Solar Cycle 24

Always view the Sun safely!
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

During solar viewing at HRPO Tom regularly comes in to let me and Craig know what's going on concerning the Sun. Today was very impressive.

As many know, we utilize a hydrogen-alpha scope (and sometimes a Sunspotter) for solar viewing. Today, with the diagonal's eyepiece pointed "up"--in other words, with the diagonal aligned with the top of the tube, we saw quite intriguing activity.

Treating the surface of the Sun as a clockface, there were flares/prominences at "1:00", "2:00" and "2:30". There was either a double spike or a prominence at an oblique angle at "5:30". Finally, there was a comparatively faint and puny flare at "11:30".

There was a sizable sunspot with plage around the eastern edge--this was around 10 N on the right side of the disk. There was also a bizarre looking filament to the upper left. Tom saw it too. I just checked a Marshall page of chromospheric features (http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/feature2.shtml) and, what do you know, these things are actually called "filaments"! It's my first time seeing one, as far as I can recall.

So! It looks as though we'll have some moderate activity for the next three to six months. Solar Cycle 24 is definitely underway. The Solar Weather Prediction Center's sunspot number is gauged at a tad under 25...say 23. SWPC is forecasting a peak for this cycle in this first half of 2013, with a sunspot number of about 90.

More information at:
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

The activity has been continuing for these past months. I cannot necessarily say it's been intensifying all the time; but the number of days per week during which something visually interesting takes places seems to have definitely gone up. In other words, whenever I use the H-alpha or the Sunspotter I expect to see sunspots and flares simultaneously.

For example, at this moment I'm not disappointed. There is a quite sizable flare and three good-sized sunspots--not the puny black specks that we sometimes call sunspots!
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

It is possible that this expected increase in solar activity may be truncated. In fact, studies by the National Solar Observatory and the Air Force Research Laboratory suggest a long-term weakening in the sunspot cycle. The scientist have observed a slowing of the regular movement of magnetic activity to the polar regions of the Sun.

Also, Solar Cycle 25 may be delayed until 2021 or 2022.

14 June press release:
http://www.nso.edu/press/SolarActivityDrop.html
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

The predictions concerning Solar Cycle 24 from the SWPC are now more than two years old.

Joe Lynch, N6CL, recommends taking advantage of transequatorial propagation--signals refracted by the ionosphere's highest layer (60 to 180 kilometers up). The kicker is, each ham radio station should be the same distance from the equator. TE propagation is due to a signal becoming "stuck" beneath ionized clouds at the altitude, continually being refracted until it lands on the surface of the Earth.

TE seems to increase during the peak of a sunspot cycle.

More information:
July 2011Amateur Radio, pp. 101-106
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

Trevor has HRPO's 10" Orion Skyquest Intelliscope outside the front doors right now. The 18mm eyepiece he's using renders the Sun at 66.7x and the sunspot chain present at this time is amazing!

I don't know if this is an indication that CQ is correct to have more optimism than the official Cycle 24 predictions, but if this is the exception, I'm glad we saw it.
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

The third X-class flare of Solar Cycle 24, and the most powerful, left the Sun yesterday morning at 3:05am CDT. Although that part of the Sun's surface was not facing Earth at the time, there is a slight chance we could receive some portion of the resulting CME as these events tend to spread and cover a wide area of the inner Solar System.

More information:
http://www.spaceweather.com/archive.php ... &year=2011
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

I viewed the Sun this Saturday afternoon. In optical light a huge sunspot was present, easily twice the size of the Earth, with lesser spots scattered around the near side. In hydrogen-alpha one nice flare and one really nice prominence were available. May these amazing views keeping coming while the CMEs always miss us.
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

The optical filter view of the Sun today at about 11am CDT was phenomenal. There were present four large sunspots, forming a shape quite similar to the Hercules Keystone. There were also three or four medium spots. But most astounding was a cluster of six or seven spots together in small area. I haven't been a lifelong sunwatcher but I've looked for a number of years and this is the "busiest" solar surface I've seen.
barastar1970
Posts: 2
Joined: November 25th, 2011, 6:58 am

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by barastar1970 »

Hi Chris ! I also have been studying Sol and doing viewing in white light as it has been my main sky object of study lately. I also have been getting images of it using a 4-inch Celestron Vixen CO-100 reflector .This scope is equipped with a 4-inch full aperture Solar filter and is clock driven. The camera used is an Olympus E-300 EVolt DSLR with wireless remote control. I have been reading some of your posts and they're very informative. What equipment are you using to study our star ? Keep up the great work!!! 8-) Clear Skies, GB/VSC
Christopher K.
Posts: 5962
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Solar Cycle 24

Post by Christopher K. »

Well, we have three different manners in which we view the Sun.

1) We have a Sunspotter from Learning Technologies in Somerville, MA. It's a compact device, about 50mm high and 35-40mm long and 15mm wide. It's mostly layered wood--a triangular piece inside a cradle. You can find the Sun either by adjusting it to make the gnomon's shadow shorten to nothing, or by allowing two pinpoints of sunlight that come through holes on the front go inside two white circles that flank the first mirror. There are three mirrors that send the image ultimately onto a piece of white paper. Any sizable sunspots can easily be seen.
2) We have a 10" Orion Skyquest Intelliscope (of course, the "Intelli" part isn't needed for solar viewing) with Orion glass solar filter. The Sun looks good in this scope at 48x and 60x.
3) We have access to a 70mm Coronado NearStar. I believe it's focal length is 400mm. Flares come into view at ~22x and ~33x.

I have yet to enter into the astrophotography area of the hobby (except for a few quick shots of the Moon) but perhaps that will change soon.
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