The Sun – as you know well – shines night and day, but direct visibility of the Sun has been in short supply in Teddington these last two weeks.
But at break this morning I caught two of NPL’s astronomical gurus sipping lemon tea and enjoying the sunshine streaming through the windows. I sat with them and it felt so good.
We chatted about telescopes and things, and I must have said something amazing because later in the day Peter Woolliams sent me an e-mail with the picture above.
“Michael, inspired by you (and the unusual presence of the sun) I dashed back home at lunchtime to grab the first bit of solar image data for a few months, just caught the sun before the clouds rolled in… and the netbook battery expired…Rapid processing, see attached….”
I was astonished. First of all at the beauty of the image and second at the rapidity with which Peter had got to work. Another colleague joined in a discussion and she sent a me a link to the astonishing Helioviewer site.
At Helioviewer you can look at satellite images of the Sun for any particular moment in the last few years and create your own movies such as the one below. The movie below shows 6 hours of images (not much happens) but it is astounding nonetheless – especially when you notice the scale image of the Earth in the lower left corner.
And so I found myself wondering which image to be more moved by: the breathtaking Helioviewer with its movies and whizzy interface, or Peter’s astonishing image – surely the most astounding image produced in Teddington today.
Between the two I would vote for Peter’s, but the winning image of the day is one I can’t share with you: it exists only in my mind.
Inspired by Peter and Andrea Sella I looked out the skylight at Jupiter. Using first binoculars, then a small telescope, and then finally the telescope I bought for Maxwell I saw Jupiter’s disc and its 4 Galilean moons perfectly arranged in a line.
Seeing the image of Jupiter and its satellites which had astonished Galileo, and provided crucial evidence for Newton’s theory of Universal Gravitation, I felt in touch not only with vastness of the universe, not only with my family who I dragged upstairs to see it, but with history too.
How did Peter create the image above?
“Images taken during my lunchbreak (just before the sun vanished behind cloud where it has been for the past few months!). 80mm William Optics refractor with Lunt B600 CaK filter onto a DMK41 mono camera. 600frame stacks processed in Autostakkert, post processed in Registax6 (wavelets and gamma stretch), Microsoft ICE (to stitch the disk together from 2 images) and GIMP to colorize. AR1944 is very complex and generated an X class flare yesterday. The sun is very low in the sky so higher magnification images were impossible, it’s nice to see the sun putting on a good show given all the warnings of it being past Solar Maximum!”