So I *finally* got some observing in today and tonight. We haven't had a really clear sky since Christmas day (47 days ago!). We've had clear patches on and off a few times, but no time to do anything serious til tonight... and wouldn't it figure, I have my mirror at Swayze's getting re-figured... DOH!
I got no imaging in, but I did get fantastic observing sessions in on several fronts.
Sun in H-alpha
Today was very clear and I knew that the Sun was being very active, so I took advantage of the sky to see what all the hubbub was about. Using my Coronado PST (40mm Personal [H-alpha] Solar Telescope), I studied the solar disk and the limb for quite some time. It was fascinating. Lots of prominences and flares. Mostly small, but 1 much larger one and some other fairly large ones. See the SOHO EIT picture from today. It's obviously significantly more detailed then what I saw in the PST, but I saw much of what's going on in this picture just on a wimpier scale.
The bright white patches where the cooling areas and sunspots are was particularly interesting to look at. They had these dark lanes threaded through and around them that are not really seen in the SOHO EIT image. So I'm also including the Mauna Loa H-alpha picture from today to show the threads I was seeing. Simply fascinating. I wish I didn't have to head out to a job or I would have set up the camera and took my own pictures of this incredible solar activity.
Sun in White Light Baader Film Filter
This one has a bit of a story to it. I really wanted to see the sunspots I was hearing about and since the Ha scope doesn't see them, I needed to use the Baader Film Filter. The problem was that I sold the 102mm refractor that I bought the filter for. Great. I'm here, I have the filter, the Sun's out, the activity is high and I can't see it. Sheesh.... but wait... last August I won a 90mm refractor at the Oregon Star Party and although I wanted to sell it, I haven't and it's still here in the box... hmmmm...
So I break out the 90mm f/10 Orion Achromat. The filter is a little too big so the nylon screws won't hold it to the dew shield... not a problem.. I've got painters tape. Sweet!
But wait... it's got a dove tail and I only have a tripod to put it on... hmmm... oh yeah! I have a Baader adapter to put a dove tail on 1/4-20 tripod screw. Sweet! ... ummm... uh oh... that's not 1/4-20. Drat! ... wait... I have a 1/4-20 tap! So I re-tap the threads for the tripod and I'm in business again. Sweet!
Sheesh... it was like a roller coaster ride!
See the picture of the scope below.
So now I get to look at the sunspots (yay!). WOW! There are *lots* of them. More then I have seen or was expecting and more then I'm used to hearing about. I'm not sure how many is a "highly active" or "large number" of sunspots, but it sure seems like this qualifies. I counted 21 although there may have been even more with better scrutiny.
An arc of 5 or so followed by a stream of another 16 or more of them in a meandering line. Some larger and some smaller. Again, I really wish I can stop and take a picture. Since I couldn't, I'm including the SOHO MDI picture from today that looks very similar to what I saw in the scope. My filter makes the sun white, but it's basically the same as this picture below.
Mars with a Friend
Later in the evening I really wanted to visually observe. Doesn't it figure I can't since I don't really have an observing scope so I went to Barry Brence's house to observe with him.
Although there was a lot of fog and some high clouds passing through, the sky was mostly clear. He had his son's 6" Dob out pointed at Mars. We tossed in a variety of eyepieces but the view at 200x power or so was the best. Detail on the planet, polar cap, very nice color... the works! It was the best view I've seen of Mars since 2007.
It has two very distinct surface details on either side of the equator that reminded me of North and South America. The polar cap was large and clear. We used no filters to try and enhance contrast, but we really didn't need them as the view came in and out of better seeing it has moments of excellent clarity.
Observing is always a blast, but doing it with a friend is even better!