Sun Day, April 17th – Get Out And Enjoy!

In keeping with global astronomy month, it’s time to get out and enjoy another favorite astronomical target – the Sun! It’s a star that can be seen from both hemispheres and a great way to involve your friends, neighbors and family in the pleasure of observing. What’s more… there’s activity going on right now, too!

If you’re lucky enough to have an h-alpha filtered telescope, it’s a great time to set up your equipment and catch a host of solar prominences, flares and plague activity. Just check out this image below taken by John Chumack and done with a Lunt 60mm/50F H-Alpha dedicated solar telescope and B1200 blocking filter.

These images were taken recently, and to make the current solar action even easier to see, John colorized the next in blue!

Don’t have h-alpha? No problem. The white light view is awesome! On the west limb is exiting sunspot 1186 and hot on its heels is the more compact and darker 1190. At center stage is prominent 1191 and to its northeast is 1193.

If you don’t have either an h-alpha solar scope, or a proper white light solar filter, you can still observe the Sun with simple equipment! Got binoculars or a small refractor telescope? Then you’ve got the basis for a great projection set up! Safely cover one side of your binoculars or telescope’s finderscope and aim towards the Sun by aligning the shadow. Project the light onto a surface such as a paper plate or piece of cardboard and adjust the focus until you see a clear circle of light and focus the sunspots. The projection method is used by several famous solar telescopes, including Mt. Wilson Solar Observatory! Always remember… never look into the optics while aimed at the Sun and that your optics will get hot during use.

No telescope or binoculars? Then let’s keep trying… this time the pinhole camera method! Get two pieces of cardboard – one will need to be white or have white paper attached to it for the screen. Cut a small square in the other piece of cardboard, and tape aluminum foil over the square. Now make a pinhole in the middle of the foil. This is your “projector”. With the Sun behind you, hold the pinhole projector as far away from the screen as you can and see if you can catch some dark patches on your projected circle that indicate sunspots!

For a lot of other great projects and ideas on how you can celebrate Sun Day, be sure to visit Astronomers Without Borders Sun Day pages. Now, get on out there and enjoy Sun Day!

H-Alpha images are courtesy of John Chumack of Galactic Images, the white light solar images is courtesy of SDO/HMI and many thanks to Astrononomers Without Borders for the Sun Day logo!

6 Replies to “Sun Day, April 17th – Get Out And Enjoy!”

  1. Lat time I complained about the Moon by amateur astronomers, but frankly, the Sun is even worse!

    However, I would like to make a more serious comment, and that is the warning about not observing the sun without optical aid WITHOUT the PROPER PROTECTION. Although Tammy has rightly comment on this, she should place it where absolutely NO ONE can make a mistake when observing the Sun.

    It should read something like this;

    !!! W A R N I N G !!!

    Using any telescope, the Sun should ONLY be observed by projecting the image on to a white screen or card. (Even this should be for short periods)
    Direct viewing of the Sun, by either eye or any other optical equipment, is VERY DANGEROUS without proper eye protection. Otherwise, TOTAL BLINDNESS WILL RESULT, and even glancing will blind you in less than a ten-thousandth of a second.
    If your telescope has something called a SUN FILTER — NEVER USE IT !! If this filter were to crack while you are observing the Sun, INSTANT blindness is the only possible outcome.

    !!! W A R N I N G !!!


    NOTE: Any question on solar observing, the Tammy or many experienced folk responding to the comments here will almost certainly be happy to advise you!!

    1. (silly goose… you’re supposed to be looking at the sun – not the great caca!)

      the solar filter being spoke of as dangerous is an eyepiece filter that once was supplied with budget telescopes… and they are just that – dangerous. safe solar filters fit over the objective (large end) of the telescope.

      although i did not mention it in the article, #12 welder’s glass is also safe to use for solar viewing, but don’t assume that any welder’s glass is safe unless you know the wratten number.

      pieces of mylar balloon, exposed black & white film, CD discs… none of these are safe – no matter what the myth might be.

  2. Oops!! Again…
    “However, I would like to make a more serious comment, and that is the warning about not observing the sun with optical aid WITHOUT the PROPER PROTECTION.”

  3. I have a Thousand Oaks white like for my SCT and the view is amazing! One thing I read somewhere was to be careful with direct projection because besides the obvious blidness, the heat will melt the adhesives inside the optics and ruin them. The sun has been spectacular this year.

  4. Thanks for the post Tammy. You might enjoy the drawing of proms on the Eastern Limb done by AWB National Coordinator for Ireland; Deirdre Kelleghan for SunDay –

    (Coordinator – Global Astronomy Month)

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