Alan Friedman’s photos are no stranger to this blog; I’ve posted a lot of his amazing pictures of the Sun (See Related Posts, below). So many, in fact, that one needs to be surpassingly cool to add to the lineup.
[Click to ensolarnate.]
Yegads. He took this on July 29, 2012. Because the image is inverted – dark things appear bright, and vice-versa – sunspots are intense white patches, bright plages appear dark, and towering filaments are whitish-gray.
Note how the Sun’s face gets darker toward the center and brighter toward the edge – meaning in reality the center is bright and the edge dimmer. This is called limb-darkening (the opposite of limb-brightening seen in some gas clouds), and occurs because gas around the Sun absorbs its light. We look through more of it near the edge than toward the center, so there’s less light coming from the limb of the Sun.
I’ll note that only the face of the Sun is inverted, though. Everything outside that is normal, so the leaping prominences of gas on the edge are bright, as they should be. That might be a bit confusing, but it does make for a dramatic picture.
And given how volatile our local star, you don’t have to go very far to get drama out of it.
Image credit: Alan Friedman
Just a reminder: the Sun is awesome:
[You MUST click that to get the fully enGdwarfenated 2200 x 2200 pixel picture. It's stunning.]
I’ve talked about Alan Friedman’s amazing Sun portraits so many times I need not elaborate here; just read the Related Posts below. But man! What a star.
Image credit: Alan Friedman.
Looking back on it, I should’ve realized friend of the BABlog and masterful solar photographer Alan Friedman would send me a jaw-dropping picture of the vastly ginormous sunspot cluster AR1520 that I wrote about yesterday.
And of course he did:
Holy solar retinopathy! [Click to embiggen.]
This huge cluster of spots is just now coming around the edge of the Sun’s disk, having formed on the far side where we can’t see things directly from Earth. It’s showing up just as the also huge Active Region 1515 is moving around to the Sun’s other side. Since our star takes about 25 days to spin once, these new spots will be visible for another week at least. They may grow in size, and they’ll certainly change shape, and it’s a decent bet they’ll blow off an interesting magnetic storm or two. AR 1515 sure did, and this cluster may be even bigger. Size isn’t a guarantee of activity, but it’s correlated.
Image credit: Alan Friedman, used by permission.
Astrophotographer Alan Friedman’s latest. Just click it.
Here’s an explanation of what you’re seeing. Links to more of his soul-stirring photos are below.
Image credit: Alan Friedman
OK, look, I know I’ve posted a lot of Venus Transit pix, and it’s been a week now, so you have to know I wouldn’t post one this late unless it was really awesome.
I present to you really awesome… Part 1:
Wow! This was taken by friend-of-the-BABlog Alan Friedman. To shoot this video he used a filter that lets through light from hydrogen, and that shows lots of solar activity like sunspots and filaments. The video is a negative, which makes it easier to see faint details on the surface, and which makes Venus look white instead of black. But I like how he kept his telescope centered on the Sun as it set, so it looks like it’s the tower moving into the field of view instead of the usual shot of the horizon held steady while the Sun sets. Very cool.
[Update: For those asking about the tower, Alan sent me this photo to clear things up.]
But he did more than take video: he took his usual jaw-dropping, stunning, ridiculously cool photos as well, like this one… really awesome, Part 2:
[Click to ensolarnate.]
Yegads. Read More
Alan Friedman is a photographer who takes amazing pictures of the Sun. While others were out celebrating Cinco de Mayo this past weekend, he was outside taking another jaw-dropping image of the nearest star in the Universe:
Yegads! Click to ensolarnate, and he has a greyscale version, too.
I love the detail and texture of his images. He has an excellent telescopic setup which yields the superb resolution, and he employs an old trick to get the texture: he inverts the image of the Sun’s disk, making black stuff look white and vice-versa. This is a technique that’s been used by astronomers for decades to enhance images; our eyes see details better that way. When Alan does it, I swear it makes the Sun look like a 1.4 million-kilometer-wide shag rug.
All the way on the left, just on the Sun’s edge, you can see a group of sunspots just rotating into view. That’s Active Region 1476, and Alan provided me with a clear picture of them (no tom-foolery) which I’ve put here. That monster group is about 100,000 kilometers (60,000 miles) across, so when I saw them I immediately suspected trouble.
… and sure enough, they had a medium-sized eruption just this morning. At 13:00 UTC they blasted off an M1.4 class flare; big enough to potentially cause some radio disruption and maybe some aurorae. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory got a dramatic view of the eruption:
Flares this size are relatively common; there was one in late March for example. Bigger ones happen less frequently, though again we did see one 50 times this powerful in March as well! We’ll have to see if today’s eruption will cause any aurorae, and either way, we should keep our eyes on AR1476.
Image credit: Alan Friedman, used by permission. Tip o’ the Sun visor to Camilla Corona SDO on Google+ for the video.
The Sun is feisty. Rising and falling packets of ionized gas (called plasma) below its surface generate fierce magnetic fields, which store vast amounts of energy. This can give rise to such features as sunspots, explosions like flares and coronal mass ejections, and huge, towering plumes of plasma called prominences.
While observing the Sun yesterday, April 29, my pal and friend of the BA Blog Alan Friedman captured an amazing sequence of shots of an eruptive prominence, one that doesn’t simply fall back down to the solar surface, but also blasts material out into space:
[Click to greatly enfilamentate.]
Wow! Alan estimates that at its peak the eruption was 150,000+ kilometers (100,000 miles) in height — compare that to the size of the Earth, a mere 13,000 km (8000 miles) in diameter. Yowza.
He also made a color image of it which is lovely and terrifying…. and slightly familiar. It didn’t take me long to recognize it. That treacherous profile, that conniving nose, that sinister haircut…
Oh, it’s clear who’s really behind this eruption:
[UPDATE: Good news, everyone! When I posted this on Google+, commenter Artemis Entreri mentioned it looks more like Professor Farnsworth. I can't believe I didn't think of that myself! I blame Wernstrom.]
Image credit: Alan Friedman, used by permission; The Simpsons™ & © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved. Used under The Fair Use Act. And yes, I’ll admit it looks more like Abe Simpson than Burns, but if I used Abe I could’t write the headline I did. And the nose is definitely Burns’. Also? BURNS. Because it’s hot. So clearly this was the correct choice.
If you’ve been outside after sunset the past few weeks, there’s not much chance you’ve missed Venus shining like a laser in the west. It’s obvious enough anyway, but the conjunction (close pass) of Jupiter really made this a sight to see!
And as lovely as it is to look at with the eye, Venus is starting to get interesting through a telescope now as well. Venus has phases, just like Moon. It orbits closer to the Sun than we do, so sometimes we see it on the far side of the Sun, and sometimes it’s between us and the Sun. When it’s on the other side of the Sun we see it fully illuminated, and as it gets between us and the Sun it appears as an ever-thinner crescent. Hopefully the diagram here will help (click to embiggen).
Right now, Venus is just "rounding the corner" of its orbit; the past few weeks it’s been heading away from the Sun from our viewpoint, and very soon will reach its greatest elongation in the sky from the Sun. At that point, every day will see Venus get a bit closer. Right now, Venus is very close to being half full.
"Amateur" astronomer Emil Kraaikamp observed Venus on March 15, and took this very nice shot of it:
Venus is shrouded in clouds, making it relatively featureless when you look at it through a telescope. However, if you use a filter that lets in ultraviolet light, some faint and subtle features in the clouds can be seen. Emil’s picture did just that, using a UV filter plus one each of red, green, and blue to get a true color plus UV picture. The phase of the planet is obvious enough, and you can also spot some of the patterns to the clouds, too.
Another astrophotographer, Alan Friedman, also took a stab at Venus (this time on March 17) and got the picture shown inset here. Again, you can see some detail, but clearly it’s not easy to get the goddess of love to reveal her secrets!
Venus reaches its maximum distance from the Sun in our skies on March 27. After that it starts moving closer to the Sun. It’s not physically getting closer to the Sun, it’s just moving between us and the Sun, but to us when we look at it in the sky we’ll see the two getting closer together.
But in physical fact Venus is getting closer to Earth, so even as it becomes a thinner crescent it will be getting bigger and bigger as our distance narrows, making it a great target even for binoculars. This means it will be getting even brighter in our sky! So if you think it looks like a beacon glowing to the west now, just wait a few weeks.
… and then the most amazing thing will happen: Venus will pass directly across the face of the Sun! This is an incredibly rare event. These transits, as they’re called, occur in pair separated by 8 years, but each pair is separated by more than a century. The last one was in 2004, but the next won’t be until December of 2117!
I’ll have more info about this event soon. The transit happens on June 5/6 2012, so you might want to make space in your calendar. Odds are pretty good this will be your only chance to ever see it again.
One of my favorite astrophotographers, Alan Friedman, spied something odd on the Moon.
Flying reindeer I’ll buy. But an inertialess propulsion system? C’mon.
Happy holidays everyone!
Credit: Alan Friedman
The other day, when I found out that the giant sunspot cluster Active Region 1339 was coming around the Sun’s limb, one of the first things I did was email Alan Friedman and ask if he had plans to get pictures of it. His images of the Sun have graced this blog many times before (see Related Posts, below), and I knew he’d get a great shot.
A little while later he sent me the picture I posted yesterday, and I added the Earth to it for comparison. I didn’t like defacing his picture, but I thought putting our Earth there lent it some scale.
So just now I got another note from him: he told me he had created a full disk image of the Sun, and when I saw it, well, wow:
Yeah, wow. [Click to gdwarfenate.]
You can see the sunspots cluster to the right of center of the Sun’s face, and it’s still going strong. There’s been less storm activity than I expected from this, but the Sun is always surprising. And of course there are still a few days before the cluster slips behind the Sun’s edge, too.
You can also see lots of other sunspots, as well as some prominences — towering pillars and arcs of material — on the Sun’s edge. I’m also endlessly fascinated by the twisted, roiling surface of the Sun as well. Alan used an Hα filter here, which isolates light from warm hydrogen and really shows the detail of the solar surface (which is otherwise overwhelmed by light at all other colors).
If I had the time (and the wherewithal), I’d love to set up a solar telescope and take images like this. But I don’t, and that’s OK, because Alan and a whole legion of others can do it, and I’ll be happy to look at ‘em.
Image credit: Alan Friedman.