Looking Directly At The Sun Can Be Fun
This week the Bellaire astronomy class was lucky enough to borrow a Coronado PST and to have a nearly cloudless sky. We managed to get a full hour of observation in and everyone got a look and made a sketch. It was a great lab.
SOHO, the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, is a project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind and you can get in on the fun. You can check out the view from SOHO daily. The images through the PST were similar in color to the 304-angstrom-view from SOHO. The SOHO image represents a higher layer of the solar atmosphere than does the PST view.
Since the sun gives off much more light in the visible yellow region than it does in the Hydrogen-alpha type of light we can’t see the chromosphere of the sun unless we look in JUST that range and don’t look at the other colors. Special filters help us out to do this. Check out this cool animated GIF of the sun at this wavelength.
It was a great time and the sun looked really awesome with red and black speckles. No one even minded that the solar minimum makes for a less exciting solar surface. There were a few prominences and other features but they were small so it was a great lesson in observational techniques.