We had a winter of record winds, freezing temperatures and darkness. However this week, it seems the summer has finally arrived in Ireland. On May 21st I noticed a developing sun pillar on the horizon. As it progressed I took several images, each equally beautiful. The pillar of light interacted with the sky and the sea, altering colour and bringing drama as it peaked and faded after sun set. Beautiful to watch, it seemed to pierce the clouds just above the suns departure point.
Sun pillars are shafts of sunlight glinting off ice crystals in our atmosphere. This phenomenon is explained well here on this wonderful site Atmospheric Optics
On May 23rd the sun offered an active region for drawing. OK now the atmosphere was not the steadiest I have ever seen, but it was hot and the sky was blue. The active region was small and complex, the challenge to draw the sun in h-alpha with my solar telescope called again.
Active Region 2710 May 23rd, 2018 – PST 40 – 8mm eyepiece – 50X . This means I used my Personal Solar Telescope which is 40 mm in diameter and 400 mm long. This used along with an 8mm eyepiece gives me a 50X magnification of the solar disc. This instrument offers me a highly filtered view of the sun restricted to the h-alpha wavelength. For this drawing I used pastel and conte on black card. My drawing effort started at 13:30 local time. At 14:51 I noticed a short dark filament leaping from the main sunspot where the surrounding plage was very bright. This thin dark filament arced toward the less bright plage nearer the smaller sunspot.
Conditions started fine but got a bit hazy from time to time. At 15:21, I observed what looked like the start of a large very dark filament developing below the main spot. It’s frustrating not to be able to put in all the detail that I could see. Haze and yet to be developed techniques to cope with the complexity added to the mix. However, I was experimenting a bit with the almost impossible task of drawing the mottling which covers the entire perceived solar surface.
This mottling appears like a matrix of millions of dots. It has very definite shapes, especially close to sunspots. Most of it looks like it’s following invisible magnetic field lines. These lines seem to organise the grey dots into arc shapes similar to prominences on the limb. That day I also notice a red linear tint to the north edge of the larger sunspot as I viewed.
In previous observations I have also very occasionally noticed a deep red close to the umbra. As yet I have no idea what that red colour could be? Here is a pdf that explains many solar features Identifying Solar Features . I use it to help me to gain some understanding of what I am observing during my drawing sessions.
It was and still is almost impossible to capture the exact colour that h- alpha viewing offers. The colour of the sun to the eye is somewhere between a glowing pink and a luminous hot orange. The colour of plage around black sunspots can appear almost metallic. Sometimes within the plage an even brighter area can develop, which for now is indescribable colourwise.
Over a period of time, I experimented with many drawing materials in order to approximate the sun on paper. My PST is only 40mm in diameter so my views of the solar disc are limited. The limitations are the size of the objective, the filters, the choice of the eyepiece, the quality of the atmosphere and the weather. However, the view through my small solar scope is in the main truly outstanding. The details visible to the eye are extraordinarily complex in both their visual nature, their structure and their purpose. Follow the sun daily here on SpaceWeather or on Solar Dynamics Observatory – The Sun Now