Aug 2, 2012 — As the sun increases in activity as it approaches "solar maximum" (predicted to occur in 2013), our nearest star has been putting on a show for professional and amateur astronomers alike.
This dramatic view of the sun's photosphere was captured by amateur astronomer Kevin LeGore from the sidewalk outside Woodland Hills Telescope near Los Angeles.
"I shot this picture (on July 31) at around 3:30pm outside the store," LeGore told Discovery News. Although Los Angeles isn't exactly known for its clear skies, it is known for the sun — as can be seen from this dramatic photograph, the sun put on a show.
The dark sunspot to the lower left marks the location of active region 1532 (AR1532), which has been crackling with flare activity. Near the top of LeGore's image, another small active region (AR1528) was caught in the act — bright solar plasma is erupting along a compact grouping of coronal loops, producing a small solar flare.
Other features are obvious, including twisted dark filaments (regions of cool plasma hanging over the sun, blocking the light of the photosphere from view) and hints of the large-scale granulation of convection flows of hot plasma bubbling up from the solar interior.
LeGore captured the image using a Coronado PST solar telescope with a small CCD camera (the Imaging Source DMK51) attached. He used an H-alpha filter to capture the glow of hydrogen atoms.
Interestingly, the equipment used to create this picture can be bought "off the shelf" at a price that is accessible to amateur astronomers. The Coronado PST sells for $699 and the CCD sells for $999.
"The camera is a monochrome camera so the image was shot in black and white," added LeGore. "The color was added in Photoshop. The image is a total of 500 images stacked together."
LeGore is also director of Focus, an astronomy outreach and education initiative. To find out more, visit the Focus website.