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How to image the Sun

You look through your telescope eyepiece and there in front of you is the most wonderful sight, you know immediately you must capture this moment forever. Not only will this give you a lasting memory of the event but also it can become an important scientific record. Many times an amateur astronomer has been the first to discover a new event but even if it isn’t a rare event it is important to you. Being prepared and able to accurately record a flare or a prominence lift off for instance can be a very rewarding challenge and can become very valuable data when submitted to the various astronomical associations and data collection sites. Whether you become a serious imager for data submission or just want a personal record of daily solar activity it is important to have the right equipment to hand and to be able to get the most out of it.
2014-07-05 full disc f colour The solar chromosphere (hydrogen alpha)

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Baader Coronagraph Prominence Viewer

In January an astronomy friend from Portsmouth contacted me to say that he had inherited a Baader Coronagraph from a society member. He had tried to use it but didn't understand how he could set it up with his telescope or make good use of it. He was extremely kind and offered me the Coronagraph. Of course I leapt at the chance to own one of these early Coronagraphs which allowed amateurs an affordable way to view the Sun for the first time in Hydrogen alpha (H alpha) and see the prominences of the Sun without the need for a total solar eclipse. The basic concept is that there is no need for a very tight <1 angstrom filter (very expensive etalon) as a regular coated band-pass filter (fairly cheap) of around 6 angstroms can be used instead and surplus bright continuum light from the solar surface is blocked by an occulting disc placed in the focal plane to form an artificial eclipse, thus allowing the astronomer a view of the prominences (just like during a real total solar eclipse).
Baader H alpha Coronagraph (prominence Viewer)

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Venus - Inferior solar conjunction

Having taken an image of Venus on 27th February the challenge was to image again before Venus comes to inferior solar conjunction. This means that Venus will pass directly between us and the Sun and so showing only its night side toward us. This conjunction takes place on 25th March 2017 so Venus is very rapidly dropping in the evening sky towards the setting Sun and getting larger in size and smaller in illumination. Here is a picture of the difference in just 2 weeks.

2017-03-14 changing phase of Venus

On 27th February Venus was 0.364AU (approx. 33.9 million miles) from Earth at phase 18.401% with apparent angular diameter 45.70". On 14th March Venus was 0.297AU (approx. 27.6 million miles) from Earth at phase 5.337% with apparent angular diameter 56.04".
I don't think it will be possible to get another image as it will become too low in the sky for me to observe. If you can watch the sunset, stay out for a while afterwards and look out for Venus (a very bright star in the west), with only a small pair of binoculars you will see a lovely thin crescent, it is absolutely beautiful. But you will have to be quick to get a look before 25th March, after this date Venus will start to rise as a morning star (visible before the Sun rises).


Venus and other planets 27th February 2017

The weather this year has been terrible, I have never known such a cloudy spell for so long, I haven't seen the Sun, Moon or stars for weeks. Last night the skies cleared briefly to give just enough time to catch Venus in her beauty before she slips away over the next month. Seeing conditions were terrible but Venus was still very beautiful.

270217_191710  Venus

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Orion nebula 28th December 2017

Finally I am very happy with this image. Taken with the Tecnosky 65Q F6.5 Quadruplet APO / Canon 700D
20x 30 second exposure / 20x 10 seconds / 20 x 5 seconds blended / ISO1600

2016-12-28 Orion nebula with starspikes

Deep sky imaging

The dark side! have I been possessed? well no, I am still on the side of light but the Sun is difficult to see at this time of the year and it is now waning to solar minimum so I thought I had better learn some deep sky imaging. Surprisingly I have really enjoyed myself over the 3 evenings I have tried so far. It is so hard compared to solar imaging, it is freezing cold (luckily I have some heated foot warmers), it is dark so you can't see anything and I can't sip wine during the proceedings. But I have seen shooting stars, enjoyed the silence and stared at the heavens above.

So here is my best image so far, still a bit noisy as I am having to use such a high ISO as I can't get my tracking good enough yet for longer than 30 second exposures. It seems to be pot luck, I got it right once but my ISO was too high.

Andromeda (M31) 25x 30 second exposures ISO 3200
Andromeda 2016-12-04

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After La Palma we had a relaxing day in La Gomera, such a beautiful island. We spent the day watching fish in the marina, particularly the fascinating habits of a Trumpet fish; and also drinking wine. Here is a reflection of Teide through a wine glass which acts as a lens and demonstrates why telescopes always show the image the wrong way up. The lens also focuses sunlight (bottom left) and demonstrated to the hubby exactly what it would be like if you pointed a telescope at the Sun unfiltered - it burns! seconds after the picture there was a loud yelp.
Reflections of Teide

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Every year for the last 9 years we have taken a cruise at some point. It is the best way to travel if you don't like flying but it also provides fantastic opportunities to view wildlife (whales and dolphins) and of course witness sunsets right down to the horizon. On every cruise I have searched for the green flash but never seen this illusive phenomenon. So we set out on the 29th August to make our way from Southampton to Madeira and then to the Canary Islands on the good ship Aurora. The sea was flat, calm and no swell (very unlike the Bay of Biscay) and the wildlife didn't disappoint, many dolphins and several whales. The first night I swear I saw a green flash at sunset but I didn't have my camera, this was a very hard lesson learned, thereafter the camera went everywhere I went.
Bay of Biscay 30/8/2016

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Wow! what a day!!! We originally bought tickets for the Saturday of this 3 day event as we found out that Jean-Michel Jarre was playing in the evening. This is how I met my other half, my sister said her friend had all his albums and I had the perfect excuse to go round his house every week and borrow another :) When we were going out we saw him in concert at Manchester City Football ground (Maine Road) as part of the Chronologie tour 1st September 1993. So it was great to see him again in our 20th Wedding anniversary year and at a famous icon so close to my heart.

So without further ado here is a medley of the concert. He played mostly Electronica (new album) interestingly mixed with Equinox, and of course Oxygene IV (at 2.44 min in if you want to skip). Please press the HD and change to 1080p before viewing, enjoy.

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Continuing with my visit to the Solar Explorer http://thesolarexplorer.net/ I had a rare opportunity to do some night time observations. This is something I only do rarely at home for a couple of reasons, first it is usually wet, very cold and unpleasant and secondly we have so much light pollution from Manchester and my trees get in the way. Here in Spain I was luxuriating in wonderful night time temperatures and only needed a T-shirt (gone were the heated foot warmers, gloves, coat, hat, jumpers etc). The nights were beautiful and a Scop's Owl beeping was the only creature that broke the silence (it is strange, Google what a Scop's Owl sounds like).

Here is my try at a Milky Way image, it is about 20 images stacked in Deep Sky stacker and then merged (badly) with a single frame to get the background back.
2016-07-01 MW 03 v1 blend

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