Tag Archives: Coronado Pst

CNYO Observing Log: Two Solar Highlights – International SUN-Day And A Space Science Morning At The MOST

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

A post to the CNYO Facebook Page by Pamela Shivak of International SUN-Day and the equally great Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project about the 2015 Int. SUN-Day reminded me that the CNYO event for 22 June 2014 hadn’t been posted yet. Ergo…

2014august31_sunday_and_most_5_small

Dave Wormuth and passers-by at Larry’s NMT. Click for a larger view.

There for the duration of CNY’s edition of the International SUN-Day 2014 were Larry Slosberg, Bob Piekiel, Dave Wormuth, George Wong, and myself, plus Larry’s Baader-ized 12″ New Moon Telescope Dob, Bob’s 60 mm Coronado SolarMax II, my trusty Coronado PST, and a few pairs of official Charlie Bates Solar Astro solar glasses direct from Stephen Ramsden’s lecture at NEAF 2014 (George demonstrating their usage below).

2014august31_sunday_and_most_4_small

George demonstrating proper technique. Click for a larger view.

The day was excellent for solar observing (made so by the presence of a few trees to provide a little shade) and our two hour session ended up hosting about 30 people, a few of whom definitely took their time to enjoy the view, then many who took a quick glance, then another out of surprise, then attempted the ritual smart phone documentation of the view. As one can see below, the Coronado PST lets in more than enough red light to saturate the iPhone CCD camera. Whereas your eye is insensitive enough to provide you some very nice surface and prominence detail, the image below just barely gives you a view of otherwise wispy visual prominences.

2014august31_sunday_and_most_2_small

The H-alpha’ed Sun saturating a CCD. Click for a larger view.

Only a few of the attendees knew in advance from the website, twitter feed, or Facebook page. The others were simply caught as passers-by taking in the Creekwalk and Armory Square. The busy weekend being what it was, I even managed a short music conversation with the tour manager for Don Felder (who’d played with Foreigner and Styx the night before), himself taking in a bike tour of the Creekwalk and greater Syracuse area. And, despite our best efforts, we couldn’t get a couple of the leisurely strollers to veer our way to take in views. If you ever see us set up and observing, we hope you’ll line right up behind an eyepiece and take a look!

2014august31_sunday_and_most_1_small

Larry explaining everything. Click for a larger view.

Not too long after Int. SUN-Day, CNYO members received a request from Nancy Volk at The MOST to lend our solar scopes to a group of area 8th graders taking in a series of Space Science demos on the morning of 18 July 2014. Friday’s being what they are, I was left to sneak out on my own to run a mini solar session with just the Coronado PST and Bates Solar Glasses.

2014august31_sunday_and_most_3_small

The last of four outdoor sessions. Click for a larger view.

The morning session ended 3 hours later with no small amount of Armory Square drama unrelated to the session, the telling and re-telling of every solar fact I could come up with, and 70 enlightened students and teachers.

2014august31_sunday_and_most_6_small

Demonstrating the relative motions of the inner planets. Click for a larger view.

Instructive Demo Of The Day: Solar glasses and a +100 lumen flashlight are themselves an excellent combination in a pinch, as all can agree that the pre-filtered light is blindingly bright, while everyone around the glasses-wearing test subject gets a good laugh from seeing the flashlight waved within an inch of thin Baader film separating the wearer from a really bad case of temporary blindness.

We’ve now the official word on International SUN-Day 2015 – June 21st to be exact. Expect CNYO members to be somewhere (likely the Creekwalk again) hosting another session (weather-permitting, as usual)!

CNYO Observers Log: MOST Climate Day And North Sportsman’s Club Practice Session, 19 April 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The Saturday after NEAF was a busy one for CNYO members, including a lecture and observing session for the MOST Climate Day during the afternoon and a nighttime “dry run” for the North Sportman’s Club Public Viewing Sessions we’re on the verge of hosting for the rest of the year.

The morning started with a hectic rearrangement of speakers for the TACNY Jr. Cafe session, with Prof. Peter Plumley (MOST, Syracuse University) and Prof. Timothy Volk (SUNY-ESF) admirably filling in for a missing speaker (and the crowd requests for future topics were heavy in astronomy!). And speaking of Jr. Cafe astronomy, we note the May 17th lecture features CNYO’s own Ryan Goodson speaking on Newtonian Telescopes (with a solar session to follow if the skies hold)!

The indoor part of CNYO’s contribution to the MOST Climate Day featured myself and a lecture about the Sun/Earth relationship. While that lecture was given to only 2.5 people (one person left half-way), a 50 minute talk extended to 90 minutes thanks to some excellent discussions and deeper probing of some of the slide content.

2014may8_nsc_larry_small

Larry and observers on the Creekwalk. Click for a larger view.

Outside, Larry Slosberg hit the public observing jackpot with his 12″ Baader-ized New Moon Telescope Dob and NASA Night Sky Network Solar Kit. Between the MOST crowd, Record Store Day at Sound Garden, and a Creekwalk made busy by the clear skies and comfortable temperatures, Larry counted over a few dozen new observers before I even made it outside. To Larry’s solar collection I added a Coronado PST for some excellent H-alpha views of sunspots and several prominences that changed significantly over the course of an hour (which was made all the more impressive to passers-by when you mention that these changes could be measured in units of “Earths” instead of miles).

2014may8_nsc_solar_small

An intrepid observer at the Coronado PST. Click for a larger view.

Larry and I packed up around 4:00 p.m. after giving nearly 40 people a unique view of our nearest star, providing a three-hour window before heading off to North Sportsman’s Club (NSC) for an evening session.

2014may8_nsc_crew_small

Some of the NSC crew setting up. Click for a larger view.

We also used April 19th as a reintroduction to the skies above the NSC, with this session opened up to a short-list of people with scopes interested in helping reduce the lengths of observing lines at future public sessions (and we welcome others interested in bringing their scopes to these sessions to please contact us using our online form or by emailing us at info@cnyo.org).

2014may8_nsc_bigdipper_small

The Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and surroundings. Click for a larger view.

The total in attendance was between 10 and 12 over the two hours I was present (and the event continued for some time after), with about half as many scopes present (which is a great number for even large public viewing sessions). Despite it becoming a very cold evening, the combined observing list was extensive from among all parties, with New Moon Telescope’s 27″ Dob making many views extra memorable.

2014may8_nsc_southwest_small

The view to the Southwest (featuring a bright Jupiter near center). Click for a larger view.

We are planning our first public session for 2014 in late May, perhaps to coincide with the predicted meteor super-storm on the early morning of May 24th. Keep track of cnyo.org or our Facebook group page for details!

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods Solar Session, 24 August 2013

2013sept20_bwsolar_2

The gathered crowd at Baltimore Woods.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

As CNY completes a remarkable span of bright days and clear nights around this year’s Harvest Moon, we finally catch up on our observing logs with a recap of Baltimore Wood’s Solar Session held on an equally bright and clear August 24th.

Despite its importance as the primary reason we and this Solar System are here at all, the Sun often gets neglected by some amateur astronomers who opt out of expensive solar equipment in favor of expensive deep sky equipment. The Sun, like all stars, is a seemingly simple ball of light that reveals great complexity depending on what you use to observe it. Some filters knock down all but 0.001%(ish) of the Sun’s light to provide great Sunspot detail, while other filters let only very specific wavelengths of light through – these filters then providing insights into the surface structure of the Sun based on the excitation of specific atoms on the Sun’s surface or in its corona.

2013sept20_bwsolar_5

An observer at a Coronado H-alpha scope.

Despite its close proximity and constant activity, the Sun is just like any other astronomical object – patience is the key to appreciating the view. At low magnification and over only a few minutes, Sunspots and prominences appear to drift slowly, if at all, in the field of view. Changing to high magnification reveals dynamic views around Sunspots as they undulate or merge with other spots, with changes that are apparent to trained eyes occurring over many seconds. Observers with good memories can return to their scopes over several minutes to see very obvious changes to large prominences. While the differences may be subtle to the eye, they are anything but subtle on the Sun. Keeping in mind that 107 Earths fit across the diameter of the Sun, seeing changes to large prominence over the course of minutes means that plasma on the Sun’s surface is racing at dizzying speeds. The drama only seems slow from our safe distance.

2013sept20_bwsolar_3

The gathered scopes (and gathering observers).

The two hour session at Baltimore Woods provided ample time to sample both the range of filters and the range of timescales, thanks primarily to the ever well-equipped Bob Piekiel and his Baader, CaK, and H-alpha scopes. To this list of equipment was added Larry Slosberg and his Baader-filtered New Moon Telescope 12″ Dobsonian (the big primary mirror of the session), then myself with a Coronado PST (H-alpha). And speaking of filters (and taken from CNYO’s A Guide For Solar Observing brochure)…

2013sept20_bwsolar_1

A solar projecting scope (left) and Larry Slosberg’s Baader’ed NMT Dob.

Baader Filter – The Baader (“Bah-der”) filter works by reflecting 99.999% of all of the incoming light (almost a mirror), leaving you with a pale yellow disk. You’ll see no prominences or fine surface detail, but Baader filters are excellent for observing sunspots.

CaK (Calcium K-line) – The CaK filter lets through a wavelength corresponding to the 393.4 nm Ca K-line transition (you see it as violet). These filters provide excellent surface detail.

H-alpha (Hydrogen-alpha) – This filter lets through a hydrogen electronic transition corresponding to a wavelength of 656.28 nm (you see it as a rich red). H-alpha filters are excellent for prominences and good for surface detail.

2013sept20_bwsolar_7

The Sun through different filters (see above).

Thanks to the SOHO (Solar And Heliospheric Observatory) satellite and its website, it is easy to find the Sun’s snapshot on August 24th to see exactly what we were looking at, complete with a week’s worth of images from the days before to see how the positions of Sunspots changed as the Sun’s plasma rotated about its axis (the final image in yellow is the view from the 24th).

2013sept20_bwsolar_8

The week before the solar session (images from NASA/SOHO).

Technical details aside, the session was an excellent one, with approximately 30 people enjoying many views of the Sun and all the solar details Bob, Larry, and I could remember. Of specific note was a prominence that started small at the beginning of the session but grew to contain a clear, dark hole more than one Earth diameter wide over only an hour’s time. The fun wasn’t restricted to scope observers, either. With filtered binoculars and simple Baader glasses, the dimmed ball of light itself was just as interesting a target.

2013sept20_bwsolar_6

The unmagnified (and nearly unmagnified) view of the Sun through Baader glasses.

While I didn’t hear it mentioned, it is worth noting that the unmagnified (but filtered) Sun appears to be about the same diameter as the unmagnified (and unfiltered) Moon – a point of no small significance during Solar Eclipses. And as the Moon is slipping away from us at a rate of 1.5 inches per year, the Solar Eclipse is also (very, very slowly) becoming a thing of the past in favor of what will become Lunar Transits. All the more reason why it’s a great time to be observing!

I leave you with the most informative 30 seconds on the website (so far). To demonstrate the dangers of observing the Sun without some kind of filter, Bob and Larry set to work reproducing the fabled ship-burning apparatus of Archimedes (also of Syracuse) by burning one sheet of paper and one dark leaf at low magnification. As Bob explains, this same burning would occur on your retina without something to greatly knock down the Sun’s brightness. I even found myself jumping rather anxiously at one intrepid observer trying to look through the eyepiece of Bob’s projecting scope. Solar safety (and eye safety in general) is no joke!

It’s as informative and definitive a video on solar safety as you’ll find on youtube, so feel free to pass the link along to any and all.