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Wednesday, July 24 2024 @ 04:36 pm EDT

Sketching Sunspots

SolarBy Jon Stone
Edited by Bob Moody

The following story is a personal journey of discovery by AOAS member Jon Stone. He uses a proper and totally safe solar filter made of a specially coated Mylar material that was developed for the US Space Program during the Skylab missions back in the mid-to-late 1970's. DO NOT attempt to view the Sun, telescopically or otherwise, without some similar type of SAFE solar filter material; PERMANENT eye damage may result! Bob

Two sketches of the solar surface showing sunspots by Jon Stone.
I've always been fascinated with sunspots and with viewing the Sun in general. When I bought my 8" Celestron Dobsonian in February of 2005, I wanted to use it to see everything it was capable of showing me. One of the things that I really wanted to buy was a solar filter, and I was just about to spend $40 on one when Bob told me he was about to purchase some Baader AstroSolar filter material.

So, I waited until his order came in and then I bought enough material from Bob to make a full-aperture filter for my scope. The instructions for making my own looked simple enough, but my first attempt didn't turn out very well. I needed some help and Bob salvaged what I hadn't ruined and gave me a proper fitting and very effective solar filter.

The first time I observed, I was expecting to see prominences around the edge of the Sun as well as any sunspots that might have been in view. After learning that I'd need a filter which isolated a certain wavelength of light to show the prominences (about a $500 to $3,500 investment) I decided that what I was able to see was good enough for the $20 I'd spent for this "white-light" filter.

Bob told me that he had once observed and made sketches AND taken photographs of the solar surface for 29 straight days in 1991. The Sun rotates in about 26 days so that allowed him to see one complete revolution of the solar disk. That encouraged me to want to try this for myself.

I was pessimistic that I would reach that many consecutive days of viewing the Sun due to what I've learned about this Arkansas weather. It seems that cloudy skies are very common here. Happily, though, I was able to reach a total of 36 straight days and beat Bob's former record of 29 straight days. I would only miss one day, however, before we got more clear skies for a few more days and that gave me a chance to keep tracking a group of sunspots that I'd been following for nearly a week.

My streak, however, lasted only four more days due to the clouds from Hurricane Dennis moving in that provided for nearly a week of obscured viewing. I was glad to have gotten that many days of observing under my belt, and I'm proud of myself for sticking it out for as long as I did.

I hope everyone enjoys my observations. I have compiled a PowerPoint presentation of my sketches that you can click on below, containing 42 total frames which run for 44 seconds after clicking on it. Each slide advances automatically, and I have included my notes about my observations for a total of 41 days of observations. Click on this link to view my ppt.

Click on "read more" for my daily observation logs.

5/31 The pair of spots have turned into a series of small sunspots, shaped like a question mark. The Sun also reveals some small spots sprinkled across the surface. The faculae have moved up and now there are spots embedded in them.

6/1 The question mark series of sunspots appeared not to have moved since yesterday. The faculae seem to have moved back down a little.

6/2 The question mark shaped sunspots are gone, off to the edge, there is a small elongated faculae. The faculae on the other side still don't appear to have moved. Even though the sunspots have grown in area intensity. Just to the side you have a right angle formed by three spots with a lot of smaller ones.

6/3 The white faculae have started to move across the lower edge and is almost gone on the bottom. The right angle shaped group of spots has changed almost into a face.

6/4 The faculae are almost gone, there are now two sets of sunspots. Both show with one large spot surrounded by smaller ones.

6/5 The faculae patch has now moved off. A new faculae has appeared on the other side. There has been a major flare of sunspots in 24 hours; there are about 7 groupings of them on the surface.

6/6 No new spots were detected, everything has moved since yesterday, the faculae were hard to detect due to them moving from the edge towards to the center.

6/7 The spots have dispersed since yesterday, some small ones have disappeared completely, others have spread out and decreased in size.

6/8 The spots continue their move across the sun. They have dissipated in intensity; all though two big groups remain.

6/9 The groups of sunspots on the left have moved almost to the central meridian. No plaques were seen. When observing, an unusual object glided over the Sun. It was no plane or bird Iíve ever seen before. It was a horseshoe shape; your guess is as good as mine.

6/10 The sunspots continue their daily trek across the surface of the Sun, nothing else seen.

6/11 Still no new spots or faculae seen, the two large sunspots continue to move across the surface.

6/12 Again no new activity on the Sun. The spots made little progress of the last 24 hours. A faculae was noted on the bottom right edge.

6/13 The two sunspots have almost moved off the edge, I expect them to be almost gone tomorrow. Still no new spots are seen.

6/14 The group of sunspots have just about moved off, an orange filter helps bring out a faculae near one of them. A group of very small sunspots formed near the center.

6/15 The two spots still havenít moved off just yet, the sunspots in the middle have a gained a little more intensity,

6/16 Only one spot remains of the big two, just barely seen on the edge. A little more intensity is seen in the spots gathered near the center.

6/17 The two spots near the center have moved a bit and they look like a pair of eyes, they are still small in size though. On the left edge a faculae is seen with some small spots.

6/18 The pair of spots have moved little since yesterday, some little spots are still located on the left edge.

6/19 The pair of spots are almost gone, the collection of little spots on the left edge are moving towards the center now.

6/20 The pair of large sunspots are almost gone. The group of smaller spots has changed very little.

6/21 The large pair of spots remain just on the edge. The group of small spots is located near the center.

6/22 Only one spot remains of the large pair, a faculae is seen on the left edge. The small spots are near the center but are barley seen.

6/23 There were no sunspots or faculae seen.

6/24 There were no sunspots or faculae seen.

6/25 There were no sunspots or faculae seen.

6/26 There were no sunspots or faculae seen.

6/27 There were no sunspots or faculae seen.

6/28 A small spot seen coming into view on the left edge. The spot is surrounded by some faculae, some faculae are also seen just a little farther down.

6/29Some small spots are gathered on the left side just coming into view. Several faculae surround them. Some spots are seen near the center.

6/30 The grouping of spots have gotten larger in nature and quantity. Some small faculae are seen on the left edge.

7/1Towards the right bottom center there are two large spots, they are surrounded by two pairs of small sun spots. Left center there are two large spots surrounded by some very small spots. Just above that there are two small spots. Three spots forming a triangle are just coming into view.

7/2Currently there are four large groups of spots, each containing two large spots and several smaller ones. The pair of spots on the left side are accompanied by several faculae, a single spot is seen coming into view just below it.

7/3There still are four large groups of spots, the pair of spots almost directly in the center have grown to be quite large. No new additional spots seen.

7/4A spot is about to go out of view, the large pair near the center still remains along with the ones near the left edge.

7/5 My streak of 36 days straight has ended due to cloudy weather.

7/6The pair of spots are just a couple days away from the right edge. A pair of new spots has moved into view since Monday. To the left there are three large spots grouped together. Just below that there lays a single spot.

7/7 The grouping of spots on the left side have stayed the same. The groupings of spots on the right side are almost gone. Near the center lays the group of three spots with a single spot below it.

7/8 The spots on the right are almost gone, some faculae are seen with them. There are the 3 large spots moving away from the center with the small spot just below them. A pair of spots also remains just off the left edge.

7/9 The spots that were on the right side are now gone. Two sets of faculae are seen just on the edge. The pair of the three large spots are now two large spots with a series of smaller ones. A single spot still remains just below it. The pair of spots that have been on the left side are closing into the center.
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