My first ever solar prominence time lapse! This should probably more accurately titled how not to make a solar prominence time lapse. It’s the first time, for me anyway, that I’ve made an image(s) that I think helps to convey that the sun is a bubbling, boiling ball of hot gas. So hot, it loses 4 million tonnes of energy every second, it converts hydrogen into helium, gives us light, heat and the sunburn on my head from trying to get this image. These giant fiery loops of plasma dance and shift shape, magnetically anchored to the sun’s surface (photosphere). You’ll get a better close up view in the YouTube link.

My first solar prominence time lapse from 20th May 2020

Now I know that it doesn’t look like it’s moved that much and a reminder that the sun is big, really big, so big you can fit 300, 000 Earths inside it. The prominences, the flames if you like, in this video are much bigger than the Earth, so have moved actually moved and shifted quite a bit.

The video to actually make this was just under 1 hour of footage squeezed into approx 2 seconds from 35 videos, waiting 1 minute between each and recording for about 10 seconds or 500 frames. I made this having to do everything manually, tracking – still having to tweak slow motion controls on an EQ mount as not a motorised mount), focusing, and recording 35 times. Then manually cropping because the tracking wasn’t great etc…. In the end, I was able to use 32 out of the 35 recorded from 18Gb of data. There’s a lot wrong with the final result, the focus isn’t great, over sharpened etc etc but this is a first attempt and actually quite chuffed I managed to blunder my way way through. I look at the astronomy forum and in awe of some of the images they produce, and with my relatively cheap set up, quite happy.

I can make it longer next time but would have to be outside for an awful long time. That’ll be OK because I’ve finally ordered a motorised mount that will keep track of the sun! A strange decision perhaps to purchase during a potentially very deep solar minimum. No more trying to manually track and record at the same time though. I will also wait longer between each recording, every few minutes instead. That way, the time lapse would show more movement and be smoother.

This was quite some effort in the making and I’ve learnt quite a few lessons on the way, mainly that there isn’t a decent solar prominence time lapse tutorial. There was one but it didn’t explain how to capture so had to make that up, and for processing you had to try and interpret clicks on the screen with an awful lot of assumed knowledge. In the spirit of my previous posts, the online public self shaming will continue in an effort to embarrass me into improving my results and I have quite honestly just blundered my way through this.

Equipment used:

  • Skywatcher EQ5 mount
  • Coronado PST (Hydrogen alpha)
  • ZWO ASI120MC camera
  • 2 x Barlow (the cheap Sky-Watcher one)

Software used:

  • Sharpcap for capture
  • Autostakkert for alignment
  • GIMP for cropping
  • IMPPG for batch alignment
  • PixInsight (trial – didn’t quite understand it but did manage to sharpen images)
  • PIPP for final image
Solar surface on 20th May 2020, the same area of the prominences

 

Author

Nick Cook. Amateur astronomer, space, history, nerd, extreme dog walker, cat slave, severe tinnitus sufferer. 13.7 billion years in the making - not that much better for it.

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