Thursday, September 25, 2014

Solar Images for September 25, 2014

The sun is quite active at present and the disk has lots of interesting features in H-Alpha, from filaments to active areas that can produce powerful flares.

This first image shows AR 2172. This area has the potential to produce M-Class flares and has been flaring occasionally for several days. Notice the dark filaments that stretch for huge distances across the solar disk. The dark spots in AR 2172 are a little bigger than the diameter of the earth.

Below are more images of this area:

The next image shows another active area on the disk, This area has a few, pore like spots in white light images, but is not named. It gives a good idea of the complex swirl and flow of plasma in the sun's magnetic field.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

14 inch back home

The 14 inch scope, pictured above, is back home (notice the nifty counterweight addition!). The Walnut Ridge Observatory site will continue to be used, but with other scopes. While the dark sky site was amazing, it was simply too much of a drive (10 miles) to get there and back on a weeknight. I was missing too many clear nights, so I made the difficult decision to move the scope back home. It's currently on wheelie bars and it is easy to roll it out onto the driveway. I park the scope after every use and I use marks on the drive way to position it at approximately the same point for every use. It seems to work well--I don't need to polar align every time I use it; a simple GOTO a named object and a SYNCH is all I need to do.

Since the move, I've been able to take advantage of the clear evenings and I've used the scope more in the last week than in the last 6 months; convenience is the name of the game!

As I said, Walnut Ridge will continue to be used as it is a superb site and there is nowhere quite like it for star parties!

Another big development is on the horizon. I hope to acquire a 5 bay Skyshed POD and to set it up on a site only a couple of miles from my home! This new observatory, while not at a dark sky site, offers excellent views of the southern horizon and will enable me to reach the scope in less than 5 minutes. Moreover, it will also make it possible for me to do educational outreach and enrichment activities for local students, which is something I very much enjoy. Stay tuned for more information!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ring Nebula

Here's a quick shot of the Ring Nebula taken with the 14 inch this evening:

The image is a quickly-processed stack of around 11 x 20 second exposures. The Ring is the expelled outer layers of a sun-like star; this is how our own star will die. The actual shape of the ring in 3D is football-like and we are looking down the long axis of the ball. The blue, ionized helium of the inner ring is not visible in this image. The cyan color is the glow of hydrogen and oxygen; the red of the outer ring is nitrogen and sulfur. The Ring is about a light year across and 2,000 light years away from us.

The Equinox Sun: September 22, 2014

The weather was typical Indiana early Fall: clear, cloudless skies of the deepest blue, but also very turbulent. Seeing was poor and it was hard to get good contrast on the images, so these pix are mostly for record purposes.

The first pic is an inverted image of the area around the AR 2172 complex; below is a more detailed closeup of part of AR2172 itself.

AR 2174, on the opposite side of the disk, is an area of bright faculae in white light; in H-Alpha, it looks fairly quiescent.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Sun September 17, 2014

Conditions were very poor today. There was a lot of water vapor in the air and I had a hard time focusing the scope. The iOptron mount behaved perfectly, however, and I was able to get some good images, despite the conditions.

It is interesting how quiet the sun looks in white light, but in H-alpha, it looks very active.

This image shows filaments associated with AR 2164.

This second image shows activity around AR 2166. It has often been the case that a seemingly quiet sun can erupt with very high energy flares, If you compare today's images with the white light image on, for example,, you can see why that is sometimes the case.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Sun, September 7, 2014

I managed some imaging between the clouds today. Here's a couple of pix of the results:

This first image shows long filaments (areas of cool gas caught in the sun's magnetic field) and ARs 2152, 2153 and 2160.

The second image captures the crackling power of ARs 2159 and 2157.

I was able to capture other images, but unfortunately, Registax refuses to open them, probably due to large size (900Mb).

Finally Back!

After a longish hiatus, I'm finally able to get back to the blog. It has been a very cloudy summer here in Indiana, with the coolest and wettest July on record. However, things seem to be getting back to a more normal pattern now.

Inspired by the many excellent images on the Yahoo PST group, I finally bought a driven mount for my PST, courtesy my Mom--thanks Mom!!!. It's an iOptron Smart EQ Pro and I am very impressed with its capabilities. Tracking seems to be "dead on" and my PST images from this point on will be captured from this mount.  I also deforked my ETX 125 and it will also be used on this mount as well. I'm surprised at how sturdy the tripod is--much better than I expected. iOptron support is  also first rate, so I'm currently happy with everything about this inexpensive little mount.

Here's a pic of the mount driving the PST DS on an imaging session this afternoon:

The pic shows the mount being powered by an external battery. The ASI 120MM and barlow are also clearly visible.