Thursday, May 31, 2012

Prominences on May 30, 2012

A stack of 188 frames captured with a Microsoft Lifecam and Coronado PST, this image shows some dramatic prominence activity on the sun's limb.  Note also the brilliant spot in the one o'clock position.  This spot was very bright, visually, and matter was streaming out of it.  If you click to get the full-size image, you can see this matter in the dark sky above the spot.  A couple of small clouds that appeared to be detached could be clearly seen visually; they are just about visible in this image.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Partial Eclipse

Yesterday's partial solar eclipse was a washout here in my part of Indiana.  The day started clear and sunny, but cumulus clouds started to roll in after lunch.  By 5 pm, thunderheads were beginning to build in the west and the sky was growing darker and hazier.  However, there was at least some watery sunlight, so I packed up the scopes and headed to a country site.  By the time I got there (a mere 10 minute drive), the sun was completely obscured by thick, dark clouds, the edges of which were tantalizingly silver.  I waited for a few minutes, but the cloud was growing thicker.  I decided to drive a little further to a low ridge with a better western view so I could assess the situation a little better.  When I got there, it was obvious that the sun would be a no-show:  there was solid cloud covering the western sky. 

I guess that is the challenge of astronomy.  Like farming, you can prepare, but sometimes nature just doesn't cooperate.  I'm hoping we don't have a repeat for the Venus transit.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another Mars Pic

Another image of Mars taken May 17.  Note the phase and Syrtis Major, the large triangular formation.  Given the rather poor seeing last night and the small (9 arcsecond) diameter of the planet, a surprising amount of detail is visible. Around the 1 o'clock position, the smaller, northern polar cap can be seen.  The lightening of the area south of Syrtis Major (at the 7 o'clock position), indicates the position of the larger, southern polar cap.

Mars on May 17, 2012

Mars as imaged in the 14 inch last night.  The angular diameter of the planet is just 9 arcseconds. The "gibbous" aspect of the planet is quite obvious.  The large triangular feature is Syrtis Major.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dramatic edge prominences

Solar activity is increasing. Here is a bright prominence surging into space.  Taken today with a PST and Microsoft Lifecam.

AR 1476

AR 1476 taken with a modified Microsoft Lifecam and a PST.  The region is primed for X-Class flares.  This image shows the dramatic and swirling activity around this spot group.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Active Area AR 1476

AR 1476 is now in line with earth.  The sunspot group is capable of X-Class flares--the most powerful flares the sun produces.  If it lets one go in this alignment, we could have some wonderful auroras, as well as other interesting effects as the flare interacts with the earth's magnetic field.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Observatory Building On-Site!

The shed that will be The Walnut Ridge Observatory is now onsite! Given the crazy month May is turning into, it will be early June before I start building...

Sunspot 1476

Imaged this afternoon, sunspot 1476 has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field, giving it a high potential for flares.  It has already produced M-Class flares and is one of the largest groups seen in years.  The forecast is 75% for M-Class flares in the next 24 hours, and 10% for powerful X-Class flares.  The sport is not pointing directly at earth currently, but it could get very interesting when it does!