Solar sleuths

 

After what seems like an eternity we've been having some great weather here in the UK. Of course, the light summer nights don't help if you are a deep-sky explorer, but astronomy doesn’t have to be limited to after dark. At long last the Sun is out so now’s the perfect time to take a look at it.

Today there is an amazing range of ways of exploring the Sun, but naturally one has to be very careful and use properly filtered telescopes. White light filters greatly reduce the Sun’s intensity, offering safe views of what is going on with the photosphere, the visible part of the Sun we are all familiar with. You can buy the solar screen material to make your own filters or purchase readymade solar filters to fit your particular scope. Sunspots and faculae stand out well in these filters and under high magnification the surface granulation can also be spotted.

In the past you had to wait until there was a solar eclipse to glimpse prominences along the solar limb but not anymore with the advent of Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) filtered telescopes where you can explore the goings on of the chromosphere. Again you can buy the filters for your telescope or complete Ha telescopes and the views are stunning. Add a camera or webcam and you can happily while away the day capturing the amazing activity of our nearest star.

All the kit reviewed in this month’s issue could be used in one way or another to help with solar observing. My review of the Takahashi PM-1 mount compliments last month's review of the Takahashi FC-76DS Apo refractor, the combination makes a great portable solar setup – just add a white light filter. Add the same type of filter to the TSAPO906 Apo reviewed by Steve Richards or to the Meade LX 200 8-inch reviewed this month by Pete Lawrence and your night time hobby will soon become a daytime activity too. Just remember one thing though - our Sun is a powerful thing, so don't forget the hat and sunscreen for prolonged periods of happy daytime viewing!


 

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