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E: dbood@icyscience.com
TWITTER: @DavesAstronomy
» p.6
6.Exploring the Suns
dynamic activity
22. July Night Sky
32. Distro Astro 2.0
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Image: Dave White
A prime focus image taken with a Canon 450D and Meade LX200
7” scope. It was a mosaic of fve images stacked using Microsoft ICE
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Exploring the Suns dynamic actvity - by Andy Devey
[The solar explorer]
Many of us just lay there relaxing in the sunshine
or take a walk in the nice weather and even enjoy a
round of golf? To live in Spain ofers far more oppor-
tunites to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and the sun-
shine but there is far more to the Sun than meets the
eye so to speak!
For any one that may have an interest in astronomy
the Sun ofers us the most dynamic target in the solar
system and an up close and personal view of a star
in acton demonstratng all aspects of its magnetc
cycles and a window into the workings of it and all
of the other stars.
I personally have had a lifelong interest in astronomy
but only bought my frst telescope about 10 years
ago and litle did I know then that it would become
an over whelming obsession that would lead to a life
changing directon for me. I am now probably the
World’s leading amateur solar movie maker and to
date I have made about 1500 movies of solar actvity
ranging from the very small scale actvity such as
the feetng spicules [jets of gas that are just a few
hundred miles high and only last for 5 minutes]
to huge plasma ejectons that stretching well over
500,000 miles before they leave the Sun and form
a part of the solar wind.
I must add a note of cauton, before considering
the Sun as an astronomical target always take the
utmost care so as not to sustain any eye damage
or any equipment breakage. If you are new to
astronomy or just venturing into it and are con-
sidering the Sun as a potental target then ask a
more experienced astronomer on how to proceed
safely before startng or buying anything. I must
add a note of cauton, before considering the Sun
as an astronomical target always take the utmost
care so as not to sustain any eye damage or any
equipment breakage. If you are new to astron-
omy or just venturing into it and are consider-
ing the Sun as a potental target then ask a more
experienced astronomer on how to proceed safely before startng or buying anything. At present [June 2014]
we are right in the middle of a solar maximum [the peak actvity part of this present 11-year cycle] and the
Sun is becoming an ever more actve and dynamic target. You will have no problems with light polluton in
this aspect of Astronomy and you may even get a tan while you are out observing/imaging.
The Sun is so large at about 900,000 miles in diameter that if we put the Earth at its centre, by the tme we
travel to the Moon we would be only half way to the surface. It is of sufcient volume that it would be pos-
sible to ft 1.3 million Earths inside it. It is a huge nuclear fusion reactor that converts about 600 million tons
of hydrogen to 595 million tons of Helium every single second! That loss of mass of about 5 million tons is
converted to pure energy and this is what makes it shine! It has been burning like this for about 4.6 billion
years and is only about half way through its main sequence life cycle. It loses about 1 billion tons of mater
every second to form the solar wind [a constant stream of charged partcles] that food the solar system
and it is so massive that by the end of its life it will only have lost about 1% of its mass to the solar wind!
As we reside quite close to the sea level here on planet Earth we experience atmospheric pressure of about
1 atmosphere. The centre of the Sun experiences pressures equivalent to about 270 billion tmes that of
our atmospheric pressure and is sufcient to fuse the hydrogen atoms together to eventually form helium
atoms at temperatures in its core of about 15 million degrees Centgrade. The temperature falls rapidly trav-
elling towards the surface – the photosphere [sphere of light] its visible outer edge is at about 6000 degrees
Centgrade. Residing just above this is the Chromosphere at about 10,000 degrees, a layer that is only about
2,500 miles thick and then there is the Corona – the Sun’s outer atmosphere that starts at about 2 million
Centgrade and falls away rapidly as the distance from the Sun increases. It is only possible to see the corona
during a total solar eclipse. I have only been to one total solar eclipse in Cornwall in 1999 and saw nothing
because of the clouds – typical for the UK and one of the reasons for being here in Spain.
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Photo 1 - Here I flmed a huge prominence [gas cloud]
eruptng from the surface of the Sun on 3 September
2013. It is seen here already at a height of about 200,000
miles and lifed vertcally upwards over an 80 minute
I personally started to specialise in solar observing and
solar imaging in 2006 and like the majority of solar astron-
omers initally I was in pursuit of ever beter stll photo-
graphs. However afer about 5-years, for me, the best
way to capture and present the real beauty of the Sun
is through preparing tme lapse movie sequences of the
unfolding solar events. The Sun is so dynamic; it rotates
on its axis every 25.4 days [that we can see] as we are travelling around it in the same directon as its spin at a speed
of 68,000 miles per hour! You got it; it takes us a year to do the full orbital tour. To the Amateur astronomer in the 21st
century there are the optons of highly fltered white light systems [normal telescope with a simple solar flter] or the
narrow band telescopes namely Hydrogen-alpha [red light] and Calcium-K [blue light] fltered telescopes available to
even those on fairly modest budgets. In my opinion the H-alpha wavelength ofers the most dynamic view of the Sun
by revealing the chromosphere [this is the outer atmosphere just above the photosphere] and its unique features to
the observer. These include spicules, prominences and flaments [suspended curtains of hydrogen], sunspots [concen-
trated bundles of magnetc felds], fares [huge thermal explosions] and post fare loops [magnetc coils], CMEs [ejec-
tons of plasma] and even Moreton waves [Sun-quakes or shockwaves], These features can even be captured with the
most introductory of H-alpha equipment such as the Coronado PST [Personal Solar Telescope]. When such an instru-
ment is used in combinaton with a reasonably fast monochrome web camera the results are simply stunning!
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Photo 2 - This is the largest solar fare that I have captured to date one
of the highest energy X-class events and the explosion covers an area 5
tmes the diameter of Earth. All of the surface detail seen here is in the
We astronomers can prepare to image part of the Sun or shoot the sep-
arate areas ready to prepare a mosaic of the Suns full disc or even stay
in the same area for quite a tme with the view of making a solar tme-
lapse movie sequence. I personally have made moving sequences that
have lasted as short as a few minutes to over 7 hours in duraton. Some
of the fnal results have taken 20 to 30 hours work in total to complete.
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When there are cloudless days we
capture high-frame rate videos on that
selected area at regular intervals say
every minute on a fast event or every
4 minutes on a slowly unfolding event.
We use free download programs to
help compensate for any atmospheric
shimmer during the imaging to obtain
high quality stll images. There are
loads of image processing links on my
Photo 5 – This is a sunspot group
known as an Actve Region and each
one is assigned a unique AR-number.
These sunspots are like whirlpools and
the material runs from the outer edge
into the dark cores in structures that
look like tubes [clearly visible here
- photo 25 July 2013]. The main sun-
spot has a width of about four planet
We always make a writen record of the observing session and in print the date and Universal Time [UT] into
the AVI or stll image fle names immediately on capture. These then form a very useful and unique scientfc
record of solar actvity. I submit monthly solar data sets to an internatonal observing program that has been
running for over 150 years.
Our Sun is about 93 million miles away but with my present equipment confguraton I am now able to achieve
a resoluton of about 60 miles/pixel on the Sun’s surface!
Photo 3 p.11 – These are the very rare post fare
loops that follow the largest of the solar fares
and they demonstrate the magnetc feld lines
reorganising themselves and are notoriously dif-
fcult to capture. Seen here on 23 February 2014
I flmed them for a contnual six-hour period.
Below: Photo 4 - This is a mosaic image showing the full
disc of the Sun in the chromosphere level.
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Photo 6 – This is a photo of me outside my observatory in the Sierra de los Filabres mountain range.
I personally have achieved several huge scoops in recent years; I gained the cover photo of the Britsh As-
tronomical Associaton year book for 2011 with a photo of a large coronal mass ejecton. I made the front
page of the NASA spaceweather website on 9 September 2011 and 14 April 2014 with videos of large
solar fares. In January 2012, I was the frst amateur to gain permission from the head of the US Natonal
Solar Observatory to use and present their GONG [Global Oscillatons Network Group] data of the major
solar events and make a unique video record of them and keep them on a dedicated page on my website.
In March 2012 I recorded what is possible the frst amateur capture of a shock wave travelling through
the Sun’s chromosphere.
I am a passionate outreach astronomer. We moved here in late 2011 and within about two years I have
mastered the new language and already given classes on astronomy to Uleila del Campo and the Sorbas
high school to over 60 pupils, 7 teachers and one headmaster and all in Spanish!
I would be delighted if reader would visit my “browser bustng website” www.thesolarexplorer.net. It is
a huge resource for reference; I have compiled a massive electronic library of well over 600 publicatons
datng back to the year 1182 and a flm/documentary/video archive containing over 140 entries datng
back to the 1950’s. It is also a major training resource used to inspire the internatonal amateur solar
astronomy community and there are well over 1000 of my video’s to view. If you visit it and have slow in-
ternet access then please be patent while the videos load up. If you would be interested in a holiday and
make use my equipment we now have B&B available.
Andy Devey - June 2014.
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Michael Carter
Eagal Nebula
Equipment Used
Nikon D5100 camera
attached to a Celestron
8” SCT, mounted on a
Celestron Advanced VX
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Daniel Leclerc
Saturn, June 1st 2014 at 11h13pm, done in our backyard at
Pointe-aux-Trembles (Montreal).
Sky-Watcher 8-inch Newtonian telescope.
DBK21AU618.AS camera, Barlow 4X, UV/IR-cut flter, 60fps.
Used 68% of a 4800-frames avi file. Stacking with
AutoStakkert2!, wavelet fltering with Iris, Tim ( htp://trait-
ement-d-images-tm.webnode.fr/ ).
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Mary Spicer- 2014 K1 PanSTARRS
Helios 102mm refractor and a Canon 1100D. It’s a single exposure of 90
seconds at ISO-1600.
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At frst, the Sun lies within the constellaton of Gemini, untl the 20th/21st , when at around midnight, it crosses the
border into neighbouring Cancer, the Crab. A signifcant date is July 4th, when at 0h13, the earth is at aphelion, or the
furthest distance that our planet can be from the sun. the two are separated by 152 093 407 km (94 506 462 miles),
centre to centre. As in June, twilight persist all night during this month.
The Moon
Moon is at perigee, its nearest point to the earth, on the 13th at 08h28.
Apogee, when the Moon is at its furthest from the earth, is on the 28th
at 03h. This apogee is the farthest the moon can be from the earth in
2014; the earth-moon distance will be 406,568 km (252,630 miles).
First Quarter is on the 5th, at noon in the middle of the constel-
laton Virgo.
July’s Full Moon is on the 12th at 11h25 in Sagitarius, and, as that
of last month, is one of the lowest full moons of the year.
Last Quarter Moon, in Pisces, is on the 19th, at 02h09, as our
natural satellite is approaching the Aries border.
New Moon in July is on the 26th at 22h42, whilst it is passing through the constellaton of
Cancer, at an angular distance of 6° south of the sun.
The Planets
Mercury is hardly likely to be seen during July, although it reaches its greatest elongaton west
of the sun (21°) on the 12th. However, on this day, at around 03h00, if you locate Venus , which
will be at an alttude of 9° at this tme, and using a pair of binoculars, you may be able to spot this
elusive litle world twinkling in bright twilight. Centre Venus in your binocular feld and scan to the
lower lef of the planet (in the eight o’clock positon), and you may locate Mercury 7° away from
Venus and just 4° above the horizon. Afer its elongaton Mercury moves in towards the sun for its
superior conjuncton early next month.
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Throughout July Venus rises at around 02h, some
two hours before the sun. It will be a glorious ‘Morning
Star’ in the early morning sky. Venus passes 4° north of
Aldebaran on the 2nd. On the morning of the 24th, the
thin waning crescent moon may be seen approaching
Venus, some 7° to the right of the bright planet. The
two are at an alttude of 8° at 03h in the ENE sky.
Mars sets at 00h on the frst of July and by 22h on the last day of
the month. The planet’s moton is direct in Virgo and passes a litle
over 1° north of Spica on the evening of the 13th, when the two may
be compared for the colour contrast they exhibit. Mars is reddish and
is slightly brighter than Spica, which shines with a blue-ish white radi-
ance. The frst quarter moon may be seen approaching the pair on
the evening of the 5th and at 22h, all three may be seen 10° above
the SW horizon as twilight begins to fade. At this tme the moon is
2° to the lower right of Mars and Spica is 5° to the right of the half
illuminated moon.
Jupiter is in conjuncton with the sun at 20h on the
24th. Prior to its conjuncton the planet may be glimpsed
during the frst week of the month, using a pair of binoc-
ulars, within 5° of the NW horizon at around 21h , but in
bright twilight. During this period, Jupiter sets just under
an hour afer the sun.
During July, Saturn lies a couple of degrees above Zubenelgenubi (alpha Librae) and may be observed
in the SW sky when twilight fades. The planet sets at 01h at the beginning of the month and 23h at the
month’s end; so the period for observing the ringed planet is becoming limited. On the evening of the
7th the gibbous waxing moon may be seen approaching Saturn and just before they set at 0h the two
objects are separated by just 2° (four moon widths).
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Because of bright twilight during the frst half of July, the remote
worlds Uranus and Neptune are not worth looking for because of
their faintness and low alttude in the eastern sky at astronomical
midnight. However, by the end of the month the two worlds are
some 20° above the SE horizon and the darker skies at astronomi-
cal midnight give the opportunity for trying to locate these distant
planets. Uranus, on the threshold of naked eye visibility, lies 15°
beneath the star gamma Pegasi (Algenib), the pivotal point of the
square of Pegasus as it rises in the eastern sky. The angular dis-
tance from this star to Uranus is the same as the angular distance
between the four stars making up the square of Pegasus. In the vicin-
ity of Uranus are two fourth magnitude stars which will enable you
to ‘home in’ on Uranus. These are epsilon and delta Piscium, with
which Uranus forms the lower apex of a triangle. The angular dis-
tance from delta is 3° and from epsilon 2°. Uranus is approximately
fve tmes fainter than both these stars but is easily identfed in a
pair of binoculars. At astronomical midnight, Neptune, three tmes
fainter than Uranus, lies in the constellaton of Aquarius, 1.5° to the
east (three moon widths) in the ‘ten o’clock positon’ of the ffh
magnitude star sigma Aquarii. There are no other objects as bright
as Neptune at that locaton, so the faint ‘star’ you see there through
binoculars is Neptune.
On July 4th, at 03h, the dwarf planet Pluto is in oppositon in the constellaton of Sagitarius, to
the west (right) of the Sagitarian triangle of the three stars pi, omicron and xi Sagitarii and very
near the ffh magnitude star 29 Sagitarii, which lies in line with the stars omicron and xi, some
2° to the west. Unfortunately this tny demoted planet lies in a rich star feld in the Milky Way and
requires expert atenton with a good astronomical telescope to identfy it.
Two minor meteor showers take place at the end of the month. One is the Capricornids, which are
actve during July and August. Three peaks are recorded for this shower – July 8th, 15th, and 26th.
Unfortunately, twilight at this tme of year, may interfere.
On the 29th, and again on August 6th,we have the maximum of the delta Aquarids, with up to 20
an hour, although these meteors tend to be rather faint.
Constellatons visible in the south around midnight, mid-month, are as follows: Sagitarius, Sagita,
Aquila, Lyra and Cygnus. The later constellatons contain Patrick Moore’s ‘Summer Triangle’, con-
sistng of the three bright stars, Altair in Aquila, Vega in Lyra, and Deneb in Cygnus. Cygnus is some-
tmes called the ‘northern cross’ because of the cruciform shape of its fve main stars.
All tmes are GMT 1° is one fnger width at arm’s length.
July Sky Notes by John Harper FRAS (Scarborough, UK)
Images: NASA
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Adam Leach
My frst ever solar images! The sun in white light today. Whole sun taken with 1100D - single shot. Closeup of sunspot group taken with ASI120MC - best
80% of 2500 frames, stacked in Autostakkert2 and waveletted in Registax 6. Finished of in Lightroom.
Taken with Starwave 102ED Refractor and Baader Solar Film flter.
Quite pleased with these for a frst go, and surprised how much detail can be made out flament-wise on the close-up, even in white light!
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For those who do not know what Linux is, it is basically
a free open source operatng system created by Linus
Torvalds. In 1991 he was a Finnish student who devel-
oped the platorm and then released it to the open source
Linux can be pronounced one of two ways (Lin)(ux) or (Line)
(ux) . From its early concepton the operatng system has
come on leaps and bounds, however it may not dominate
the desktop market it does dominate in the server market
and Google android is based on a Linux kernel.
It is thought that the Linux kernel is far more stable than
that of Windows and it is reported Microsof are going to
use the Linux kernel on one of its Nokia phones. In the
early days it was difcult to get any hardware to work well
under Linux,and sofware was limited. Now with compa-
nies such as Ubuntu, SuSE and Mandriva to name a few
this has changed. Linux is plug and play, however some
hardware that uses Windows drivers eg Broadcom wireless
card are sometmes tricky to get working, however drivers
can be downloaded through a sofware centre to enable
these cards to work. (Use Network Cable).
There are plenty of free astronomy tools in the Linux environment. The most
famous is of course Stellarium which is also available on Windows.
What the Distro Astro team have done, is create an astronomers paradise bring-
ing all the tools you need, for free all pre installed. Distro Astro 2.0 is based on
Ubuntu 12.04 Precise LTS and Linux Mint 13 Maya. The desktop is easy to navi-
gate and the background images are from NASA’s APOD. I tested the live version,
which was easy to install onto a pendrive. However I had to use my network cable
for internet access. The system boots quickly and the desktop looks smooth and
slick. There are icons down the lef hand side which you can access your Apps.
Click start and favourites are displayed. I opened up ‘Explore the night sky.’ This
is Stellarium 0.12.1, the sofware opened up quickly and just like in MS Windows
it is easy to navigate and use. One nice trick is WINE is pre installed and confg-
ured. This means some MS Windows sofware will run on the Linux platorm.
WINE fools programmes to think they are running on a Windows system and a
programme that runs well is Registax 6.1. For those who use Linux a lot will know
some MS Ofce versions can run under the WINE system.
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For your internet needs Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client are installed,
both are easy to use and confgure.
For those of you who Astrophotography is a must then this distro has plenty of tools, it is
packed with graphics editors such as Gimp, stacking tools and webcam tools.
I recommend this Linux Distro, however cauton to the novice. Linux is not Windows. It is
a completely diferent operatng system however, it is a lot of fun and a serious tools once
you become familiar with it.
It can be installed as a standalone system or alongside Windows. However be careful when
optng for this opton if you do not know what you is dong get help. You can by mistake
delete Windows.
You can get Distro Astro here
Ratng 5/5
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