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Getting started with solar observing


Dave scutt
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Hi all.

I would like to start observing the sun,I see in most images you can see the sun spots is there any chance you can see the prominence. 

Would I be able to use my current scope and solar filter, I don't want to burn my eyes out.

Any help would be much appreciated. 

Dave 

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I can't see what scope you have, but regardless of that, you will definitely need a filter of some kind.

There are several types ranging from very cheap to very expensive. The cheapest is solar film. It looks like foil and shows the sun in white light. You can see sunspots and their surroundings with this. Glass filters that fit over the objective also show the sun in white light although they may show it as yellow/orange.

Herschel wedges used in refractors, fit into the focuser. They're also white light, but can be used with filters to improve contrast. Often, the sun will look green.

The most expensive are hydrogen alpha filters. These are not the same as imaging filters and block all wavelengths except the 656.28nm wavelength. This allows you to see the surface of the sun (chromosphere) or prominences.

If that's what you want to look at, then you will need a hydrogen alpha scope, or a quark (a type of eyepiece that allows solar viewing). 

Which ever you choose, exercise extreme caution when viewing the sun.

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Cheapest way into hydrogen alpha is an entry level scope - Lunt 40, or PST. There are the Daystar options, Solar Scout or Quark, but they are highly variable in quality and not recommended for beginners.
White light is much cheaper. You can use Baader solar film with Newtonians, or a Herschel wedge with refractors. These will only show sunspots and photosphere detail around them, not the prominences and filaments you see in hydrogen alpha. Still a great way to get into solar observing now that solar activity is increasing

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7 minutes ago, Roy Challen said:

I can't see what scope you have, but regardless of that, you will definitely need a filter of some kind.

There are several types ranging from very cheap to very expensive. The cheapest is solar film. It looks like foil and shows the sun in white light. You can see sunspots and their surroundings with this. Glass filters that fit over the objective also show the sun in white light although they may show it as yellow/orange.

Herschel wedges used in refractors, fit into the focuser. They're also white light, but can be used with filters to improve contrast. Often, the sun will look green.

The most expensive are hydrogen alpha filters. These are not the same as imaging filters and block all wavelengths except the 656.28nm wavelength. This allows you to see the surface of the sun (chromosphere) or prominences.

If that's what you want to look at, then you will need a hydrogen alpha scope, or a quark (a type of eyepiece that allows solar viewing). 

Which ever you choose, exercise extreme caution when viewing the sun.

Hi Roy.

I have an opticstar 127mm  f9.5 I have a solar filter 760387894_Screenshot_20220115-154000_Chrome2.jpg.306d725779e89cd4358cd224262928fb.jpg so it's not worth buying an hydrogen alpha filter because I won't see the prominence 

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That filter will be fine on its own Dave. Needs to be securely fitted, and also cover any finder scopes with the film if you want to use them. The view will be bright, so you might want to add a polariser, ND filter, or better, a Baader continuum filter which turns the Sun green, but helps bring out the faint granulation of the surface under good seeing.

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1 hour ago, Dave scutt said:

Hi Roy.

I have an opticstar 127mm  f9.5 I have a solar filter 760387894_Screenshot_20220115-154000_Chrome2.jpg.306d725779e89cd4358cd224262928fb.jpg so it's not worth buying an hydrogen alpha filter because I won't see the prominence 

That’s right, no chance of seeing prominences unless with a dedicated Hydrogen Alpha scope like a Lunt or Coronado, or a Quark in a suitable refractor.

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I own a dedicated Lunt Hydrogen Alpha telescope and also Herschel wedge for my Evostar refractor. I do love the view of a complex spot region in white light, you can see fantastic detail in the Umbra and Penumbra. Given good conditions so much to see with just a white light filter, as other have said a continuum makes a big difference, a green no 64 filter (i think that was the one i used) will also improve the view.

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Just come in from a quick lunchtime solar session. I only have a cheap white light film filter for a small 4.5 inch reflector but even with that it’s a lot of fun. My daughter is also off school with COVID, so it’s something for her to do too. The sun is obviously low in the sky right now and we didn’t have much time before it slid behind a big tree. 

But as mentioned above and even with this low tech setup, sunspots look so much better than the photographs I’ve seen. There’s a kind of 3D quality in the eyepiece that you don’t see in photographs. And of course it’s ever changing, never the same view.

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