Solar Imaging

Our daytime star

I’m continuing my exploration of “lucky imaging” of the solar system objects, this time with the Sun. A special filter made by DayStar allows only a very narrow wavelength of light through when observing the Sun that is emitted by hydrogen gas. You can see in this image how the gas is swirling around on the Sun, cooler areas (not COOL, just cool-ER) manifesting as sunspots, and of course a few prominences on the edge of the Sun proper. The Suns surface was taken with very short exposures, and the prominences were taken at a slightly longer exposure that causes the surface to just appear solid white. So the two were merged to show the entire view. This is a good example of what we space photography nerds call dynamic range. The full range of brightness in this image can’t be captured by a single exposure length as the camera doesn’t have that much range. Well, truth is, many people do pull that off, and with more practice I may too. For now, two exposures worked well enough for me<g>. Please be sure, this was a very special (and expensive) solar filter. If you turn your Christmas scope to the Sun, you will likely damage the scope, blind yourself, and yes, potentially set something on fire (perhaps your shirt!). Don’t try this at home kiddies, I’m a professional… well, sorta.

Hydrogen alpha Sun
Our daytime star, the Sun in Hydrogen Alpha light.

For some technical details, the camera (a Player One Apollo Max) is monochrome, or black and white. The image was colorized after the fact for aesthetic reasons. I’ve looked through this filter, and Hydrogen Alpha light is a bright electric pink. It’s only a single wavelength of light, and there’s no point in using a color camera. I matched it in Photoshop… but, man it makes for an ugly picture! Other details… Sky-Watcher USA Esprit 150 refractor with a Televue 4x Powermate to get the focal ratio where it needs to be for the special filter I used (rays of light to the filter need to be pretty direct on and not slanted like at faster focal ratios).

As far as processing goes, I’m getting traction, but I can critique several things about this image. Truth is though, I’ve reworked it a few times already and am ready to apply what I’ve learned now to my next image. Rest assured…. there is ALWAYS a next image.

Sunspot Parade

While Hydrogen Alpha solar filters get most of the attention because of their visual flair (see what I did there<g>), there’s something to be said for white light filters. Sunspots are fascinating and to me they look like tiny organisms crawling and evolving as they move across the Sun’s face. I’ve labeled the AR (Active Region) designations I observed on the morning of October 7th. I was using my 92mm Stowaway (Mary Anne) and a 2x Televue Powermate with an Altair Astro Solar Wedge v2. I’ll have more to say about this solar wedge another time, but this was also first light with my Player One cameras. I had the Apollo Max out and got some nice data, and this is actually a color image (it is a white light view remember!) with the Neptune-C II. I’m very impressed with the Player One camera quality, and the responsiveness of their engineers to questions and issues with their SDK (What, you think I’m not working on astro software anymore? Who told you that?). You’ll definitely see more from me with these cameras.

Sunspots across the Sun
Sunspot parade the morning of October 7th, 2022.