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Now showing : The sun through a telescope

5 mins read

Are you ever curious about what is exactly on the surface of the Sun, the gaseous material that you are so familiar with? Do you want to witness the changes of the Sun every week? Now, there’s a chance waiting for you in the Science Center patio. Every Friday from 11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weather permitting, you can see the real images of the sun through special telescopes.

“It was interesting to come out and look each time because each week it would be a little different.” said Elliot Padgett ‘13.

“The sun is something we see all the time but we never actually really get to look at it,” he said.

One of the attractive aspects of the solar viewing is that every week, people can see constant changes in the appearance of the sun.

“You could see little arches, tails and strings of it reaching out from the surface and these are some things that are really different every week. Even across a few minutes, if you stay and look for half an hour, you would see little changes. That was the most impressive thing,” Padgett said.

The special telescopes in school allow people to see sun spots easily and safely. According to Mary Ann Klassen, a physics laboratory lecturer at the college, there are two refracting telescopes put into use for this event.

One, called the Sunspotter, is not the same as a typical telescope. It is used to observe sunspots and it is designed to point at the sun easily.

Meanwhile, the image of the sun will be projected onto a white screen.

This way of viewing is much better than looking through the telescope directly because looking at the sun through even a small telescope without proper filters can be extremely dangerous and even sometimes cause instant blindness.

The second one, on the other hand, looks more like the usual image of a telescope in most people’s minds. However, it is special as it has filters that block the majority of the Sun’s light so that it ensures the safety of the whole viewing process.

Participants should not worry about the use of telescopes. Klassen, or other faculty members in the Physics and Astronomy department will always be there to explain how to deal with the equipment and what people are seeing.

“The sun goes through an 11-year cycle and sometimes has lots of sunspot activities and we are coming into one of the peaks, one of the maximum of the cycle so there’s going to be more interesting stuff to look at of the sun in the next few years,” Klassen said. Except for viewing the sun spots, participants can also have a look at the beautiful chromosphere.

“There are also lighter-colored regions called ‘plages’ in the chromosphere that tend to be associated with sunspots. The really cool thing to see with the hydrogen-alpha filter are ‘prominences’, which are loops of ionized gas that erupt from the surface of the sun. We can see them around the sun’s edges,” Klassen said.

Started last year, the solar viewing event attracted many physics majors and non-physics majors. This event can be extremely flexible.

During your way to class, you can just stop by and take a minute to look through the telescopes. If you are interested in scientific talk and discussion about what you just saw, then you can stay and talk with the professors there.

Nowadays, the prediction and warning of the sun activities have already become globally-aware issues. The sun activities can affect the survival and development of human being greatly. On April 29, 1991, a strong magnetic storm caused a catastrophic devastation of a nuclear power plant of Maine.

On April 3, 2001, the most serious solar flare in the past 25 years took place.

The signal communication around the world has been interrupted. These impacts will continue as frequent sun activities happen.

If you want to know more about the solar system which is so significant to mankind, why not start from viewing it first? Every sunny Friday, it is wise for you to have a date with the Sun.

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