All the photos on this page were taken by Graham Leaver, a member of the society who is very skilled at astrophotography. He often likes to turn his attention to the sun and regularly uses the society’s solarscope to capture stunning images of our closest star.
When we think about the sun we typically think of that very bright disk in the sky that bathes us in warmth and keeps us alive. It is 93 million miles or 150 million kilometres away from us. It’s hard to judge how big the sun is from this distance. A million earths would fit in the space occupied by the sun and it is so big that it accounts for over 99% of the stuff in our solar system. That’s right – if you take all the planets, the moons, the asteroids and everything else that revolves around the sun, they make up less than 1% of the material in our solar system. Amazing!
The photos you will see below were taken using a variety of equipment. Graham uses two telescopes; one which has a special ‘hydrogen-alpha’ filter that receives light from just below the surface of the sun and a normal astronomical telescope that has a filter that allows ordinary light from the sun to be used but at a vastly reduced level so that neither the equipment nor Graham’s eyes are harmed.
Having chosen the telescope, Graham connects one of two cameras. The first is a normal digital ‘SLR’ camera which is typically set to take very short exposures and the second is a special video camera. When he uses the video camera, he looks at the footage one image at a time and selects those that have the most interesting detail and converts them into photos.
Using different telescopes gets different results. Normal light lets you see more detail in the suns spots that are often seen travelling across the sun but using the hydrogen-alpha telescope lets you see more of the other features of the sun such as faculae, coronal mass ejections, spicules and filaments.
We regularly spend Saturday afternoon’s looking at the sun and if you think this would be of particular interest to you then once you become a member we’ll show you how to get started with this hobby and you’ll be able to join us as we study the incredible detail that is visible through our solarscope.
To spot the photos taken with the hydrogen-alpha filter, these are the orange, gold and red images. The white and light yellow photos are taken using normal light and are all black and white but Graham has coloured some of them light yellow to make them look more sun-like.