Sunday, November 17, 2013

Solar improvements

This weekend is the 2nd annual Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo at the TCC.  This event which features speakers and vendors from around the world is essentially a playground for amateur astronomers. The Mount Lemmon SkyCenter has a booth and after spending the morning publicizing our activities I spent the afternoon networking with vendors and visiting with old friends.  At left is my colleague Dr. Maria Perreira and I in our booth preparing for the expo opening.

While a boy can dream (see the beautiful TEC 180 on an Italian Mount at right), one of the accessories that I have had my eye on for some time was a side-by-side dovetail system which would allow me to use two telescopes at once.  This is very useful in solar outreach as I can set up both my hydrogen alpha and white light telescopes at the same time.  In addition, it would allow me to mount both my 12 inch SCT and small 90mm refractor at the same time for night use.  I spoke with Anthony Davoli from ADM Accessories, who had been set up next to us last year and after some deliberation took the plunge on a very nice system.  Not only does it allow for side-by-side mounting, but one of the saddles is adjustable in altitude and azimuth allowing for precise alignment between instruments.  I spent some time figuring out how to balance this set up and was able to successfully utilize both solar telescopes this morning.

Of course, I also spent some time taking some pictures of the Sun through both telescopes.  Seeing conditions were about average and the Sun is putting on quite a show right now.  One of the next items I would like to find is a reducer of some sort that would allow me to fit the entire solar disc on the chip of the ASI120MC camera.

First up, the white the images to enlarge them to full size.

The image below was taken at the camera's full resolution (the one above was binned 2x2) and you can see that it suffered a bit from the atmosphere.  However, it does show the very large spot quite well, including some detail within the umbra.

Next, the Hydrogen Alpha...The image is binned 2x2 and I played around with brightness and contrast of the prominences to try and bring them out a little.  These are features that are much fainter than the Solar disc and I am impressed that the camera is capturing them at all with the settings I am using to capture the hydrogen alpha detail in the chromosphere.  Again, click the image for full size.

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