Saturday, January 23, 2010

Solar observing 36 hours after the tornado watch...

I are thinking what is he talking about, right?  If you have read any of my previous posts, you probably know that I live in Tucson, AZ where we have 350 days of sunshine each year.  Believe it or not, on Thursday, the National Weather Service had concurrently issued a winter storm warning, a high wind warning, a severe weather alert, a hazardous weather outlook statement, a blizzard warning, and yes, a tornado watch...all for an area within a 30 minute drive of the Lost Pleiad Observatory!!!  Needless to say, we did not have a tornado, although a wind gust of 94 mph was recorded west of Tucson and Mt. Lemmon did have a blizzard.

Despite heavy clouds this morning, there were a few "sucker" holes and I thought I would try and grab a quick look at the sun.  I had been online and seen that there are currently two active regions and that is more activity than I have had a chance to sketch in some time.  I think this picture looking north from the observatory gives you an idea of the weather this morning.

I observe the sun using a Lunt Solar Systems 60mm Hydrogen Alpha telescope on an alt-az mount.  This mount does not track objects, hence I move the scope by hand to keep the sun in view.  One challenge to observing the sun with a mount that moves in altitude and azimuth is that it is more difficult to determine the cardinal directions on the sun.  Some other solar observers on the Cloudy Nights Solar Observing forum turned me on to a program called Tilting Sun.  This is a small freeware program that provides the observer with a graphic representation of the suns orientation. Among its features, it can be customized with the observers location, type of mount, and optical configuration.  In addition, it allows for copying of the rendered image to your clipboard.  I had problems using this application on Windows Vista (it did not work), but it seems to be working fine on Windows 7.  To the left, is a screen shot from the program

Typically I observe the sun for about 10-15 minutes prior to starting a sketch. Today, there were many passing cumulonimbus clouds that would completely blot out the sun. As a result, I spent about 30 minutes observing before I began to draw.  The seeing was quite poor- the temperature was 46F, humidity about 50%, with 5-8 mph breezes.

Active regions 11041 and 11042 were both visible, and each region included a few spots.  There was a nice two part filament associated with AR 11041.  There were many more prominences visible today than my last several sessions, however, the seeing conditions (mostly the passing thin clouds) made it difficult to focus on them long enough to record fine detail.

Instrument: Lunt Solar Systems 60mm Ha telescope/BF 1200 blocking filter
Eyepiece: Baader Hyperion Zoom at 16mm

Time of sketch: 1700-1725 UT, January 23, 2010
Altitude: 31.3     Azimuth: 147.2

Carrington rotation: 2092
Solar Diameter: 32.5'

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