How to Safely Photograph the Sun


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With lengthy days and shorter nights, summer season is an efficient time to contemplate stepping into photo voltaic astrophotography. The Solar can also be heading towards the lively part of its 11-year sunspot cycle and guarantees to make the Solar extra fascinating than the featureless cueball look of the sunspot cycle minimal. Photo voltaic astronomers use the rely of seen sunspots as a measure of the photo voltaic exercise, and sunspot cycle #25, as counted by astronomers, appears like it is going to be peaking someday round 2024. 

Sunspots rotate across the Solar in 28 days on common, however as a result of the Solar doesn’t rotate as a strong physique, sunspots on the equator can take as little as 25 days to go across the Solar. Over the course of a day sunspots might be static options, however although uncommon, it’s doable to see flares (vibrant areas) on the photo voltaic disk if an distinctive eruption of exercise happens. Flares normally final just a few minutes.

Filters (Broadband)

To start with primary photo voltaic astrophotography, it’s simple and comparatively cheap to start out out because the solely additional merchandise you want past your digicam and lengthy lens is a photo voltaic filter licensed secure in your eyes and digicam. These filters are known as broadband or “white mild” photo voltaic filters which is able to merely minimize the Solar’s depth down by an element of no less than 100,000 (ND5 or ~16.6 stops). That is a lot denser than your typical panorama photographer’s set of impartial density filters that you just won’t be able to see something however the solar by way of the filter. As well as, for the protection of your eyes a photo voltaic filter must also minimize off as a lot of the infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) as doable. Buy filters solely from dependable sources in your personal security! Observe additionally that these filters should be used on the entrance finish of your optics, earlier than any magnification happens.

To be clear, these broadband filters won’t be exhibiting you a few of the dramatic photographs you will have seen with flame-like glowing fuel clouds hanging on the sting of the solar. These views are reserved for specialised and costlier photo voltaic filters to be mentioned elsewhere.

Broadband filters are additionally offered with extra attenuation (e.g. ND6), however these are usually for visible statement because the ND5 filters let sufficient mild by way of to dazzle the human eye. However photographically, the ND5 filters are preferable in order that exposures are as quick as doable, and to permit photography close to the horizon the place the ambiance considerably attenuates our view of the solar.

Photo voltaic filters can be found as versatile movie or as glass filters. Flex movie filters (polymer or mylar substrate) are usually cheaper than glass filters, however are extra simply scratched, so I choose glass filters. Among the many glass filters, you can find absorption filters (e.g. darkish glass) or reflective filters (metal-film coated). My choice right here is to make use of metal-coated glass filters since they won’t get heat underneath the solar, although they’re extra prone to break which can take away the reflective movie and reduce the protection of the filter. Then again versatile movie photo voltaic filter materials can also be offered in sheets in order that filters may be personalized simply.

Most photo voltaic filters can also yield a impartial picture, which leads to a white solar. I choose filters which have a yellow-orange tint each for aesthetic causes and since the blue finish of the spectrum suffers extra from atmospheric scattering, lowering the distinction in photo voltaic images.

As a last notice on filters, I like to recommend the usage of filters that should be simply slipped onto the top of a digicam lens or telescope like a cap, relatively than screwed on like commonplace digicam filters. The rationale for that is that in case you ever go to {photograph} a complete photo voltaic eclipse, you will have to have the ability to shortly take away the filter whenever you enter totality, after which shortly substitute the filter on the finish of totality, all with out bumping your lens or scope astray. In fact, when the filter is in place, it ought to nonetheless be connected firmly sufficient to not be simply eliminated by chance.

Observe that the filters described above are classed as broadband photo voltaic filters. Superior photo voltaic imaging makes use of pricey, extraordinarily slim band filters that are the subject for an additional installment.

In principle, a photo voltaic filter is all it’s essential to leap into photo voltaic astrophotography, however in apply, additional gear makes it extra handy to get the very best outcomes…

Lenses and Telescopes

Whereas nearly any lengthy digicam lens or telescope can be utilized for broadband photo voltaic imaging, scattering and inner reflections could be a downside, so astronomical telescopes are normally most popular since they’ve fewer lens components internally. And even with the less complicated designs of astronomical telescopes, these may be issues, so refractors are most popular over reflecting or catadioptric scopes. It doesn’t matter what optics you utilize, take a look at for inner reflections by inserting the solar off-center and shoot some take a look at photographs.

As with all telescope or digicam, the bigger the aperture, the finer the element may be resolved. However atmospheric “seeing” cells (together with the ambiance within the optical tube) restrict the sensible dimension of the optics to round 100mm to 150mm (diameter). Skilled observatories go bigger however they resort to excessive measures reminiscent of pumping the air out of their telescope tubes.


Nearly any digicam can be utilized for photo voltaic astrophotography, however as a result of lengthy focal lengths must be used, a DSLR with mirror lockup or mirrorless digicam used with a distant shutter management is most popular in order to not vibrate the setup. Video mode could also be value attempting if excessive decision (4K or higher) is accessible, particularly in case your digicam is able to recording uncompressed video. In any case, utilizing high-speed reminiscence playing cards is finest, particularly when taking pictures bursts of full-resolution stills.

Photo voltaic Finders

Consider it or not, it will possibly really be arduous to line your digicam and scope up with the solar. The view by way of the digicam is totally black till you really level on the solar. So to get near the solar, you should buy or make a photo voltaic finder. That is normally within the type of two small screens (coaxial with the primary scope) a couple of inches aside, with the sun-ward display screen together with a small gap within the heart. The solar goes by way of the outlet and may be seen on the rear display screen when aligned, and the solar ought to be within the digicam’s view.

Should you don’t occur to have a photo voltaic finder, in a pinch, you possibly can line up with the solar by watching the shadow of your scope on the bottom. When the shadow is minimized, try to be lined up with the Solar.

Tripod or Mount

Photo voltaic astrophotography may be achieved on a easy photographic tripod if low magnification is used (i.e. for entire disk photographs). Nevertheless, like the celebs, the Solar is shifting throughout the sky, so an equatorial monitoring mount is beneficial to keep away from the hassle of getting to continuously regulate your setup to maintain the Solar in view. An equatorial mount is very really helpful when observing the solar over an prolonged interval reminiscent of throughout an eclipse or Mercury transit. Photo voltaic fee monitoring isn’t strictly essential, and actual polar alignment isn’t required in case you don’t thoughts making occasional pointing changes. Even with actual polar alignment, if the solar is low within the sky, some hand adjustment might be essential because the atmospheric distortion impacts the photo voltaic picture.

Greatest Time and Place to Observe the Solar

The good factor about photo voltaic astrophotography is that it may be achieved from our backyards. Metropolis mild air pollution or the presence of the moon doesn’t have an effect on photo voltaic viewing. However two components work to thwart our efforts. The primary is atmospheric scattering from clouds or haze. The second is turbulence. The very best photo voltaic imaging is completed on the high of a mountain with a clean regular airflow, however yard photo voltaic astrophotography can nonetheless be rewarding.

For photo voltaic astrophotography, the very best time to look at the solar is within the morning, earlier than the Solar has heated the panorama a lot. This, after all, must be traded off towards the truth that the extra ambiance you might be taking pictures by way of, the more serious the distortion and turbulence. So mid-morning is normally finest.

Even on the optimum time of day, turbulence (seeing) is the actual problem of photo voltaic astrophotography, so very quick exposures are required. To get the very best shot, trendy astrophotographers shoot numerous quick exposures (video fee or quicker), in order that the very best frames taken throughout moments of minimal turbulence may be chosen in post-processing. That is referred to as “fortunate imaging.” Fortuitously, we don’t should manually type by way of all of the frames! Very succesful (and free) software program is accessible, however that’s the topic of one other installment.

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