Blog Archives

Solar Observing August 5th

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park weather permitting

The are a so many objects up in the night sky for amateur astronomers to enjoy, travel to with his/her scope and learn something new. Yet it is the same way with out single star up in the day sky, The solar cycle generates new sunspots and flares of beauty, size and ominous power. Today many of us saw hands-down “thee” longest filament, prominence, h-alpha flare, projected on the solar disk we have ever seen. Winding over the disk of the sun it easily spanned 1/3 of the entire solar face. if the filament was stretched out, it would easily span 1/2 the solar disk or some 50 Earth diameters!

While all of us at Houge were viewing this and thinking about Curiosity’s Landing expected in the evening, SJAA member Malika was actually at JPL enjoying the event and showing sunspots to public. Her Sunspotter eyepiece projection system beautifully captured all 6 major sunspots:

Click on a image to enlarge. Then compare the two by clicking icons at bottom of view screen

MalSunAug1st SunAug5th
Right On!
Posted in Articles, Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar


Daytime Jupiter and Solar Observing July 1st

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park   weather permitting

First I must say hats off and a thanks for Teruo spotting Jupiter in his 8 inch SC scope this afternoon in broad daylight. That was cool.

Second I have to say solar observing is not all H alpha by a long shot. One sunspot group was just visible naked eye and Malika’s “Sunspoter” (eyepiece projection system) beautifully captured the 5 major groups today. The Sunspot count was in the 90’s and two sunspots showed exquisite umbra – penumbra detail.

Third – ok prominences today were pretty darn cool with 5 equal branching plumes looking like a row of  central valley olive trees at 10 O’clock (left-right flipped refactor view). A prominence at ~12 O’clock had part of its structure projected on photosphere giving a 3d like feel to the sun.

This image below show today’s sunspots. I crudely drew in the prominences.
Click Image to Enlarge
July1

Great day and another hats off to Dave Ittner for taking care of a lot of folks at the Telescope Tune-up. Way to go.

Posted in Blog, Solar


1x sunspot group for Fri June 15th

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

There’s been a nice 1X power sunspot group visible the last coupe days. It doesn’t look quite round and that’s because there are indeed two large spots in proximity. Below this (scope view) there is a chance to see a new sunspot group still forming. Yesterday the 5 sunspot specs were darkening  – today they’re more obvious. All this should prove good viewing tomorrow. BTW Excellent h-flares south of that. One, a broken toroide or slinky, arcing several degrees along the sun’s limb.

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Solar


Venus Transit: Interview + Time Lapse Video

 SJAA member Dan Wright with his great eyepiece projection system is interviewed on Venus Transit.

Transit of Venus Over Course of the Day!
Here’s a nice YouTube video from Malika Carter’s Sunspotter

Posted in Blog, Solar


Venus Transit 2012

Click Photo To Enlarge
SJAAVT2012
Posted in Blog, Solar


Venus Transit (SJAA at Houge Park)

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

San Jose CA: Clouds did not prove to be a problem today for this rare event to see Venus cross the Sun. Lots of Folks at Houge Park.

Click Photo to Enlarge
034Lee
Lee at Scope
Click Photo to Enlarge
040Scope
Front guide-Mirror Scope
Click Photo to Enlarge
043Jim

Jim’s Eyepiece Projection Box
Click Photo to Enlarge
045JimImage

 Wicked View through Jim’s Box
Click Photo to Enlarge
047E-card

Hand-made Solar Card
Click Photo to Enlarge
056projection

Another form of Eyepiece Projection
Click Photo to Enlarge
063MomDaught

Mother, Daughter – or is that Daughter, Mother
Click Photo to Enlarge
067ClubScope

SJAA’s 100mm H-Alpha Scope
Click Photo to Enlarge
venus_in_transit

Venus Transit – “The Wagner Effect”

1 comment:

  MSwartz-AstronomyJune 7, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Wow, that was a great day. I read up on the history of the watching of the transit of Venus by scientists and astronomers in the past. I not only enjoyed the spectical of seeing it but felt a special sense of history as I thought of those who had watched and measured it so carefully during transits past. And wow, what they would think if they could see what we can do today! Some of the pictures, especially the ones from satellite, and the time lapse photos that people are putting together are just amazing /p>

It was a fun day at Houge Park and I’m glad I was able to be there for the end of it. There was an impressive row of equipment and a very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. The weather was nice… it was just perfect.

Michael Swartz

Posted in Blog, Solar


Venus Transit (SJAA at NASA)

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

Clouds did not prove to be a problem today for this rare event to see Venus cross the Sun.

Click Photo to Enlarge
02V12-TearDrop

Teardrop Effect with Venus at 2d Contact
Click Photo to Enlarge
04V12-TV

 Better Than TV!!
Click Photo to Enlarge
07V12-WOW

Over Exposed H-alpha showing, Venus, Sunspots, Faculae, and Prominences
Click Photo to Enlarge
06V12-VenusFlare-goodEXpose

Normal Exposure in H-alpha
Click Photo to Enlarge
08V12-littlegirl

Girl with Solar Glasses
Click Photo to Enlarge
09V12-Michael

SJAA Member Michael Packer
Click Photo to Enlarge
10V12-Girls

Got Venus Transit? Transit Lovers
Click Photo to Enlarge
12V12-MalikaTREE

Malika’s Sunspotter Projector showing Venus through the Trees!
Click Photo to Enlarge
VenusHalfway

Venus Transit about half across
Click Photo to Enlarge
VenusTrees
Venus and Sunspots through the Trees

Posted in Blog, Solar


Eclipse Report & Solar Observing June 03 2012

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park   weather permitting

With at least 7 Sunspot groups the SP number was well over 100 today. Take a look at this great photo by SJAA member Robert Duvall and note the sunspot detail at 3:30 O’clock at the edge of the solar disk.

Click Image to Enlarge
2012-06-03half2

Today’s prominences (plasma flares) were all around the solar disk and changing shape rapidly over just a couple minutes. At 2 O’clock on the solar disk was the largest plasma stream extending perhaps 7 Earth diameters out from the photosphere. From 5 to 7 O’clock were a myriad of prominences exhibiting different structure from detached plumes, spicules to branching trees. Not many prominences were seen projected on the solar disc (compared to last month’s report or during the annular eclipse). This may have something to do with the high sunspot count and distribution. At any rate several sunspots were exquisite showing fine penumbra detail as seen in Teruo’s (SJAA member and leader) SC scope. Solar faculae were evident among many of these sunspot groups.

Speaking of the annular eclipse, here is a great time lapse compilation by SJAA member Malika using eyepiece projection. She was near center line in Navada.

YouTube Video

I took this image at center line near Mt. Lassen:

Click Image to Enlarge
01UPClose

**More pics of eclipse and SJAA’ers at Lassen center line here **

Not all of us SJAA’ers or the public made it to center line. Indeed the crowd at Houge Park was the largest ever seen (perhaps 600 plus folks over the course of this “lunar transit”.

Click Image to enlarge
SJAA+EClipse

Eclipse Day at Houge Park

VENUS TRANSIT: BE SURE TO VISIT HOUGE PARK TUESDAY 2:30 to SUNSET

Posted in Blog, Solar


4 minute Transit of Venus Movie

Here’s a 4 minute movie on the upcoming transit of Venus. Join SJAA for the Transit of Venus on Tuesday June 5th. Details at www.SJAA.net. The  transit starts around 3PM and will still be in front of the Sun as it sets after 7PM.

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar


Friday and Saturday SJAA Astronomy Day

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

We held Astronomy Day Part 1 at Houge Park Friday night and wow what a great time. Sky was good, scopes were plenty and crowd was the largest I’ve seen. A crescent moon allowed for great views of the giant fault system Rima Hyginus which is connected by a groove to the rille Ariadaeus. The moon did not disappoint deep sky viewers. Many Messier objects were up, M44 and Leo, Virgo galaxy clusters were high in the sky. Of course planetary viewers got good looks at Saturn, Mars, and Venus. Venus is about at its brightest right now as it is both close to Earth with decent phase. And Mars just recently went through its retrograde.

Saturday was Part 2 – Solar Viewing at the New Public Library on the San Jose University Campus. A steady stream of people over the course of the day amounted to innumerable exclamations of “Wow, Amazing, Sick, and You Got To Check This Out…” H-alpha flares were all around the solar disk and I couldn’t tell you which ones we like most. At 9 O’clock on the solar disc were two massive prominences that resembled two gargoyles or Lions facing each other – elaborate bookends indeed! At 12 O’clock there were 3 prominent flares – one looked like a giant bonfire in a fireplace and next to it was a detached prominence that looked like a flame from a Bic lighter. Inside the solar disk there was a terrific number of sunspots and filaments (dark sinuous features that are prominences projected on solar surface). The sunspot count was likely in the 80’s with about 6 sunspot groups.

Below Malika with two Solar projection systems.

AstroDaySmall

Recently she took a nice image of a 100+ sunspot day which we’ll post.

KevinKiller

Later in the day Kevin came with his sunspot KILLER 10″ filtered scope!

End Note :  Great Astronomy Weekend!!

Side Note:  Not having visited the The San Jose Campus for a long time I was blown away by the fantastic diversity and new library – a beautiful place. Check out a book and check the place out.

Posted in Blog, Solar


Log your own Sunspot Number Part 2 of 2 Plus a graph showing Solar Max expected in early 2013

Like observing the planets in our solar system, observing the sun on a daily or weekly basis gives one an intimate knowledge on its workings and beauty. I have enjoyed watching the storm clouds on Jupiter and the Great Red Spot change over time. But watching the sunspots on the surface of our sun and their effect on space weather throughout our solar system is quite cool, dare I say scorching!!! Especially as we approach solar maximum.

By regularly counting sunspots you can determine for yourself if solar activity is increasing or decreasing and might even catch a solar flare. In Part 1 I introduced the formula for calculating your own sunspot number:

R  =  k (10g+s)

R is the sunspot number; g is the number of sunspot groups on the solar disk; s is the total number of individual spots in all the groups; and k is a variable scaling factor that accounts for observing conditions and the type of telescope used.

You don’t need to know your personal scaling factor “k” to log your own sunspot number. Just set it equal to 1. However

k = Rp/ISN

Where k is your personal scaling factor, Rp is your sunspot count (Rp = 10g+s) and ISN is International Sunspot Number as calculated by the The Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC).

At the end of everyday SIDC publishes a Provisional ISN that you can use as the ISN. It is within 5% of final value so you don’t have to wait until the end of the calendar month to get the Definitive ISN. You can get the daily Provisional ISN here along with an Estimated ISN for the upcoming day (and use estimated if provisional is not reported). This data can be e-mailed to you once a day by signing up here.

SIDC has calculated the average sunspot number for past months and came up with this nice graph showing is change over several years with a prediction of when the next solar maximum will be (early 2013).

SunspotGRAPH Click for Full Size

Don’t wait for the solar max to start observing. As you can see by this graph there are months, let alone individual days, that the sunspot number can “flare” into the 100’s. In fact flares don’t depend on a lot a sunspots to happen – one big sunspot group is enough.

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar


SJAA Solar Observing Program for Sunday April 1st

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

Our new Solar Program is seeing a great mix of new astronomers, solar observing regulars and families walking by to see “what’s-up”:

Click image to enlarge
gilscope

Our beautiful star Sol is what’s up! Last month we had a terrific sunspot count of 70 and one decent sized prominence. Today we had a sunspot count of around 50 with huge prominences positioned at 3, 5 and 8 o’clock around the solar disk. 3 o’clock was a spectacular double loop prominence where magnetic field lines loop plasma right back to the Sun’s surface. It roughly had the shape of a weeping willow tree. At 9 o’clock we had an emission that looked like a sloop, a sailboat with a head and main sail… Or it looked like a giant nose in profile depending on who you talk too. At 5 o’clock we had  5 prominences all larger than the size of the Earth by several times. Also a classic Earth sized sunspot with a well defined penumbra was seen in the same field of view.

Click image to enlarge
EarthSize
(A)                                     (B)

Prominences (A) are small plasma flares. The ones we saw today were 2-3 times the size of Earth. Sunspots (B) appear dark because they are cooler relative to their surround. They usually come in pairs (two together) and are typically twice the size of Earth. The one we saw today at 5’oclock was isolated and about 1.5x bigger than Earth.

Now running side-by-side with Solar Observing is SJAA’s new Scope Tune-up Program (thanks to people like Dave Ittner). Got a scope you need help with? Bring it on by! And binoculars like the ones below can be fitted with solar filters to safely view the sun.

JoseBinosClub member Muzz checks out some giant Binoculars with Rob.

Log your own Sunspot Number (Part 2 of 2) will be posted in a couple of days. Check out the March Solar Program blog for Part 1.

Posted in Blog, Solar


SJAA Solar Observing Program for Sunday March 4th

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

One of the largest sunspot groups seen in a long while was visible on the Sun today. Below is an image of it coming into view a day earlier – just fantastic for all scopes equipped with a standard solar filter. In solar filtered binoculars it might of looked like two groups but small solar scopes at moderately high power showed tiny sunspots connecting the two larger dark regions. This Sunspot is associated with a large solar flare expected to hit Earth’s Magnetosphere around Friday March 9th.

In all, 5 Sunspot Groups were seen with over 30 individual spots! Let Solar Observing begin folks! Several of these groups were easily seen in an eyepiece projection system

Photo-0081Eyepiece Projection System (Thanks Malika)

Hydrogen Alpha Views in the club’s New H-Alpha scope showed the usual spiked prominences all around the Sun’s limb with one Earth-sized plasma ejection at 4 O’clock in scopes field of view.

Clip_4aSolar Observers and SJAA 100m H-Alpha Scope

Log you own Sunspot Number (Part 1 of 2)

Scientists track solar cycles by counting sunspots – cool planet-sized areas on the Sun where intense magnetic loops poke through the star’s visible surface.

Counting sunspots is not as straightforward as it sounds. Suppose you looked at the Sun through a pair of (properly filtered) low power binoculars – you might be able to see two or three large spots. An observer peering through a high-powered telescope might see 10 or 20. A powerful space-based observatory could see even more – say, 50 to 100. Which is the correct sunspot number?

There are two official sunspot numbers in common use. The first, the daily “Boulder Sunspot Number,” is computed by the NOAA SpaceEnvironment Center using a formula devised by Rudolph Wolf in 1848:

R  =  k (10g+s),

where R is the sunspot number; g is the number of sunspot groups on the solar disk; s is the total number of individual spots in all the groups; and k is a variable scaling factor (usually <1) that accounts for observing conditions and the type of telescope (binoculars, space telescopes, etc.). Scientists combine data from lots of observatories — each with its own k factor — to arrive at a daily value.

pFor example, looking through Ed’s refractor during this months program I saw 5 groups and about 30 individual sunpots. This give a sunspot number of:

R = k (10 x 5 + 30) = 80 if k = 1

The NOAA Solar Spot Number for March 4 was 70. I got the number of groups right but spots that I thought were individual were likely resolved in a larger aperture scope to be connected ie one and the same.

The other official sunspot number in common use is called Wolf number. It’s also known as the International sunspot number, relative sunspot number, or Zürich number. We’ll explore this numbering scheme and the k value in Part 2 but if you want to do some researching on you own check out this pdf.

Posted in Blog, Programs, Solar


Solar Viewing

Author: Rob Jaworski

As a local, community based astronomy club, the San Jose Astronomical Association mainly focuses on night time activities. After all, this is when the stars are out and viewing celestial objects is best.

There are, however, opportunities to conduct astronomical viewing during the day.  Some people challenge themselves by trying to view brighter planets during the day.  Or they see if they can view or even photograph the International Space Station against a blue daytime sky.  But there is one huge object that sometimes doesn’t get its due when it comes to amateur astronomy, that being our own star that powers us all, the Sun.

A post this week by SpaceWeather.com alerted readers to a huge sunspot that recently developed.  The alert noted that “[o]ne of the biggest sunspot groups in many years has just emerged over the sun’s eastern limb.  The sunspot’s magnetic canopy is crackling with M-class (medium-sized) solar flares and seems poised to launch even stronger X-class eruptions. The sunspot, named AR1339, is not yet directly facing Earth but it will be turning toward our planet in the days ahead.”  After a long time with little solar activity, it seems that the Sun is starting to wake up again, and sun spots and prominences will again be regular events viewable from the surface of the earth by amateur astronomers.

Lately, the SJAA Board of Directors has been discussing acquiring a solar telescope for the club’s use.  While it would not be slated as part of the Loaner Program fleet of telescopes, it would be available for club use during events such as school star parties, swap meets, auctions and other events.  The board has a committee made up of Rich N. and Robert A. that is reviewing the options of solar scopes currently on the market.  As always, the board welcomes input from SJAA members, so if you have suggestions, ideas or questions related to our solar scope acquisition effort, please reach out and contact the board in general or any individual member.  Here’s where to do that:
Contact Us
It’s your club, so we hope to hear from you!

Now that the sun is starting to show some activity, the SJAA aims to bring our closest stellar neighbor into our focal plane, in addition to the fabulous sights of the night time sky.

See you in the dark (and maybe sunlight)!
Rob Jaworski
Secretary, San Jose Astronomical Association

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Programs, Solar