Our Sun is a main sequence G2 yellow dwarf star that is in a continuous state of transformation. It can be one of the most interesting celestial objects to observe through a telescope. There is always something new to see as the sunspot groups evolve during their westward journey across the Sun's surface.
I use a telescope fitted with a Baader white-light solar filter to safely observe the active regions and sunspots on the Sun. Some of the features I observe are sunspot groups, umbrae, penumbrae and faculae. Accuracy, rather than artistic talent, is all that's needed to sketch an observation of the Sun.
My March 4th solar observation was featured as part of a special exhibit for Sun-Earth day at the Boston Museum of Science on March 18, 2003. It was placed next to NASA’s March 6th SOHO spacecraft photo of the Sun.
The request to use my observation in the museum exhibit was an unexpected surprise. The museum contacted the Solar Division of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) and asked them to participate in the Sun-Earth Day event and the AAVSO chose my observation for use in the exhibit. They sent me this copy of my observation that was used in their exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science on March 18, 2003.
Although my drawing was used as a white light comparison with an image taken from the SOHO spacecraft, the features and positions of the sunspot groups in the NASA photo are not an exact mirror of my observation. This is due to the fact that sunspot groups grow and decompose daily. The NASA photo was taken 2 days after my observation was made and the sunspots groups had evolved and moved further westward over the course of the 2 days.
Instrument: 102mm f/10 refractor, undriven
Filter: Baader white-light
Magnification: 100x, 60x
AAVSO initials: DELS
Seeing Scale: American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
The museum has 2 white dome observatories on the roof. One is dedicated to night-sky observing and the other to solar observing. I was given a private tour of the solar observatory. All of the telescopes were being used for H-Alpha observing with the exception of one that was fitted with a white-light filter. The museum also has a feed from the telescopes in the observatory to the large screen inside the museum for observing the Sun in real-time directly from the Exhibit Hall.
I enjoyed spending time with the solar astronomers from the AAVSO, Harvard and the on-staff astronomers who work in the 2 Observatories and Planetarium at the museum. It was a thrilling to have had an opportunity to collaborate with other amateur and professional astronomers in this way.
American Association of Variable Star Observers
I am an active member of the Solar Division of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), an International organization that collects and archives solar data from amateur and professional astronomers who collaborate globally to provide continuous coverage of the Sun. I send my daily solar observations to the AAVSO who monitors sunspots, computes and publishes the monthly American Relative Sunspot Numbers(RA) index. Universities, scientific organizations, and professional and amateur astronomers around the world use the data.
Note: Never look directly at the Sun with the naked eye or optical instrument without using safe observing procedures.