Today we celebrated the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, with members of our local astronomy group, the Fordingbridge Astronomers. The group gave visitors the opportunity to safely view the sun through specially adapted telescopes, allowing them to take a closer look at details they would never normally be allowed to view.
Despite the cloudy forecast, we were rewarded with some breaks in the cloud which increased as the day wore on, revealing views of sun spots and solar prominences and flares.
This particular telescope had been fitted with a Hydrogen-alpha filter, with the image viewed clearly showing the sun spots and solar prominences which are usually invisible to us due to the immense brightness of the rest of the sun. The solar prominences are huge eruptions of plasma, usually many, many times the size of the earth, which extend outwards from the sun’s surface often in a loop shape.
I had a go at taking an image through the solar telescope, but only ended up with an arty shot of the sky, my hands and a red blob.
Julie Smith did much better, with only her smart phone, and you can clearly pick out the fuzzy looking solar prominences on the left hand side of the sun. Thank you Julie for emailing them over!
One of the more simple pieces of kit bought by the group was this Solarscope. The sun’s rays travel through the orange telescopic part on the front of the box, hit the small convex mirror below and are then projected as an image inside the box lid.
It was great to spend the day with the group and see views of the sun we’re not usually able to see, and would like to thank them for providing us and our visitors with the opportunity. We look forward to having them back here later on in the year, this time in search of the stars, and we’ll be once again keeping our fingers firmly crossed for clear skies!
Please remember if you do not have special equipment you must NEVER look directly at the sun or view it through a magnifying device such as binoculars or telescopes: permanent blindness can result.
On the wildlife front, the grass snakes have once again been basking on the logs in front of Ivy South hide whilst the oystercatcher and its chicks have been viewed from Tern hide. The light trap revealed a number of moths, with the highlight today being this Privet hawkmoth.