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Archive for the ‘Sun photos’ Category

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Above: My extremely humble, unedited photo of the Sun with a dramatically large sunspot group currently visible. I could even see the largest spot using the eclipse shades we used for observing the May 20, 2012 solar eclipse. Read all about it and see some very sharp photos at Spaceweather.com. Solar projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece.

Below: Waning Crescent Moon at 5:37 AM CDT July 3, 2013 (10:37 UT). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece.
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At the neighborhood park, at dawn on July 3:
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Above: A mother Mallard and half-grown ducklings heading towards the water.
Below: I was very pleased to see a mother Wood Duck with eight ducklings!
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Photos above with 7×35 Bushnell binoculars.

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Above: It’s amazing how much wildlife one can see so close to the city, and you see more by coming out at a quiet time such as the early morning.

Below: A very calm dragonfly, no doubt looking forward to a fine day of mosquito hunting.
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It’s good to get down to the neighborhood park again. Once I was there once or twice a day, but not very often for almost a year. The park is full of memory for me, the memory of two thousand walks with Pluto during the last two and a half years of his long life. But life goes on, new ducklings and all!

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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The Sun at 6:03 PM CDT July 4, 2012 (23:03 UT), projected via 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece. 1515 is the designation for the long sunspot group lower left of center, which according to Spaceweather.com is “crackling” with “almost X-Class” solar flares, each “crackle” releasing the energy of over a billion atomic bombs. Click here to visit Spaceweather.com and view a movie of Sunspot 1515 growing over the past five days. Today is Independence Day here in the USA. These are plenty of fireworks indeed!

I contracted the sunspot observation bug while getting ready to view the Venus transit,. The Sun is big, bright, observable in the daytime, has a “major impact” on life here on Earth, and is constantly changing. A rewarding target, but one must be careful! I’ve been continuing to improve my projection box with simple notebook paper, and sometime soon I’ll experiment with a sheet of white crafting foam, because I think I still have some around here somewhere. Here’s the Front Deck Solar Observatory at work:

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Waxing gibbous Moon at 12:04 AM CDT June 29, 2012 (05:04 UT), 8″ reflector telescope with 25mm eyepiece (65x magnification).


Northern portion of the Moon at 12:02 AM CDT 6-29-12 (05:02 UT), with the crater Plato very prominent, one of my perennial favorites. Magnification doubled to 130x with 2x Barlow.

Viewing the Venus transit got me in gear for sunspot observation, and at an apt time, since the Sun is now quite active as it approaches a solar maximum:

The Sun at 8:40 AM CDT June 30, 2012 (13:40 UT), 60mm refractor telescope with 17mm eyepiece via projection. The Sun is getting spotty indeed! Clockwise from upper right, the three conspicuous sunspots are 1512, 1514, and 1513 respectively. According to Spaceweather.com, “Sunspots 1512 and 1513 pose a threat for M-class solar flares,” and the effects have recently been felt across Europe especially.

LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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The Sun at 9:18 AM CDT June 27, 2012 (14:18 UT), projected onto white paperboard via my 60mm refractor telescope with 17mm eyepiece. The innocent-looking sunspot group just to the lower right of center is Sunspot 1512, which according to Spaceweather.com “poses a growing threat for M-class solar flares.” They also report a coronal hole still on the Sun’s far side, but soon to rotate within sight of Earth, which will likely send a stream of solar wind which will reach Earth on July 1-2, causing aurorae (Northern/Southern Lights), etc. Don’t worry, we’ve been through it all many times before, but I’ll keep you posted.

WordPress.com gives me a report on what kinds of search engine searches brought people to my site, and somebody today searched for “what did the Moon look like on June 19, 2012?” Well, since that was the New Moon phase, it couldn’t be seen from Earth at all that day, but someone viewing the Earth-Moon system from the Sun’s direction would have seen the far side of the Moon fully illuminated. Here’s a simulated view via NASA/JPL’s delightful Solar System Simulator:

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Venus, now a “morning star,” is well-situated in my sky for updates on its changing phases, as it continues to recede from Earth after the glorious Transit of June 5/6, 2012, so I’ll keep on updating this photo series every few days or so:

11:21 AM CDT June 27, 2012 (16:21 UT)
Angular diameter 47.07 arc seconds
13.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,940,927 miles (53,013,283 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
8:38 AM CDT June 21, 2012 (13:38 UT)
Angular diameter 51.42 arc seconds
7.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 30,154,150 miles (48,528,401 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
8:57 AM CDT June 12, 2012 (13:57 UT)
Angular diameter 56.46 arc seconds
1.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 27,463,558 miles (44,198,313 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
7:33 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:33 UT June 6, 2012)
Angular diameter 57.78 arc seconds
0.0% illumination, transiting the Sun
Distance from Earth 26,836,379 miles (43,188,966 km)
Projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece
10:50 AM CDT May 16, 2012 (15:50 UT)
Angular diameter 48.03 arc seconds
12.3% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,284,073 miles (51,956,179 km)
10:26 AM CDT May 10, 2012 (15:26 UT)
Angular diameter 43.71 arc seconds
18.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 35,473,212 miles (57,088,600 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
12:41 PM CDT May 3, 2012 (17:41 UT)
Angular diameter 39.11 arc seconds
24.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 39,649,337 miles (63,809,423 km)
18mm eyepiece

7:14 PM CDT April 22, 2012 (00:14 UT 4-23-12)
Angular diameter 33.12 arc seconds
33.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 46,812,338 miles (75,337,236 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow

6:28 PM CDT March 24, 2012 (23:28 UT)
Angular diameter 22.95 arc seconds
52.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 67,571,683 miles (108,746,083 km)

4:10 PM CST February 12, 2012 (22:10 UT)
Angular diameter 16.24 arc seconds
70.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 95,450,953 miles (153,613,419 km)
18mm eyepiece

1:48 PM CST February 8, 2012 (19:48 UT)
Angular diameter 15.82 arc seconds
71.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 98,020,580 miles (157,748,833 km)
18mm eyepiece

2:37 PM CST January 5, 2012 (20:37 UT)
Angular diameter 13.19 arc seconds
81.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 117,572,894 miles (189,215,232 km)
2:21 PM CST November 29, 2011 (20:21 UT)
Angular diameter 11.46 arc seconds
89.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 135,265,885 miles (217,689,541 km)
4:18 PM CST November 20, 2011 (22:18 UT)
Angular diameter 11.13 arc seconds
91.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 139,346,992 miles (227,254,246 km)
12:03 PM CST January 5, 2011 (18:03 UTC)
Angular diameter 25.58 arc seconds
48.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 60,611,164 miles (97,544,214 km)
10:02 AM CST November 27, 2010 (16:02 UTC)
Angular diameter 44.72 arc seconds
20.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 34,669,885 miles (55,795,771 km)
12:40 PM CDT (17:40 UTC), November 5, 2010
Angular diameter 59.94 arc seconds
2.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 25,866,740 miles (41,628,483 km)

Unless otherwise noted, 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece. LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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In 1639 brilliant astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks and his friend William Crabtree were the first two ever to observe a Transit of Venus, which Horrocks described as “a most agreeable spectacle.” A delightful understatement indeed! Only six more Venus transits have occurred since then, and last week, for the one and only time in my life, I had the privilege of viewing the “most agreeable spectacle” of the 2012 Venus Transit. Here’s my story:


Here’s the soon-to-be-transited Sun, a few sunspots evident, at 3:23 PM CDT, June 5, 2012, viewed inside my projection box, a bit of low-tech space exploration technology which consisted of white paperboard taped inside a desk drawer. The equipment used for all these photos is my 60mm refractor telescope, 17mm eyepiece, and trusty LG VX8360 cell phone camera. I had the privilege of leading a Community Education class for the occasion of the transit, attended by eleven eager observers and learners. Some were family and friends who had earlier attended our solar eclipse party, and others were new friends who had signed up for the class. We gathered at the local Middle School at 6:45, and began with fifteen minutes of orientation. After that we switched to “observation party” format, freely moving between the outside observation area and the classroom, where we could watch the NASA EDGE webcast live from Hawaii.

After wrapping up the orientation, we headed out to view the beginning of the transit. As soon as I had the telescope and projection box set up, we could already see a telltale “bite” bitten out of the Sun’s limb. The transit had begun! It began earlier than I thought it would, and in retrospect I see two mistakes I made that cost us the chance to see the very beginning of the transit:

1. I didn’t have the telescope completely set up beforehand, and specifically, I didn’t have something ready to elevate the projection box. After a minute of near-frantic problem-solving, I had the projection box perched on top of an inverted garbage can!
2. I should have checked for the exact local time of first ingress. I hadn’t given it much thought, and assumed that it wouldn’t vary by much more than a couple of minutes globally. But soon, as class members moved between the outdoor viewing area and the Hawaii-based webcast in the classroom, they reported that Hawaii’s view was delayed by a few minutes compared to our view from Minnesota. In fact, if I had bothered to check our local transit times using this user-friendly utility, I would have known that our local first ingress time was 5:04:40, not 5:08 or 5:09 as I had guessed! No matter, nobody seemed disturbed, and in fact the noticeable difference between Hawaii’s time and ours proved to be an interesting learning experience for the whole class, including me. After all, it only makes sense. As Venus moved to the right across the Sun’s face according to our perspective, the Earth as viewed from Venus also was moving to the right, as from Venus’ point of view Earth was at opposition, and was in the midst of retrograde motion. Below, thanks to a great utility called the NASA/JPL Solar System Simulator is the Earth as viewed from Venus at 22:05 UT 6-5-12, the time of first ingress as viewed from Minnesota:


Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

As you can see, Minnesota, in the heart of North America, is about one-half Earth diameter ahead of Hawaii, which resulted in us being almost six minutes ahead of Hawaii in viewing each stage of the transit. Of course, their reward for being “behind” is that they got to see the whole thing, whereas the Sun set in Minnesota while the transit was still happening!

Anyway, without further ado, here are some views of the transit in progress. Some of the earlier photos are a bit pale and diffuse due to a hazy sky, but I’m not complaining. It sure beat overcast skies!!!


5:11, my first photo of the transit in progress.

Though this 5:21 PM photo may not show it, I think I could discern a ring of light around Venus’ circumference at about this time.

Though we missed the First Ingress, we successfully witnessed Second Ingress, which took place during the following series of four photos, all taken during the minute of 5:22 PM local time:


5:25 PM.


Class members viewing the webcast at 5:32 PM.


Here’s what we saw on the webcast at 5:33 PM. Compare this view from Hawaii with the 5:25 PM photo above of our view from Minnesota, and you’ll see that they’re about the same.


At 5:37 PM, Venus had advanced about one Venutian diameter inside the Sun’s limb.


This photo was taken at 5:54 PM, just before we gathered in the classroom to learn more about the transit.


We wrapped up the class at 6:45, but I sent them home with their new eclipse shades, reminding them that the transit could still be seen for over two hours, and the webcast would continue until midnight. This photo was taken at 6:50 PM, the last photo before heading home.


After returning home I set up the telescope and projection box on the deck, and shared the experience of the transit with my wife. Here’s a small but clear photo taken at 7:18 PM. By the way, if you’re wondering why the Sun looks bigger in some pics than others, it’s because photographing a projection is a subjective experience, depending both on the eyepiece-screen distance as well as the screen-camera distance. It’s not like aiming the camera into the eyepiece, which always gives you the same magnification for the same telescope/eyepiece combination.

7:20 PM.


7:30 PM.


My last photo of the transit, as the Sun and Venus began to dip behind the big tree in the northwest part of the backyard. 7:33 PM.


8:14 PM, the transit still in progress, but it was time for my wife and me to enjoy an evening walk with our venerable dog Pluto. Of course, I took a pair of eclipse shades along to take a look from time to time! My last glimpse of the transit in progress was about 8:30 PM, the time of deepest transit. Indeed, a most agreeable spectacle!

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The planet Venus, silhouetted against the Sun, during the 2012 Transit of Venus. 7:20 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:20 UT June 6, 2012), projected onto a paperboard screen with a 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece, photographed with an LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge. This is but one small document of this truly momentous celestial event which I was privileged to witness and which I will never see again.

I’ll post a more detailed report as time allows, but one thing I’d like to share right now is that the simple, lowly projection method was even more effective than this photo might suggest. When the sky was clearest (we had some thin haze at first, but not enough to block our view, thank God), the crisp disk of Venus didn’t just look like a circle cut out of the Sun, but really looked like it was a separate object suspended in front of the Sun!

One more thing I’ll tell you right now: I’m truly looking forward to the Mercury transits of May 9, 2016 and November 11, 2019!

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Reports of yesterday’s solar eclipse are coming in from all over:

From Journey To the Stars in the Philippines: Crescent Sun At Sunrise

From SpaceWeather.com: Fantastic Eclipse

From Sky and Telescope: May 20th’s Solar Eclipse

From soulblindministry in Arizona: My Solar Eclipse Video

And here’s my report: The sky was perfect for our party of family and friends who gathered at the neighborhood park to view the eclipse. I projected the Sun’s image into a makeshift projection box using my 60mm f11.6 refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece. We also used Eclipse Shades from Astronomers Without Borders, which I highly recommend. The direct view of the eclipsed (and uneclipsed) Sun with these glasses was not only clear but positively dramatic.

I simply note the local time on May 20, 2012, with the photos below, but for those interested in Universal Time, the photos were taken between 23:45 UT on May 20, 2012 and 1:34 UT on May 21, 2012:


The Sun viewed via projection at 6:45 PM, just over one half hour before the beginning of the eclipse. Look closely and you may discern three sunspot groups, which, stretching from about “eleven o’clock” to “four o’clock” are designated 1486, 1484, and 1482 respectively.


The uneclipsed Sun shining brightly at 6:53 PM.


7:18 PM, only a minute or two after the Moon started taking a “bite” out of the lower right limb of the Sun as viewed from our location.


7:30 PM.


7:44 PM.


7:47 PM.


My niece and great nephew, a mother duck and duckling, and the partially eclipsed Sun at 7:48 PM.


Party attendees sporting Eclipse Shades at 7:48 PM.


7:49 PM. Someone (maybe my great nephew) thought it looked like the Cookie Monster had gotten hungry!


7:51 PM. Others were photographing the projected image and even sending images to friends – I’m told that my sister elsewhere in Minnesota had pictures from our party up on her Facebook page while we were still at the park!


7:54 PM.


My wife (left) and two friends at 7:55 PM, enjoying the view via Eclipse Shades, which were a complete success.


7:56 PM.


7:59 PM, the Sun’s subdued light giving a lovely ambience.


8:01 PM.


8:03 PM. Four-year-old astronomer Ayden, my great nephew, shows off his Moon picture, traced in the ground before his feet.


At 8:15 PM, attendees continue to view the eclipse using Eclipse Shades.


8:19 PM.


8:21 PM.


At 8:29 PM, the Sun begins to sink behind the trees on the horizon.


8:29 PM.


The eclipse was still in progress at 8:34 PM, a few minutes before sunset.

All with my usual LG VX8360 cell phone camera. We also viewed Venus just after sunset – only 16 days before the transit, and later on back home a few of us viewed Saturn with my large reflector. “A great time was had by all.” And if you’re close to my location at the time of the June 5 Venus Transit, come join us!

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