I have just been out having a sneaky peak at what the sun is up to today (when I really should be doing coursework so that I can go and see Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s lecture on Pulsars tonight) but it struck me that, in actual fact, the Sun is a fascinating thing to look at.
Now CLEARLY it goes without saying, that observing the sun is EXTREMELY dangerous unless you are using the correct equipment (SO DO NOT DO IT UNPROTECTED). This said, the protective equipment isn’t expensive. My solar filter I use on my Skywatcher-102 literally cost me nothing to make. The Baader solar film was a gift (its only £16ish anyway) and the rest is a cereal box and brown packing tape.
When you look through the scope, and actually consider what you are seeing, its pretty spectacular even though the smallest scopes. My 102 is only 3″ but in some cases, with solar viewing in particular, I think smaller aperture is actually beneficial.
The below Image i took down the eyepiece using my iPhone (so excuse the low quality) but it gets the point across. Astronomy doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby to get good results.
What we are looking at when we observe sunspots, are areas of the suns surface, that are ever so slightly cooler than the rest. Now, this is relative, as we are still talking about tens of thousands of Kelvin. It can also related to different magnetic activity on the surface, with magnetic field lines protruding from the surface. As the solar material is ionized it follows up along the magnetic field lines creating prominence. If magnetic re-connection occurs this can result in the material being ejected into space, in what is known as a CME or Coronal Mass Ejection. Which is bad news for satellites and the power grids here on Earth. So in fact, solar weather is a very important part of observational astronomy. A great website for more information and current updates on space weather is;