Tag Archives: Soho

Partial Solar Eclipse On October 23rd – Attendance And Location Update

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The forecast for Thursday (Oct. 23rd) presently isn’t all that pleasant for observing the upcoming partial solar eclipse, but 3 days is a long time for CNY forecasting. We will keep track of the weather over the next few days and will announce on this site and our Facebook Page accordingly.


The views of the partial solar eclipse from Starry Night Pro’s predictions.

The current location for the session will be the very southern end of the Onondaga Lake Parkway, just below the baseball diamond shown in the google map below.

For those willing to brave that left-hand turn at the main entrance, you need only loop left on the Parkway to get to the large parking lot at the southern end. For those NOT interested in fighting any rush hour traffic, we advise making a driving map that has you going past Heid’s, turning left onto 1st Street, making the left onto Lake Drive, then meander your way along to Onondaga Lake Parkway to get to the south end.

All of the data I’ve found so far for New York indicates the eclipse will start at 5:43 p.m. And go well past sunset (at which point it does’t matter to us anyway). The CNYO board will have several solar scopes and solar glasses there, so all you need do is show up! If you’ve solar equipment you want to bring, by all means do so.

Attendees may even be in for a special treat, as there’s currently a MASSIVE sunspot gracing the Sun’s surface. Seriously, look at the size of that thing in the image from NASA SOHO below:


As always, keep track of this website for weather updates, with the final call being made on Thursday afternoon. We hope you can join us!

NASA Space Place – The Invisible Shield Of Our Sun

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in July, 2014.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceWhether you look at the planets within our solar system, the stars within our galaxy or the galaxies spread throughout the universe, it’s striking how empty outer space truly is. Even though the largest concentrations of mass are separated by huge distances, interstellar space isn’t empty: it’s filled with dilute amounts of gas, dust, radiation and ionized plasma. Although we’ve long been able to detect these components remotely, it’s only since 2012 that a man-made spacecraft — Voyager 1 — successfully entered and gave our first direct measurements of the interstellar medium (ISM).

What we found was an amazing confirmation of the idea that our Sun creates a humongous “shield” around our solar system, the heliosphere, where the outward flux of the solar wind crashes against the ISM. Over 100 AU in radius, the heliosphere prevents the ionized plasma from the ISM from nearing the planets, asteroids and Kuiper belt objects contained within it. How? In addition to various wavelengths of light, the Sun is also a tremendous source of fast-moving, charged particles (mostly protons) that move between 300 and 800 km/s, or nearly 0.3% the speed of light. To achieve these speeds, these particles originate from the Sun’s superheated corona, with temperatures in excess of 1,000,000 Kelvin!

When Voyager 1 finally left the heliosphere, it found a 40-fold increase in the density of ionized plasma particles. In addition, traveling beyond the heliopause showed a tremendous rise in the flux of intermediate-to-high energy cosmic ray protons, proving that our Sun shields our solar system quite effectively. Finally, it showed that the outer edges of the heliosheath consist of two zones, where the solar wind slows and then stagnates, and disappears altogether when you pass beyond the heliopause.

Unprotected passage through interstellar space would be life-threatening, as young stars, nebulae, and other intense energy sources pass perilously close to our solar system on ten-to-hundred-million-year timescales. Yet those objects pose no major danger to terrestrial life, as our Sun’s invisible shield protects us from all but the rarer, highest energy cosmic particles. Even if we pass through a region like the Orion Nebula, our heliosphere keeps the vast majority of those dangerous ionized particles from impacting us, shielding even the solar system’s outer worlds quite effectively. NASA spacecraft like the Voyagers, IBEX and SOHO continue to teach us more about our great cosmic shield and the ISM’s irregularities. We’re not helpless as we hurtle through it; the heliosphere gives us all the protection we need!

Want to learn more about Voyager 1’s trip into interstellar space? Check this out: www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-278.

Kids can test their knowledge about the Sun at NASA’s Space place: spaceplace.nasa.gov/solar-tricktionary/.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


Caption: Image credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA / STScI), C. R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt), and NASA, of the star LL Orionis and its heliosphere interacting with interstellar gas and plasma near the edge of the Orion Nebula (M42). Unlike our star, LL Orionis displays a bow shock, something our Sun will regain when the ISM next collides with us at a sufficiently large relative velocity.

About NASA Space Place

The goal of the NASA Space Place is “to inform, inspire, and involve children in the excitement of science, technology, and space exploration.” More information is available at their website: http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/

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


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.


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.


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)…


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.


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).


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.


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.

CNYO Observing Log: ShoppingTown Mall, 19 June 2013


Greetings fellow astrophiles!

From the CNYO Facebook Group page on 17 June 2013:

Damian and I [Larry S.] have been talking about doing another impromptu observing session. We had some really good turn out for a Solar/Lunar observing session in the Shoppingtown upper parking lot. Wednesday’s forecast is looking promising. Anyone interested in doing another Solar/Lunar session at Shoppingtown at 6pm on Wednesday? I’m choosing Shoppingtown again, because I have a CNY Skeptics in the Pub meeting at Scotch and Sirloin at 7pm. Any one interested in joining us for a drink after is also welcome.

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The approximate location (at center) of the session.

CNYO hosted a half-dozen observers (and a half-dozen or so other stopper-by’s) at its second facebook-organized combined Solar/Lunar Observing Session in the parking lot of ShoppingTown Mall on Wednesday, 19 June 2013, just prior to the bimonthly CNY Skeptics In The Pub meeting at the Scotch & Sirloin.


In attendance were Larry Slosberg with both his NMT 12” Dobsonian (and my custom Baader solar filter) and his Meade SCT 8”, myself with Baader-equipped Zhumell 25×100’s, and John Giroux with his Coronado Solarmax 60 II (which obviated the need for me to bring my Coronado PST, providing a low-magnification Baader view for onlookers instead through the binos). This event also featured the first official use of our CNYO Solar Observing brochure, which we will continue to update and have available at all of our Solar observing sessions (download the PDF for yourself at its CNYO post).


The 11 day old waxing gibbous Moon hung quite pale blue but feature-rich through Larry’s 8” SCT. Outside of discussion with attendees, all attention was placed on the Sun, which was busy with several sunspots and prominences, include Sunspot 1772, which featured a surface prominence easily visible in John’s Solarmax. A gif of the 5 days prior and 5 following days is shown below from NASA SOHO images (the image for the 19th is in yellow).


From NASA/SOHO images. Click for a full-sized version.

The Solar/Lunar Sessions are a perfect combination of interesting (and important!) objects and family-friendly observing times, making them one event we plan on committing to a more regular schedule this summer (with new potential locations under discussion). We will keep you posted on this website. Stay tuned!