Vacation Day #4 and I spent some time this morning experimenting with solar photography. On June 5, the transit of Venus will take place and since the next one after that won’t happen for another 115 years, I thought I should try for this year’s! I discovered to my dismay that the very expensive, modern-design, Herschel Wedge won’t work for photography with my “big” telescope — the six-inch, 1,219mm Meade LXD75. Rats! I’m going to make quick queries to see what I can do to resolve the issue if I’m to use the wedge any time soon … and June 5 is soon! I could not crank the camera “in” close enough to achieve focus with the wedge in place. So with the telescope still set up in the mid-morning sunshine, I removed the wedge and covered the telescope’s objective lens with the very inexpensive AstroZap filter made using Baader AstroSolar film. I connected my trusty (and light-weight) Canon Digital Rebel XT to the scope’s eyepiece holder and made several bracketed exposures. Later I discovered the results were very good though not quite as good as shots made with my Canon EOS 50D and Canon 400mm telephoto. The difference in quality may be attributed to seeing conditions –the images were made days apart– but either setup will do just fine for recording the historic celestial event. Now all we need is clear skies on that day!
Sunday, May 13 dawned reasonably clear and so, with cloudy skies anticipated, a few rushed photographic observations were made of our Sun. I had to fit that in before visiting Mom for Mother’s Day! Active Region1476 (a huge sunspot group) continued to dominate the solar disk though it had been joined by several smaller but notable sunspots blemishing old Sol’s face. Also visible in this photo are granulation and other disturbances — the chromospheric network — in the solar atmosphere. Notes on the photo, the best image I’ve done of the Sun so far: Canon EOS 50D, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1,250 sec., 400mm Canon telephoto, AstroZap white light film solar filter, May 13, 2012 at 9:15 AM. The sky was reasonably clear though this image was captured through a thin cloud, the remains of an aircraft’s vapor trail.
This morning the Observatory hosted a group of 18 from a local church camp, vising as part of a "Space Week" program. Despite the hazy, hot, and humid conditions, seeing was surprisingly good. I pointed the grand old 9-inch scope, with its nice new Baader solar filter in place, at the sun and shared the view. We had a nice spidery little sunspot to look at and could also make out granulation in the solar atmosphere. (View similar to the SOHO photo at right but in white light, not orange.) I'd never seen granulation with my own eyes and enjoyed the experience as much as or more than did the kids … though they certainly were an enthusiastic and bright group. Just before I left I learned a respected previous Observatory director had sneaked in for a personal visit to see what I've been up to. He left a note in the Observatory log to that effect and that he liked what he saw; also leaving his contact info. Oh, and by the way, I finally feel fully recovered from my recent illness. Overall a very nice way to start the day!
I learned yesterday that my favorite television show, Scrubs, is to begin filming its final 18 episodes this August. I also learned they took over a real, decommissioned hospital for their production. Three floors are used in filming and other areas are dedicated to offices and workspace! That's why it looks so real… it is real! I learned much of this from Zach Braff's personal blog. How refreshing and unusual for a young, rising actor/director to take time out and keep fans informed with personal news, observations, and comments. A far cry from the old Hollywood publicity mill and way better than the tabloids which thoroughly suck. I'll be sorry to see the show go out of production but what a run they've had — what a body of work. Thanks to all involved!