This weekend I got it into my head to try and see some sunspots. See, I’d just listened to an episode of Astronomy Cast where they were talking about solar activity and I thought maybe I could see these spots for myself. So, I broke out my super-duper high-tech gadgets…

…like a tripod, a $50 telescope, card stock, painter tape and a bent piece of wire. Yes, really.

That telescope is a Galileoscope, built from a kit. There’s one piece of card stock taped to the telescope to keep the other end in the shade, and another piece held by a piece of wire about 6″ from the eyepiece. I didn’t actually measure it, that’s just where the wire ended up. I put the rig out in a sunny spot and pointed at the sun. Took a bit of fiddling to get it pointed just right and focusing the ‘scope isn’t the easiest thing. But look! That little disk of light is an image of the sun!

Here’s a picture of what I saw on the card. It looks a lot better live, honest! For some reason, my digital camera doesn’t seem to be optimized for photographing images of the sun projected onto card stock. Stupid camera.

Here’s the same image, with the contrast turned way up.

And here it is flipped, rotated and compared with the latest images from the SOHO site. See? They’re not just dust specks on the lens.

Neat, huh? Just like real astronomy or something.

Steve DeGroof

Steve consists of approximately 60% water and 40% organic molecules, arranged in a configuration that is, among over things, capable of describing itself in this manner.

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  1. Very cool! The high contrast makes the sun look like it is made out of fiberglass. Is that from the fibers in the card stock, or is it really part of the solar image?

  2. I’m assuming those are paper fibers. I can’t imagine I had the telescope focused well enough to pick up that kind of detail. I guess one way to test that would be to use a different material And see if the pattern changes.

  3. Nice! I had the same problem trying to use my camera; it has a hard time focusing on the card. Still, that worked out pretty well. I may try that with my Galileoscope too!

  4. Ooooo. Sweet images! I seem to remember performing a similar experiment in Earth Science back in high school. Great idea to check it against the SOHO images.

    I was using my dad’s old telescope this weekend to check out Jupiter. It’s so bright I couldn’t resist!

  5. I wonder if the camera would focus better if there where some markings on the card. Maybe I could draw some registration marks on it with a sharpie. Looks like Friday’ll be sunny.

    Also, not sure why I had to rotate the image to match the SOHO image. I’m guessing it has something to do with the latitude, time of day and time of year.

  6. Fantastic! However, I worry about burning the internals of the telescope.
    I once found a comet that wasn’t too visible by pointing the digital camera and taking several shots and moving the camera around to find the proper celestial references, then “enhancing” the image until it showed. I was *very* thrilled, just like the time I photographed Venus at noon, but no one in my family email list (where I shared) ever commented back.
    Anyway, I’m having ideas about the neigh… boring galaxies. Yes.

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