Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Sun in Hydrogen Alpha

One of the most dynamic objects one can observe is the sun.  There are constant changes to what one can observe in just a few minutes.  Prominences grow and retreat, filaments appear and disappear, active regions brighten while features within them change, and magnetic field lines form and vanish to the observers delight.  All of these phenomenon are observable in the hydrogen alpha wavelength of light.  I am very fortunate to own a dedicated 60mm hydrogen alpha solar telescope, by Lunt Solar Systems.

My very good friend Jerry Farrar is a highly skilled and dedicated solar observer, and it is his mentoring that led me from observing sunspots with a white light filter, to this much more fascinting study of solar phenomenon.  In addition, Jerry is an acomplished sketch artist and he has tried to teach me some of his solar sketching technique.  This is a sketch of the sun, completed between approximately 2:20 to 2:40 this afternoon.

Carrington rotation: 2092     Solar Diameter: 32.52'

It shows active region 11040 which is the main feature visible on the face of the sun today.  It includes two distinct bright areas (and a third smaller elongated bright area closer to the limb), as well as a large filament and several smaller ones.  There are strong magnetic field lines surrounding this region, and they are most notable on the north side.  These magnetic field lines showed changes during the sketching period.  There are only a few small prominences noted around the limb, with the largest being quite faint and partly detached from the limb.

I would also recommend that if this interests you, you check out some of these sites:

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) - A project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind

Solar Monitor - Hosted at the Solar Physics Group, Trinity College Dublin and at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Solar Data Analysis Center (SDAC). These pages contain near-realtime and archived information on active regions and solar activity

Astronomy Blog of Victor Herrero, another solar observer in the TAAA.

Blog of Lunt Solar Systems

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