WARNING! The Sun is extremely dangerous. Looking at it
with any sort of optical aid will result in instant blindness.
Look here to see how I do it.
In 2006 the Sun is approaching the minimum of its 11-year sunspot cycle, so I am not expecting many dramatic pictures of sunspots this year. However the Sun is an unpredictable object and I may yet be surprised. During a cycle, the spots tend to migrate from nearer the poles towards the equator, so the time has come to look out for the first spots of the new cycle appearing at high latitudes. I shall be keeping an eye on it through the summer and we will see what we will see.
Well, as of mid November, there have been a few spots of note but nothing very dramatic. I have noticed no spots at higher latitudes, but APOD has reported a spot with its magnetic polarity reversed which is also a sign of a new cycle starting. However, in early September we had 6 days of fairly clear skies and I was able to get pictures on each day and make animations to show the rotation of the Sun and the development of two groups of sunspots present at the time. These are quite interesting.
|Sunspots and Active Regions are numbered by the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and started on 5th January 1972. These numbers now exceed 10000 but often the leading "10" is omitted. The designations of current sunspots can be found on the SOHO site. A most useful archive of diagrams of the Sun showing the positions and designations of sunspots on a daily basis right back to January 1992 is available from The Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii. This link will take you to their archive page from where you can select a given image by date or browse by month. I find this particularly useful if I have imaged an interesting spot after some days of cloud, and I can look back and see when the spot appeared.|
|The first picture of 2006 is one of the partial eclipse on 29th March. Conditions here were far from ideal but I was lucky enough to get a 3-minute break in the clouds just after maximum phase.|
|I didn't get another picture until 3rd July when this nice spot (number 10898) crossed the central meridian. Later it developped quite nicely but cloudy days prevented me from getting any more pictures.|
|As expected, there haven't been many spots this year. Combined with a cloudy summer, this has meant relatively few pictures. This one of spot number 10905 was obtained on 27th August.|
|The following day was clear as well, so I was able to see how this spot had developed.|
|In September we had 5 days of relatively clear skies and I was able to image the Sun on all those days. There was one medium-sized sunspot and a group of smaller ones, so I was able to follow these for five days. Rather than present five sets of three similar-looking pictures, I have made short animations of the whole Sun, and each of the sunspot groups, over this period. These animated gif files are a little larger than usual (at 306, 54, and 296 K) but they show nicely the rotation of the Sun and the changes in the sunspots over this relatively short period.|
|In October we got a couple of rather small spots.|
|At the beginning of November we were treated to a particularly complex group of spots stretching across almost 22% of the visible face of the Sun.|
|A few days later this large spot appeared round the eastern limb. I was alerted to it by some pictures of the transit of Mercury which occured some 12 hours before this picture was taken. The two made a niuce pair, but from here the transit occurred in the middle of the night. Sadly days of cloud prevented me from following its development.|
|And one last spot (for the year) caught on 9th December when the Sun was at an altitude of only 13°. I missed a few—this is number 10930.|
Home Back to Sun