Solar Tags: , , , , , ,