A Glorious Voyage to the Sun
Originally posted on Research & Collections:
Summer is nearly upon us, marking the onset of hot sunny days under crystal-clear skies. What better way to usher in the new season than observing, up-close, the reason for the season — our star, the Sun. We are now in the midst of a particularly fabulous year for catching the Sun spewing amazing activity our way!
While we could never survive a trip to the Sun, being incinerated long before reaching our destination, we can observe the Sun in fine detail from telescopes on Earth and in space, and even right here in Raleigh through an observing extension of the Astronomy & Space Observation Lab at the Nature Research Center (NRC).
Today, NRC astronomers Dr. Rachel Smith and Dr. Patrick Treuthardt conducted the first successful public solar observing of 2013. Under bright blue skies on the 4th floor terrace of the NRC, we observed gorgeous solar prominences, sunspots, and granulation features on the Sun through our Coronado 90-mm solar telescope — an instrument specially designed to filter all wavelengths of light with the exception of Hydrogen-alpha (“H-alpha”), rendering safely to our eyes the Sun as a glorious orange sphere of hydrogen gas. Observing the Sun in H-alpha also delineates the complex layer of the Sun called the chromosphere, where many interesting manifestations of solar activity can be observed.