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Daystar Quark Chromosphere - my first Hydrogen Alpha observing experience


Paz
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I'm not sure if this should be in the observing or equipment section as it is a bit of both. Mods please move if it is better located elsewhere.

I've been observing the sun in white light for some years now and I have had a good time with this, even during the solar minimum. However I have always wanted to observe in Ha.

Having done an unhealthy amount of reading around the options over the years I decided to go the Quark Chromosphere route accepting the well documented pros, cons, and risks on the basis that you only live once and the price and ability to use different scopes with it suited me.

When I received the Quark I checked it out nervously but the surfaces at both ends were clean and unmarked, it warmed up like it was supposed to and it warmed up with my power bricks fine, never wanting to draw more than about 1.23 amps so all looked good.

I went for the easiest set up to start off, using the smallest refractor I have, in cyclops mode, and with the longest focal length eyepiece for the lowest magnification and biggest exit pupil. My plan was to set the Quark dial in the middle, leave it there and just observe and not play around with the dial or different eyepieces. I am expecting a learning curve where it takes me a while to tune in to a new kind of view that I'm not used to. So I used a 76mm f6 refractor and a 40mm NPL giving 46x and a 1.6mm exit pupil. I put a UV/IR filter on the nosepiece, I always do this with solar viewing as it stops me worrying, but I note Daystar say it isn't necessary with small scopes.

I warmed the Quark up using the mains indoors while setting up and I have a power brick and usb cable dangling from the mount outside ready to connect. So I unplug it from indoors, take it out, put it on the scope and plug it in to the power brick. It goes back to orange from green.  As it sorts itself out I get the scope lined up.

I can see a deep red blob... this is the most exciting observing moment I've had in a while, wondering if this is going to be a win or a fail.

I go up to the eyepiece and rack the focuser out about 45mm to focus. That's quite a lot out and I hope it means binoviewers will work without needing any further barlowing but I'll get around to trying binoviewing another day.

I can see a deep red sun and subtle signs of Ha features! I can see the Quark is still on orange so is still settling on the right temperature but I carry on observing anyway. I spend time getting the focus dead on and also on blacking out extraneous light which looks to be even more important to do in Ha than in white light.

This is surely a top 5 astro-wow moment for me, I can see long dark scars on the face of the sun, a totally alien sight to a white light observer! I can see other unfamiliar features everywhere, swirling all over the disk!

The experience is similar to the first time I saw the moon in a scope, so many things to see that I don't know where to start or where to stop.

The view keeps getting better, I guess a combination of the Quark getting to temperature and me getting my eye in.

I notice the limb looks jagged and I refocus thinking I'm out a bit. But it turns out my focus was good and the limb really is jagged in Ha, not smooth like in white light!!! Then I check out the proms. I can tell they must be huge. I circle around the whole circumference and find a number of proms of different shapes and sizes. I get back around to the first one I saw and it has already changed slightly. It had the curved shape of a rainbow but had become slightly bigger/higher and dimmer.

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The disk looks brighter than I was expecting. Starting to deviate from my keep-it-simple plan I add a polarising filter to the eyepiece and start dialling the brightness up and down like I do in white light. This is really winning, I dial the brightness up and the proms stand out, I dial it down and surface features stand out. I now crawl around the surface checking everything out and using the polarising filter to help as it's a simple and immediate adjustment. It seemed like I was looking straight down into the fires of hell! I am grinning from  from ear to ear under my observing hood!

The detail on proms and the surface is better than I had hoped for.

I keep going back to the proms and each time I see more details. I seem to get a better focus by using the scars on the surface than by using  the limb, unlike white light where I use the limb or the umbra of a sunspot to get best focus.

The field of view of the 40mm NPL is clipped by the field stop of the Quark and I can see a blurry field stop but this is as expected. I keep finding my eyes/brain keep thinking the field stop is an out of focus limb and the sharp limb is the field stop, this is weird!

I break the keep-it-simple rule again and  decide to try a 20mm SLV. The view holds up, still bright enough and the details don't soften much, and I note the sun is only 30 degrees or so up.

For full disclosure here are the down sides...

It's not so grab-and-go in nature due to needing power and needing time to change temperature.

The high Barlow factor (4.3x) means you have to use small scopes to get the full disk and small exit pupils are the norm.

How long will it last is a question to wonder about, but I say this from reading reviews, not from personal experience.

So this turns out to be a good start. I have a way to go getting my eye in, other scopes to try out with it, and better observing conditions to experience.

I'm sure I would be even more impressed with a big double stacked dedicated Ha scope but whatever kit one has there's always something better out there. I'm happy with this so far and looking forward to the summer!

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44 minutes ago, Roy Challen said:

Sounds fantastic, just like my first light with my Daystar. Since I bought, it's been used more than the rest of my scopes combined.

I am not surprised and I might be the same. I have got all the bits together so that I can switch quickly between a Ha and white light set up but I think white light is going to take a back seat for a while!

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Nice report and apleasure to be along for the ride.
I discovered Ha with a borowed scope, and it truly is a wow moment.
Problem is, the scope is a SolarView SV50, so instant spot on view, which has a lot going for it,
except the price of course, which is often the way.
At the minute I am undecided what to aim for one day beyond my WL set up, but thats in the future not for now.
 

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A lovely read of a what was clearly a v happy first light - congrats, you're on your way to becoming an addict.  Nice use of polarising filter.  Wait till you BV in HA...

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You got a good one! Enjoy!

I had varying experiences with Quarks some years back and, luckily, having previously experienced viewing with a Ha scope I knew when it was wrong. Daystar went through a bad period.

I was treated well by my suppliers, The Widescreen Centre, and when I eventually got a Quark that worked properly it was very good. I have since sold my Quark and now have a dedicated Ha scope (see sig) which I love. But I wouldn’t/couldn’t claim that it is better.

There’s always that hankering after the first time I was blown away by Ha. 😳🥳

… And it ain’t even near solar max, yet! You’re gonna have lots of fun. 😎

 

Edited by Floater
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Nice report @Paz. Excellent news that you seem to have a good one. I started off with a PST which I really enjoyed, then had a Quark for a while which gave excellent results in scopes from 60mm for full disk up to 130mm for higher power and more detail.

I now binoview with a 102mm PST mod which is excellent too. I think my first solar love will always be white light, even when quiet the granulation is fascinating to view, but I do really enjoy Ha too; today for instance I’ve got both scopes out on an AZ100 Goto and there is not much going in white light but a huge amount in Ha, proms, filaments, a filaprom and much more.

Enjoy 👍

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14 hours ago, Alan White said:

Nice report and apleasure to be along for the ride.
I discovered Ha with a borowed scope, and it truly is a wow moment.
Problem is, the scope is a SolarView SV50, so instant spot on view, which has a lot going for it,
except the price of course, which is often the way.
At the minute I am undecided what to aim for one day beyond my WL set up, but thats in the future not for now.
 

Yes I have found this to be the biggest leap into the (to me) unknown in terms of new gear. Most other things have been small steps or more simple and predictable kit where I'm fairly confident of what to expect.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, vineyard said:

A lovely read of a what was clearly a v happy first light - congrats, you're on your way to becoming an addict.  Nice use of polarising filter.  Wait till you BV in HA...

I have a brief go this morning with binoviewers! It comes to focus easily thankfully. I think it is magnifying more than it does without binoviewers but the blurry field stop from the restricted Quark aperture means my normal method of estimating magnification by seeing how much of a solar disk fits into a given field of view was not so easy.

I had really promising results immediately. A blank red disk at first and once warmed up I could see structure in the proms like they were made of fine hairs!

Eye placement with binos was difficult due to the huge eye relief being pushed back by the Quark barlow, and hanging back from the eyepieces meant glare was tougher to avoid but those are things that I can fix.

I realised when packing up I had the Quark dial fully anticlockwise by mistake. I wonder if that had an impact on prom detail. I had been testing which way was hotter and which was colder (clockwise calls for more amps so I assume means hotter) hence the setting.

Edited by Paz
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12 hours ago, Floater said:

You got a good one! Enjoy!

I had varying experiences with Quarks some years back and, luckily, having previously experienced viewing with a Ha scope I knew when it was wrong. Daystar went through a bad period.

I was treated well by my suppliers, The Widescreen Centre, and when I eventually got a Quark that worked properly it was very good. I have since sold my Quark and now have a dedicated Ha scope (see sig) which I love. But I wouldn’t/couldn’t claim that it is better.

There’s always that hankering after the first time I was blown away by Ha. 😳🥳

… And it ain’t even near solar max, yet! You’re gonna have lots of fun. 😎

 

I'm hoping mine lasts for a while. I looked at second hand at first but in the end thought it wise to go for new from a good dealer for the customer service plus the benefits of a warranty. There are a number of excellent dealers who I would be confident from experience to go with but I happened to go with Rother Valley Optics on this occasion as they happened to have a good price at the moment.

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2 hours ago, Stu said:

Nice report @Paz. Excellent news that you seem to have a good one. I started off with a PST which I really enjoyed, then had a Quark for a while which gave excellent results in scopes from 60mm for full disk up to 130mm for higher power and more detail.

I now binoview with a 102mm PST mod which is excellent too. I think my first solar love will always be white light, even when quiet the granulation is fascinating to view, but I do really enjoy Ha too; today for instance I’ve got both scopes out on an AZ100 Goto and there is not much going in white light but a huge amount in Ha, proms, filaments, a filaprom and much more.

Enjoy 👍

I'm sure I will continue with white light observing. I'll have to do some back to back white light and Ha observing to see how Ha activity looks relative to white light activity. Just looking in Ha I was not able to tell or even guess if or where any white light activity might be happening!

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2 hours ago, Paz said:

Eye placement with binos was difficult due to the huge eye relief being pushed back by the Quark barlow, and hanging back from the eyepieces meant glare was tougher to avoid but those are things that I can fix.

I realised when packing up I had the Quark dial fully anticlockwise by mistake. I wonder if that had an impact on prom detail. I had been testing which way was hotter and which was colder (clockwise calls for more amps so I assume means hotter) hence the setting.

I was under the impression that the Quark uses a telecentric design so shouldn't affect eye relief. 

When tuning, I usually turn the dial  almost fully anticlockwise for proms. As the scope heats up from exposure to the sun, I dial it back down one or two clicks.

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4 hours ago, Paz said:

I'm sure I will continue with white light observing. I'll have to do some back to back white light and Ha observing to see how Ha activity looks relative to white light activity. Just looking in Ha I was not able to tell or even guess if or where any white light activity might be happening!

You should have the advantage that the orientation will be the same in both scopes (assuming you use a refractor or Mak for white light). My PST Mod is different to my frac, so it gets very confusing!

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Great report! And even better news - you’re currently only operating at F/24. Quarks really fly at F/30 and above. If you have an F7.5-F/9 scope, you’ll find the surface detail (filaments in particular) gets even better, as long as you’re not pushing magnification too much for the seeing. Another way to reach those slower speeds is to stop down the aperture of your scope. An interesting summer awaits!

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