There are many variable when it comes to solar viewing and trying to take images of the sun. UK weather is not known for its particularly sunny disposition or for its abundance particular clear night skies for astronomy, although I am sure it is much clearer above the grey rainy skies. And the days and nights it is clear you’ll be at work so it always makes astronomy purchase hard to justify. It happens to be May, the month where we get the mean maximum of sunshine for the entire year. I’m on furlough so trying to make the most of what we’ve got and capture solar images with the Coronado PST even though the sun is particularly quiet at the moment.

In the same vein as my last post, I am continuing to publicly shame myself to improve. So I’ve been practising my solar imaging skills with the equipment that I’ve got to see what I can come up with. Just like my focusing, I’m clearly out of practice. Something that happens with a frustratingly slow hobby. What is also clear is that I don’t know enough so have taken to YouTube see how others are doing and I think I’ve probably produced my best results yet.

I think this is my best solar image yet. The sun captured with a Coronado PST. More surface detail than I’ve previously managed to get and a prominence on the edge of the sun.

Most of all, it that it looks like I was doing an awful lot of it right, just a few minor tweaks here and there for capture, and some great tutorials for the processing of the images has made a real difference. YouTube has been great but it’s not a substitute for asking someone in real life, so much so that I may have to join a real life astronomy club at some point so I can improve further.

I’ve changed the time of day to try and capture solar images so the seeing much clearer. Seeing, the atmospheric wobble of blurring and twinkling, has the biggest impact on the quality and of my captured footage and the image results from it. I now try and capture late morning (hey, it’s not as though I have to go to work at the minute is it) when the sun has risen a little higher, so there is less atmosphere to image through and before the ground has heated up too much that causes the shimmering and blurring you get on a hot day; that becomes magnified through a telescope.

A blurry sun through poor atmospheric seeing on 5th May 2020

Processing has a seen a different method to produce an image with more details using a program called IMPPG instead of Registax. I’m still needing Photoshop though but not prepared to spend £20 per month. There is an free alternative called GIMP but it has a steep learning curve. I do need to keep on practising with capture, getting a full disk image will require me to create a mosaic from sections of the sun and I would also like to do a timelapse of prominece.

The thing about furlough is that it give you plenty of time to make glorious wish lists. After watching countless astronomy videos on YouTube, I now know the other equipment I would like, not just to get better results. Astronomy is not known for its cheap gear. I’ve got a decent enough planetary camera, a ZWO ASI 120MC and a new mono camera is quite doable for more detail. I’d quite like a refractor telescope which has the capacity for future proofing. My current solar telescope, the Coronado PST is not that much value anymore. The price of adding another filter so its double stacked to reveal more details is not that cost effective when comparing against other newer products like the Quark DayStar that can be added to a refractor. Yes, I still need a driven mount, even of it’s just a solarquest mount.

A mosaic of the sun from my captured video. Not exactly spherical, I need practice.

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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