During the past week, I have been drawing the sun, which for me means I am in pursuit of dots. We are having an unusual series of sunny days with high temperatures and almost no clouds. Every day I tried to sketch something in either white light or h-alpha. However, astronomically speaking, no matter what the clear skies offered, that didn’t equate to clarity. Because the atmosphere was anything but still, therefore, my pursuit of dots continued to be thwarted.
My drawing is made up of hundreds of dots. The sunspots were drawn using an 8B pencil. The higher the B number, the darker and softer the lead. I sketched the pink penumbra with a cherry-pink Conte stick. I also used that 8B pencil to draw that massive filament. The dots that have eluded me so far are those arranged in shapes around sunspots. It is my understanding that they are bundles of fibrils, and we only see the tops of these plasma-filled tubes. Sometimes the patterns these dots make are dramatic. Exuberant arcs that leave a wider area and taper off to a point or several points. Claw shapes and even wrench shapes have come to my notice.
On June 2nd, the seeing was much better. Active region 3315 was already almost over the limb. Just one sunspot was visible, actively vanishing over the edge. Under it, a curved chunk of plasma offered two tiny filaments, one to the left and one to the right of its bowl shape—a last goodby.
Active region 3319 followed in the same line. The penumbra on the larger sunspot was clearly pink to my eye. I noticed this in previous observations but never included the colour because it seemed odd.
Reading up about it, the filter in my PST can show the penumbra as pink. This view of the penumbra depends on the strength of the emission of light by hydrogen atoms. Yellow, orange or red can be observed in this area depending on conditions and the instrument being used.
Then below all this action was a massive dark filament with tunnel-like arcs spreading out for hundreds if not thousands of kilometres. The filament looked like a series of tunnels with entrances at different angles. All the arcing materials making up the tunnels were connected like a fluid-moving mass of energy. The occasional Jinny Joe seed landed on my drawing as I drew in a wild part of our garden.
My quest is to find a solution to drawing the millions of dots organised into energetic patterns around sunspots. As I have done here, I can mimic the shapes I see by removing material from my drawing. But this is only partially what is available to the eye. Using pastels to do these drawings is probably not doing me any favours. But for me, it is almost what my eye sees arriving on the paper, which is essential. It is also very satisfying to observe our star and, in drawing its features, appreciate and understand it a little better. A few more experiments will help over time. An earlier solar drawing in my quest
Active Region 3319 is now gone over the limb, but several other active regions are following. The sun creates these energy-packed islands and sends them to our solar telescopes on a conveyor belt of wonder. Some pass along and are quiet; some offer us aurora to magnify that sense of wonder and connection.
If you do not have a solar telescope, you can follow the action on
Sky and Telescope Observers Guide Viewing our nearest star
Only look at the sun with specialist equipment. It is dangerous to your eyesight otherwise.