Preface

I chose the name Central Coast Observatory since this is where Lompoc is located on the California coast. Although the sky is not very light polluted the seeing conditions in this area are poor. Transparency is generally poor due to water vapor agricultural dust and other fine particles such as pollen. For example, only once since 2009 was I able to just barely see the Milky Way and then only with averted vision. Prior years were much the same. Therefore I am pleased that I was able to capture the images exhibited in this web site.

It took much work, lots of time, and required pushing the sensors and optical systems to their limit. Some image processing was required for most images. Lunar imagery is generally no problem. For the most part I feel the systems I have are very robust and thus far have performed well given the seeing conditions in the area.

The observatory is totally home made and is 11 feet in diameter and 8 feet in height. The dome is manually rotated either clockwise or counter-clockwise on twenty-one base ring rollers and 5 radial rollers. The base is 4 inch thick concrete with a cinder block dome base and the dome is constructed entirely of plywood.

The photographs in this web site were taken using two Schmidt Cassegrain Telescopes (SCT) systems. The observatory houses a Meade LX-90 GPS 12 inch system mounted in Polar mode on a Meade Ultra Wedge and Tripod. Two cameras were used, a Meade Deep Space ll CCD Camera (DSI) and a Meade Lunar Planetary CCD camera (LPI). A Compaq computer controls both cameras.

The second SCT is housed in the Solar Observatory and workshop located next to the dome. The Solar optics are shown mounted in the Alt/Azimuth mode but since March 2010 has been reconfigured to the Polar mode. It is a Meade 8 inch GPS SCT and is equipped with a Baader solar white light filter on the primary optics and the spotting scope. Piggyback to the 8 inch is a Coronado 40mm Personal Solar Telescope (PST). The PST and the 8 inch optics imagery were taken with the primary camera which is the Image Source DMK31 monochrome ccd camera. The secondary camera is a Celestron NexImage Solar System CCD Camera. A Lap Top PC controls the solar imaging cameras.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On 19 April I observed a solar prominence on the limb of the sun. This capture yeilded a Coronal Mass Ejection(CME)one of the biggest in years. This CME was not directed toward Earth but did release approximately a billion tons of material. Temperatures of the hot plasma gas range from 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 degrees Kelvin.
CME's are enormous eruptions of magnetized plasma ejected from the sun. Average speeds are 400Km/s and some exceed 2000 Km/s.
Image capture was accomplished using a Coronado 40 mm PST and DMK31 ccd. At random intervals of 2 and 5 minutes between images, 22 images were recorded. The images were processed using Registax software and then compiled and aligned as a gif file using GIMP software.

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On April 1st my friend Steve Riegel captured a Solar Prominence exhibiting magnetized plasma looping from one side of the prominence to the other. The capture was accomplished using a Lunt 60mm PST and DMK31 ccd camera. Images were taken every 5 minutes for 90 minutes. They were then processed using Registax and GIMP software to make a gif file animation.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Filaments, Prominences,Sunspots and Solar Flares:   Filaments are formed in magnetic loops that hold relatively cool dense gas and are suspended above the surface of the Sun. When you look down at them they appear dark because the gas inside is cool compared to the hot surface (Photosphere) of the Sun.  Prominences are Filaments when seen in profile against the dark sky and look like a giant glowing loop. They are hot gas projecting from the surface into the chromosphere or Corona and are suspended in magnetic field loops above the surface.  Sunspots are regions on the solar surface that appear dark because they are cooler than the surrounding Photosphere.  Sunspots have magnetic fields stronger than anywhere else on the Sun.  This concentrated magnetic field inhibits the flow of hot new gas from the Sun's interior. They are cooler by about 1500 degrees Kelvin (2240 deg F) but are still at a temperature of 4500 degrees Kelvin (7640 deg F), this is cool compared to the rest of the Photosphere.  They are dark in a relative sense. If a sunspot were removed from the bright background of the Sun they would glow quite brightly. Some of the largest sunspots observed have had diameters of 50,000 kilometers which makes them visible to the naked eye.   A Solar Flare is a magnetic storm which appears to be a very bright spot and a gaseous surface eruption.  They release huge amounts of high energy particles and gases.  The temperatures can range from 3.6  to 24 million degrees F and are ejected thousands of miles from the surface of the sun.
 
Examples:..........
                                                           
                                         Filament
Prominence
                                         Sunspot                 
Solar Flare

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Imaged a relatively small solar prominence on 6 April on the Estern Limb of the Sun. Imaging was accomplished using a Coronado 40 mm PST and a Image Source DMK 31 ccd camera.  12 Image captures (in AVI format) of 200 frames were performed at 5 minute intervals.  The AVI images were processed into Jpegs using RegiStax software.   Processing from start to finish was a 2 hour process.