Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Welcome to year three of The Lost Pleiad Observatory Blog!  I started this blog on January 1st 2010, and am happy to report that it is still going.  I see many very excellent astronomy blogs that end up gathering dust as the authors run out of steam.  I have enjoyed maintaining this blog both as a means to share some of my astronomical observations and to keep in touch with friends who share similar interests.  Those of you that follow the blog with any frequency (both of you) will know that I do a lot of solar observing.  Upon counting up my sketches from last year, it turns out that I made 64 sketches of the Sun in 2011.

Today, in honor of the new year, I made two sketches of the Sun.   First, at left, a sketch of the Sun in white light.  This sketch was completed at 1904 UT (12:04 PM MST) under fairly breezy and stunningly clear skies.  This type of observation is called white light as it represents the entire visual spectrum and is what you would see if you could safely look up at the Sun.  Using a specialized prism that re-directs much of the sunlight away from the eyepiece, as well as dark filters (think welders glass), I am able to observe the Sun's photosphere and sketch Sunspots.  The Sun rotates from east to west (right to left in my sketch) and has a period of approximately 28 days at the equator.   Active region 11389 is the largest and most complex region with over a dozen spots in two groups.  The constant shaking of the telescope from wind made it difficult to tease out small spots, and it is likely that there are more spots in this group than I could see.

The second sketch was made using my Lunt Solar Systems 60mm dedicated solar telescope.  This telescope allows for viewing a very narrow band of hydrogen alpha light (red), that is also part of the visual spectrum.  Being quite faint, this specialized telescope isolates this wavelength of light in order that the observer can see into the chromosphere of the Sun.  This layer of the solar atmosphere is exciting as it is where we can observe many interesting features and active regions.  The sketch at right was completed at 2014 UT (1:14 PM MST).  Most interesting was active region 11389 which was exhibiting mild flaring during the time of my sketch.  At the telescope, flaring appears within an active region as much brighter than the surrounding areas.

Happy New Year and I look forward to many exciting astronomical adventures in 2012!

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