Saturday, 27 August 2016

From Aurora to Cloud - 25th August

There was some forecast for aurora in the early hours of the 25th auugst, but, at the same time the weather forecast wasn't good either with cloud forecast.  At 11pm on the 24th the sky was over cast so I decided to head off to bed.  My setup is fully automated now, and so set it to start recording at 1am, 15 second consecutive exposures until the battery died on the Canon 350D.  Well at 1.15am the clouds thinned just enough for the aurora to peek through, the gap was brief, as by 1.45am the clouds had returned.  Still, when I got up the next morning to check what I had recorded I was pleased with this brief record of the northern lights.  Fingers crossed there will be more to come in the week ahead!

Friday, 26 August 2016

G1 Geomagnetic Storm - 24th August

I spent the evening of the 23rd of August watching online aurora monitoring stations and could see a huge auroral oval straight over Iceland where we are staying.  Late in august though there is only still a few hours of darkness so I decided to get a few hours sleep and then get up around midnight.  Initially I thought there was no aurora to be seen as the northern sky was empty apart from stars, but as I turned around to the south I could see the northern lights stretching brightly across from the east to the west but in the southerly sky as the auroral oval was so far south.  This time lapse represents 3 frames a minute and spans two and a half hours, it was taken from the West Fjords of Iceland, with the lights in the shot being the ferry port at Brjanslaekur.  Taken with the Canon 350D, Sigma 10mm f4 lens, iso800 and 15 seconds exposure.  You can see at the height of it the entire landscape lights up green when it was easily bright enough to cast shadows.  Throughout the aurora can be seen reflecting o the sea on the left of the image.  It's taken me several years of solar imaging to master the craft of animations, but seem to be able to now, so, might have to go back and look at some of the data I have from previous Iceland visits.  Fingers crossed for more clear skies for the rest of my holiday and more auroras!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

From Storm to Dawn - 24th August

There's still not much true 'astronomical night' up here in north west Iceland in the last third of August and by 3am dawn is rapidly brightening up the sky, hiding not just the stars but also the aurora.  This was taken between 2.50am and 3.15am and represents just over 4 frames a minute real time.  This is the tail end of a G1 geomagnetic storm that was seen widely around Iceland in the early hours of the 24th caused by solar wind from a coronal hole.  Taken with the Canon 350D 10mm f4 iso800 and 14s exposure time.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Iceland Aurora - 23rd August

I was really surprised to see an auroral display on the morning of 23rd august; all the data said there shouldn't be one - Kp1, northerly Bz and a slow solar wind.  Never the less aurora covered atleast half the sky, and despite using the 10mm f4 lens on the canon 350D (iso800 20s exp) I just couldn't get all the sky I wanted in the frame.  It was a really dynamic display changing very quickly, and very bright displaying colours easily to the naked eye despite the waning gibbous moon high in the southerly sky.  The eternal twilight of the late summer in these high latitudes gave the sky background a blue colour, and mist danced on the mountains.  The best aurora i've seen in Iceland since february 2014.  Should have some more pictures to make an animation from, fingers crossed!  This animation is 27 frames and covers about 18 minutes real time.  Here's 2 more from different aspects at different times, all spanning the same sort of time 'real time'.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Ha Full Disk - 12th August

Taken with the Lunt 50 etalon at 40mm aperture with the PGR Chameleon 3 camera at 400mm focal length.  A small crackle of a B class flare can be seen in the active region grouping.  I need to get a LS50 telescope to maximise the potential of this nice 50mm double stack etalon.

Active Regions in CaK - 12th August

A nice grouping of active regions taken in advance of the Solarsphere festival last friday...

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

AR12574 Animation - 9th August

I didn't think the frames I recorded for this were animation quality, but, they just about scrape through, and with so little sun this season it seems a shame to waste them!  Same setup as in the previous post.  26 frames spanning 9 minutes real time makes up this time lapse.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

AR12574 in Ha - 9th August

The active regions that have passed over the limb over the past couple of days form part of a huge group, so large that they won't fit in the field of view of the Airylab HaT.  These 2 spot regions were fairly static, but the small proms on the limb were very dynamic and would suggest more active regions on the way round in the days ahead.  I tried for an animation but the seeing was all over the place, and with passing clouds meant there weren't enough usable frames.  Taken with the 203mm scope at 5.6m focal length with a Daystar Quark and a PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera.

New Active Regions in CaK Light - 9th August

There are several active regions that have rotated round the suns eastern limb over the past couple of days, and, should give plenty to look at if clear skies remain!  Taken with the Tal at 80mm and 1400mm focal length with the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 camera.

Monday, 8 August 2016

AR12572 Animation 7th August

Even with a small scope like the 80mm Skywatcher and a Daystar Quark it is very easy to see just how dynamic our star is.  This active region as it approaches the limb is quite lively as can be seen in this 15 frame animation spanning 7 minutes real time.  The jet prominence on the limb is quite static in comparison.  The camera used was a PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249.

AR12571 Animation 7th August

This animation was taken over 12 minutes and represents 24 frames, and shows what a dynamic little active region this is.  My favourite part is just to the left of the active region where a whorled loop of plasma snakes its way off the solar chromosphere.  Taken with the Daystar Quark, Skywatcher ED80, a 1.4x barlow lens and the PGR Blackfly Gige IMX249 camera.

Active Regions and a Jet Prom - 7th August

AR12571 and AR12572 seem to have developed from nowhere really over the last week, however on sunday they were framed with a lovely jet prominence on the suns limb.  While not the largest active regions they have been showing signs of activity over the past couple of days.  The image above was taken with a Daystar Quark, Skywatcher ED80, the Baader Solar Telecompressor and a PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera.  

Filaments and a Hedgerow Prominence 7th August

There was a lovely set of filaments and a hedgerow prominence on the limb on sunday, a really exciting bit of sun!  The seeing was all over the place but I got some pretty decent views with the Daystar Quark on the Skywatcher ED80 refractor, Baader solar telecompressor and the PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera.  In the days ahead the prominence on the limb should rotate around to be another filament on the disk.  Need to get my tilt reduced on the camera as the bottom right of the image is drifting out of focus a bit.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Ha Full Disk 7th August

The sun came out for long enough for me to have a play around with the Daystar Quark on the back of my Skywatcher ED80 scope, this is a combination that really works and delivers excellent results.  I used the Baader solar telecompressor to reduce the overall focal length by a factor of 0.7x.  Some high cloud was drifting around when I was taking the latter panes for this mosaicas can be seen by the glow around the limb, but, overall I am pleased with the result.  Camera used was the PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 CMOS.

Getting Closer in CaK - 6th August


Saturday offered the first day with proper clear blue skies as a transient ridge of high pressure toppled over the British Isles.  I eagerly set up the 8" Airylab HaT however the seeing conditions were some of the worst i've seen in some considerable time.  I knew the only way I was going to salvage anything from the day would be to drop the aperture to slide under the seeing radar.  Opting for the 40mm scope at 400mm focal length with the PGR Chameleon 3 camera I set about recording a time lapse animation, with 1 frame every 30 seconds.  I was hoping for a bit of something to happen on out star, but the Sun was sleeping on saturday afternoon, and nothing of note happened typically.  Never the less I got a good record of the supergranulation that is visible in CaK wavelengths.  Lasting over 2 hours and comprising of over 300 frames this took some computing power and time, and as I eluded to in a previous post this is currently the next hurdle to improving solar images.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Animation Flyby - Learning New Techniques in Photoshop

Given the awful summer we've been having so far with it's virtual lack of sunshine, I decided to turn my hand to developing some skills in Photoshop.  I've always enjoyed doing animations but always wanted to be able to pan and zoom, rather than have a static animation, well after a couple of days playing around I finally seem to have a work flow that is successful.  Here's an animation from may 15th that I reworked with a bit of zoom, pan and rotation.  All I need now is some sun and something interesting to happen on the sun so I can present it with a slightly different perspective...

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Hot on The Sun - 19th July (Mods and Developments in Solar Animations)

Temperatures may have been up in the low 30's on the hottest day of the year, but things are much hotter on the sun.  This animation represents several weeks of trial and error and modifications of the 0.2m Airylab HaT.  

Firstly, this animation was captured at the same cadence as the AIA imaging rig on the solar dynamics observatory, ie 1 frame every 13 seconds.  Straight away this demonstrated the importance of short exposure runs, as at this image scale temporal distortion can be a real problem in blurring images.  Indeed, I may try and increase the cadence still further and achieve 1 frame every 10 seconds in an animation.  This was done using the PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera; however using the Chameleon 3 and 2x2 binning should give a much faster exposure, frame rate and cadence, and the original image size will make capture of the frames and post processing easier in terms of computing power.  This incidentally is currently the biggest hurdle to overcome in terms of pushing the animation envelope further.

Secondly, and more minor, was the relocation of the Hutech solar guider directly by the aperture of the HaT, and this along with tightening backlash in the gears on the HEQ6 mount has resulted in much better tracking, with fewer errors and drift.  

Thirdly retrofitting a Starlight SCT microfocuser in the place of the original focuser on the HaT has made focusing, both visually and for imaging an absolute dream and doddle and is whole heartedly recommended for all users of the Airylab HaT.

Finally the introduction of the Tempest SCT Cooling Fan system to the HaT has made a real improvement in image stability.  Just to come back to the start of the post, this animation was made with a 0.2m scope on the hottest day of the year.  Normally observing with such large apertures would be impossible, restricting use to smaller scopes, however the cooling fan makes a real difference.  The principle of this product originates for night time astronomers, where as the ambient temperature cools down in an evening / night this is not matched by the cool down of the SCT telescope which then introduces thermal gradients within the scope as different parts of it cool down at differential rates. The converse principle operates during the daytime, in so much as the ambient temperature is often rising and hotter than the temperature in the scope.  The exit beam from the HaT is 'warm' too, so there will be some heating of the air (and also components) within the tube assembly.  Regardless of whether it is hotter or cooler the point is it is not in equilibrium, and this is what introduces convection of the air within the OTA and it is this which affects the seeing conditions in a negative way.  It was quite clear with the TEMPest that it was having an effect, turning the fan on it was apparent on the laptop screen that the image was noticeably steadier, turn the fan off and within about 30 seconds the instability started to get greater.  Turning the fan back on and after about 30 seconds it would calm down again.  There was a clear correlation with fan off / fan on.  The system works by having one fan draw air into the OTA and the other fan drawing air out of the OTA.  This introduces a flow of air over the mirror that prevents thermal gradients forming over the mirror or around the walls of the OTA.  The effect is not subtle, and draws the question of whether this principle could help other solar scopes, especially where a full aperture ERF is not used and there is heat build up in the scope.  A cooling fan on the Tal100R for CaK work may be a future project to look at!

This timelapse is over 10 minutes and was taken with the Airylab 203.2mm HaT telescope, a double stacked Daystar etalon at 5.6m focal length using the PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera.  The link to the full size animation can be found here.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Tuesdays Fine Prominences! 5th July

A really nice hedgerow prominence visible today, taken with the 0.2 metre Airylab HaT at 5.6m focal length with a double stacked etalon and the PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera.  I suspect by wednesday this will be a filaprom, and by thursday this will be a filament as it moves across the face of the sun.

S5353 and Filaments - 5th July

This bit of sun on the western limb was quite interesting; subtle filaments and choppy plasma around S5353.  Taken with the Airylab HaT at 203mm aperture, 5.6 metre focal length with a Daystar Quark double stacked with a PST etalon using a PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera.

Filaproms With the Airylab HaT - 5th July

There were some interesting filaproms visible today - cooler clouds of plasma held aloft the solar surface with magnetic fields.  Taken with the 0.2 metre Airylab HaT and a double stacked Daystar etalon with a PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera.

S5355 in CaK - 5th July

I had hoped this area of plage that rounded the limb yesterday would have a bit more activity associated with it, but a day on this just seems to be a relic corpse of magnetic froth with no major sunspots.  Oh well!  Taken with the 60mm scope at 1500mm focal length with the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 USB3 camera.

Departing Activity on the Western Limb in CaK - 5th July

Even zooming in a bit things are pretty quiet!  60mm at 1500mm focal length.

CaK Full Disk 5th July

A day on and the sun is still remarkably quiet in CaK light.  Taken with the 60mm scope at 600mm focal length with the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 USB3 camera to produce this 2 pane mosaic.

CaK Full Disk 4th July

Taken with the ED80 at 60mm and 600mm focal length, this is a 2 pane mosaic of our sun taken in CaK light with the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 USB3 camera.  This shows very well just how quiet our star is becoming as we head towards solar minimum in a few years time.

A New Spot Rounding The Limb? 4th July

The appearance of proms on the limb on sunday, and a look at the NASA STEREO spacecraft data would indicate that something a little more active was coming around the limb of the sun.  Looking in CaK light often shows sunspots that can be hidden initially in Ha wavelengths and this image certainly hints at a possible spot, but certainly a brighter area of plage.  Will be interesting to see in the days ahead if this is anything worthwhile; personally I think it is a dying or dead active region rather than one developing.  Taken with the Skywatcher ED80 at 60mm aperture, 1500mm focal length with the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 USB3 camera.

S5346 in CaK 4th July

S5346 is the innocuous name given to what is probably currently the most active region on the solar surface, a brighter patch of plage I was initially hopeful that it might develop into an active region, but alas no, not even any signs of any mores , certainly when I have been observing it.  Taken with the ED80 at 60mm aperture, 1500mm focal length with the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 USB3 camera.

Western Plage - 4th July

On a quiet sun in CaK light there is still plage visible, these are whiter frothy magnetically more active areas of plasma on the chromosphere of the sun.  Here a small area passes towards the suns western limb.  Taken with the ED80 at 60mm with a barlow combination to get to around 1500mm focal length using the homebrew CaK filter and the PGR Chameleon 3 USB3 camera.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Filaments on the Limb - 3rd July

When the sun has few sunspots, in Ha wavelengths it is often the case that filaments are visible, cooler clouds of plasma held aloft the suns chromosphere by magnetic fields.  This was the the case today with quite a few being visible.  These were well revealed by the 203.2mm Airylab HaT telescope with a double stacked etalon and PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera at a focal length of 5.6 metres.

S5346 With The Airylab HaT - 3rd July

The boffins at NASA say the face of our sun is currently blank; this is a relative term, and depending on how hard you look depends on how much you can see.  This is where the 0.2 metre Airylab HaT comes into it's own.  With a double stacked etalon the contrast was very high due to a lack of continuum leakage and as a result this un-designated region with its dark filaments and bright plage really stood out.  Taken at 5.6m focal length with the PGR Blackfly GigE IMX249 camera.  With a decline into solar minimum coming the larger apertures will continue to win out in solar observing, where the smaller scopes just don't have the resolution to view these smaller scale features of the chromosphere.

Ha Full Disk 3rd July

A nice hedgerow prominence to go with the filaments today, and possibly the hints of an active region thinking about getting going just off the centre of mid disk.  Taken with the Lunt 50 etalon at 40mm at 600mm focal length, Coronado BF15 and the PGR Chameleon 3 USB3 camera.