Blue-sky thinking

It is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the hobby: you have clear blue sky all day then, as day turns to night, the clouds roll in as if on a timer to obscure the stars.

Yet don’t despair if this is a common occurrence during your observing, because clear blue-sky days mean one thing: the brightest star in the sky is visible and ready to view (safely, of course). There are many ways to achieve this goal and we have covered a plethora of equipment over the years suited to the task. As a rule, this pretty much means viewing the Sun in Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) wavelengths.

Doing so allows for stunning views of solar prominences, filaments and filaproms along with a multitude of other amazing features that cannot be easily seen in white light. But there is a catch: they are often costly. This cost also dramatically increases with the size of the Ha filters used or the size of the Ha telescope, with the most popular systems being relatively small when compared with a normal astronomical telescope. But that doesn’t stop manufacturers looking at ways of providing ever larger aperture solar telescopes and Airylab are just such a company.

Pete Lawrence explores the virtues of the Airylab 203mm H-alpha Chromosphere Telescope in this month’s equipment reviews, although we suspect he was quite reluctant to return it! We also explore the QHY9S CCD camera as Steve Richards puts it to the test, while I harness the Baader Nano tracker to aim my DSLR at the sky for wide-field tracked exposures. See how we all got on by picking up a copy of our October issue.


Read the latest reviews and more in the October issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, out 18 September.

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