Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Sun still shines in Tucson

It seems that over the past week time has slowed to a crawl, here in Tucson.  Finally this morning, I was able to enjoy my coffee and observe the Sun as I have done so many Saturday mornings in the past.  Tucson has been at the center of an international media storm over the past week, and without a doubt everyone here has been affected by last Saturday's tragedy.  (For some great perspective see this post).  My position and responsibilities at the University of Arizona afforded me a close-in seat to Wednesday's memorial service and it was quite moving to be able honor the victims as well as all those in our community who are working every day to return a sense a civility and pride to Tucson.  A picture from my mobile phone's poor camera is at right.  President Obama's words resonated with me on many fronts, particularly that we must all work harder to create a country that reflects the vision and ideals held by 9 year old Christina Taylor Green, and the other victims.

Today was the first observation of any kind conducted at the Lost Pleiad Observatory since last weekends tragedy.  As you can see from my sketch of the Sun, there is very little activity right now that is visible on the face.  Active regions 11145 and 11146 are both weak, with only 11145 showing moderately bright plage and an "S" shaped filament within the plage.  There are several bright prominences in the northwest and in the northeast. Seeing conditions were quite poor making it difficult to focus on these features even at low power.  My sketch was completed at 1715 UT (10:15 MST) using my Lunt 60mm Ha pressure tuned telescope with 12mm blocking filter.  I had to keep the magnification down around 30X otherwise the image would begin to deteriorate.  The sun was approximately 27 degrees above the horizon at the time of the sketch.

As Tucson moves forward, last weekends shooting will forever be a part of us.  I hope that soon the rest of the world will no longer associate Tucson solely with the terrible acts of hate and violence, but rather with our people, our rich history, our landscapes, foods, and most importantly astronomy and the Sun!

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