Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Sun

First of all, this should go without saying, but NEVER look at the Sun without specialized eye protection, whether it be in the form of eclipse glasses or solar filters for binoculars/telescopes. For penny pinchers who do not want to use eclipse shades, a #14 or darker welder's shield will work when observing the Sun with the eye alone. When looking at the Sun with the naked eye, it will often appear as a single-colored disk save a few large, dark sunspots. When turning binoculars and even or powerful telescopes on the Sun, the spots will appear more detailed, with clear shapes becoming visible.

In telescopes, the real fun starts when moving out of visible light into very specific wavelengths. By doing this, one will be able to see granulation, which gives the Sun the appearance of boiling water, flares, which appear as giant flames erupting off the solar surface, and prominences, arches of fire that loop up and then down again. Unfortunately, all of this added detail comes at a cost, literally, as such filters/specially-built telescopes cost a lot more than standard, visible light filters.   

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