Friday, May 21, 2010

Solar perspectives

While there is not a lot of activity on El Sol today, there are just enough features to make for interesting observations in both Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) and White Light.  The Ha  image to the left was taken by the space based Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes prior to my observations.  Currently there are no officially numbered Active Regions (AR) on the face of the sun, however, there is a small region of activity that has developed over the past day in the southeast quadrant of the sun.  In Ha, this region is quite bright and contains some small dark filaments.  In addition to this area of activity, there is a large and dark multi-part filament approaching the central meridian of the sun.  It is very possible that this filament is the remnant of AR 11057 that appeared in this same location one solar rotation ago (approximately 27 days).  There is also some weak plaging and small filaments that have just rotated into view in the northeast.

I completed a sketch of the sun using my Lunt Solar Systems 60mm Ha/BF1200 telescope at 1605 UT (9:05 MST).  Below are my sketch and an image from Thomas Ashcraft in New Mexico.  Note that Thomas' image is reversed east-west from my sketch.

There have been some nice close-up images captured today of the still developing active region, and two of these are shown below.  To the left is an image created by Rogerio Marcon, in Brazil.  To the right is an image created by Cai-Uso Wohler in Denmark.  I would recommend that you explore the webpages of both the astronomers as they contain a wealth of information and detail on solar observing (as well as other topics).  What is wonderful about these images is that they reveal the arching filaments and bi-polar magnetic structure of this developing region.  The bright white areas are known as 'plage' which comes from the French word for beach.

A bit later this morning (1600 UT) I set up my Stellarvue 90T and Lunt Herschel Wedge to explore this region in white light.  Below left is my white light sketch of the sun which reveals approximately 8 sunspots in the region.  In addition, there are some facula noted in the northeast, where subtle activity was seen when observing in Ha.   The second drawing below is from the Mt. Wilson Solar Observatory in California, where sunspots are sketched daily via solar projection and posted online.  The bottom image is from the SOHO spacecraft.

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