Tuesday 17 May 2016

Every Trick in the Book...

Hi everyone,

I managed a session with the Sun today.  The last few days I have been following it, but I didn’t do a sketch either because the limb only had small and sporadic promineces, or conditions were just too turbulent in the atmosphere and the Sun’s image resembled a shimmering mirage making pulling detail impossible.

Today, while conditions were still unsettled, the collection of prominences on show made themselves irresistible not to lay down.

The first sketch is of a small cluster of interacting proms.  My first glimpse of these brought to mind the image of a man fighting a big leaping fish at the end of a taught fishing line!  For this reason I called this sketch “Taming the Beast”.

And again, the constant and concentrated examination of this view slowly reveals more than first glimpse does.  Those soft, angle’s-breath-like, smoky extensions only slowly reveal themselves.  The ‘void’ beneath the ‘fishing line’ slowly showed a smaller prom lying beneath, that was interacting with both the Man and the Fish set of proms.  The Fish prom had another smoky lot of material drifting off to the right.  And above the whole lot was an oh so faint lot of smokiness billowing off above it.  This last detail was in the end excruciating difficult to pull out of the eyepiece routinely as the conditions were just too unsettled to get a constant glimpse.  ‘Now you see me. Now you don’t’ is what I had to play, with more not and do.

After completing the first piece, I re-examined the solar limb, and was captivated by another wonderful collection of interacting proms.  One their own these were not all that sensational.  But as an interacting collective, this was quite a show.  And so to kick some dirt in my eye, the unsettled conditions insisted on a peek-a-boo quest.

Here I needed every trick in the book I have when using my Daystar Quark.

This excellent solar filter is not a straight forward mistress.  Yes, you can just drop in an eyepiece and make do.  But if you want to pull everything that the filter has, you need to be imaginative with the eyepieces & bits and pieces that you use, particularly when conditions are as turbulent as they were today.  For this reason I keep two eyepieces at hand, a modest little 0.5X focal reducer, and the empty tube of a barlow.  The eyepiece I use with the reducer is a 25mm plossl.  Having few elements, it is a better piece to use in order to maintain as much contrast as possible.  The putting the focal reducer at the end of the tube where the barlow lens itself would be, gives further reduction in effective focal length.  It is then trying out different combinations of eyepieces and focal reducers that as much detail can be pulled out from the Sun when conditions are less than ideal.

I spent close to an hour on this second sketch.  Most solar sketches take me between 20 to 40min to complete.  But the amount of fine detail, trying, shimmering conditions, and soft billowing puffs of material gave me a wonderful experience.  All these proms are interacting.  First glimpse doesn’t always show the tenuous tendrils of material connecting one to another, but that’s where the challenge comes in, in the patient examination.  And slowly these details reveal themselves.  Wonderful!

I hope you enjoy these two pieces.  They proved to be a real visual tease to make out the detail, and a chase that I enjoyed following.


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