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Observing Our Nearest Star!

Current Solar Image courtesy of: San Fernando Observatory

Would our tour of the heavens be truly complete unless we took the time to visit with the "star" of the show? Our very own Sol... Solar observing is also a passion of mine, and given the proper equipment, motivation and clear sky... it's easy! And very rewarding...

So what cool things can you see on the solar surface? How about sunspots, baby?!! These stunning phenomena are continually visible... to both telescopic and projection viewing. It exciting to watch these "dark visitors" expand and dissolve, and move across the face of the Sun. There's never a dull moment when watching Soliel! So, hang out with me and I'll teach you how to observe and classify these areas for yourself very soon...

Often times there are other fantastic events that can be witnessed with a backyard telescope armed with a solar filter. Once such event was the grazing transit of Mercury...

One of the first solar events I ever witnessed was the grazing transit of Mercury on 11/15/99... and even more fortunate, I was able to capture it on film! You will find my own personal pictures at Mercury Transit. If you look closely at the limb at about the 11 o'clock area, you can make out the tiny form of Mercury, just leading it's way across the surface.

And thanks to a little NASA magic... I am able to share a close-up with you!

NASA Archives - Photo by: Rick Scott/Joe Orman

And even more fun yet is a slight-of-hand thanks to SOHO... where you can actually see for yourself what I did that day!! (only with a slightly better telescope, eh? ;)

Mercury Transit: The Movie!

So what about eclipses, huh? Well, it's been my great pleasure over the years to have witnessed several... and the last handful of years has brought to partial solar eclipses right to my own backyard!!

The first was a 25%... I had yet to purchased a full aperature filter for my telescope, so we made do. This was witnessed using the projection method with my old Tasco... and backing up my observations using #12 welder's glass (Warning: Do NOT use any other grade!!!) securely taped to my binoculars. It was a grand thing to see, and from that point forward, i just knew i had to have a filter!!

Then, one of the best presents I've ever recieved arrived long after the filter... the Christmas Eclipse 2000, and you know I just had to try to burn up a couple of rolls of film there! So, I invite you along to share my best Christmas present ever...

The Eclipse...

(Can you tell I was just a little bit excited about this one? Well... wouldn't you be? ;) Of course! And 2002 brought another partial eclipse at sunset which I also managed to capture and report at A Bite Out Of The Sun.


Up Close And Personal...


So what's next, eh? Well, at this point a bit of study might be quite in order. I am far from being a solar physicist, but I'm always quite happy to share what I know! So without further ado, I offer you a couple of simple lessons:

Solar Observing: 101

Solar Observing: 202

Sunspot Gallery

What's next? Then let's get even closer to the action! And who better to take us there than that fantastic SOHO?

3... 2... 1.... LIFT OFF!

And now the we've "slipped the surly bonds of Earth", watch as the SOHO spreads it wings and learns to fly...

You will find hours of entertainment in SOHO's webpages, so I urge you to visit!!

SOHO Explore !!!

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory

The very latest SOHO images

Hooked yet? Ah, now... You know I'm not just going to let YOU go! So, if you haven't already been taken... ;)

Let's offer you something to get you into this! The following links will "turn you on" to the fascinating world of solar observation!!

Discovery Online -- Space Cams: Sun Cam

Coordinated Solar Observations Home Page

CV-Helios Network

Safely Observing the Sun

SOLAR Project Homepage

SPA Solar Section - Introduction to Solar Observing

SpaceWeather.com -- News and Information

And I truly hope that you have a wonderful time learning about and viewing our nearest "star" yourself!

Now that you've spent the day with me... I want you to spend the night! So let me dip back into the shadows where I belong... in "The Backyard".

I'll be waiting for you...

--the astronomer

"Cuz' we might as well be walkin' on the Sun..."