THE SUN IN ACTION
How you too can be a Solar Internet Astronomer
The Sun has been unusually active over the last 18 months with the number of sunspots being plentiful along with occasional extra large sunspots being visible to the unaided eye when the Sunís disk is low down close to the horizon at Sunset or Sunrise. We have also seen an increase in the number solar prominences, some of which are referred to as coronal mass ejections. There has never been a better time to observe the Sun by amateur astronomers, either by projecting the Sunís bright disk onto a piece of white card held in front of the telescope eyepiece, or by using special Hydrogen-alpha Sun filters, and as always, observing the Sun in safety is very important. Never look directly at the Sunís disk through binoculars or any telescope, as you will be blinded in an instant. B)
The alternative is to make use of the internet to view the latest images of the Sun normally available to professional astronomers, taken either by earth bound solar observatories, or the ESA/NASA SOHO (Solar & Heliospheric Observatory) spacecraft at SOHO. This spacecraft takes frequent images of our Sun in different wavelengths including visual light. At present SOHO is cleaning vapour and crystals from its camera lenses by warming them up, a process called CCD Bake-out. It should be back to normality soon. A bottom row of 4 images shows our Sun in visual light, a Magnetogram that indicates the polarity of Sunspots which like a bar magnet may be north (+) white) south (-), and two LASCO images which show the Sun in an artificial eclipse, so that coronal mass ejections can be seen clearly. The top row indicates the state of the Sunís inner atmosphere, the Chromosphere, taken in the precise wavelengths of Iron, Calcium, oxygen and so forth. These coloured images bring out details that show the coronal holes through which charged particles pour out into space. The Big Bear Solar Observatory at BB Home is also a good source of daily images of the Sun. Here the Magnetogram is in colour showing the north (+) polarity of Sunspots in red. :huh:
Budding astronomers may also be interested in carrying out research into the Sunís activity spread over periods of time. Such as the rise and fall of Sunspot numbers, the frequency of solar flares or coronal mass ejections and etc. so that access to an on line comprehensive databases is essential. A solar astronomer based service, The European Grid of Solar Observatories (EGSO), is available and fills this gap successfully, it can be found at EGSO-Home.
The EGSO is presently being tested over the Internet and is fully functional; its test page is available Solar-Test. The Solar Event Catalogue (SEC) hostís event databases and data indices gathered from a large number of distributed sources. It is updated daily with new observational data being constantly added. The SEC is used by the EGSO system to improve the efficiency of the Query process. Searches can be submitted to the SEC using preset forms or free SQL. And results can be retrieved as either VOT tables or text files. However, It is important that any submitted requests for data is for periods of 1 Ė 2 months, and not 6 Ė 12 months of even up to two years due to the huge volume of information contained within the various database catalogues. The EGSO Help file located at Help provides a good description of the SEC database architecture.
With safety in mind, If you are keenly interested in observing our Sun, and either have no suitable telescope, or possess a good telescope without the specialist H-alpha Sun filter equipment, then the Internet is the next best thing, and it is completely safe for all ages.
Having looked at these sites did you find them useful? Do you have any favourite sits of your own or opinion to express for the benefit of other Forum members, please leave your comments here. Many thank's everyone