Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Some Thoughts on Solar Observing

After my experiments yesterday with my Galileoscope and solar observing, I
find myself thinking more about ways to observe the Sun. The damage to the
inner face of the eyepiece was a visible reminder of the hazards where
amateur solar astronomy is concerned.
Back on the 7th of March1970, I had my first opportunity to observe an eclipse, one that
passed, partially, over Jacksonville, Florida. I was in first grade at the
time, and unlike most of my classmates, I was pretty handy with making
things. They presented instructions to the older children on how to make a
pinhole solar eclipse viewer. My memory gets a little foggy here, but I
also believe that these were available at some of the local stores.
Suffice to say, I managed to make one, but the weather locally did not
cooperate, and soon it became somewhat overcast.
For a few days afterward, though, I used that little viewer to view the
Sun. A few years later, in fifth grade, I found an astronomy book at our
school's annual book fair, and naturally picked it up for something like
$1.98. I was so pleased with it, and one of the first experiments in it
was making a bigger pinhole viewer, one that separated the two pieces by
ten feet or more.
Before I attempted that viewer, the book disappeared from our house. Not
really sure what happened, but I do know that it really upset me.
As time progressed, other ways to view the Sun presented themselves. The
most common seemed to be projecting the image through a telescope and onto
a screen. Prior to my obtaining my first solar filter, that was always the
preferred method.
Still, the idea of viewing the Sun via pinhole projection has fascinated
me. I had the chance to play with the technique again during the 1991
eclipse, which again was a partial one for us here in Jacksonville. The
Museum of Science and History set up booths where visitors could make a
two paperplate version, using aluminum foil to make the pinhole section in
the center of the upper plate. Very simple, but as with other design from
many years earlier, the only real detail visible would be that of the Moon
as it passed in front of the Sun.
Some may be familiar with something called "pinhole photography". This is
a long exposure technique that can produce some beautiful, long depth of
field images. The times necessary to obtain images can be very great, but
if care is taken, wonderfully detailed images can be obtained.
So the question is, what level of detail can be obtained by a long length
pinhole setup, akin to the one from my fifth grade astronomy book?
This is something I am apt to try.

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