Solar Astrophotography, Solar Prominence Photography, Time-lapse Solar Prominence Movies
Sun in H-alpha Light
Solar Photography by Jim Ferreira

Solar prominence time-lapse animation
While in junior high school....long, long ago, I was particularly impressed with a 16mm film we watched in science class that contained time-lapse footage of solar prominences shot with a coronagraph or prominence telescope.  When I finally got my first astronomical telescope a short time later, I was incredibly disappointed to learn that with it I would not be able to see those fascinating tongues of fire dancing along the limb of the sun.....  Mondo fast forward to 2009; I now have that telescope / H-alpha filter that finally allows me to see those amazing prominences, and associated chromospheric phenomenon.  And, to my delight, just in time to see solar activity increasing towards solar maximum several years from now.
I went with a front mounting H-alpha filter, a Lunt LS50F, so I could mount and use it on different telescopes.  The 50mm aperture of the filter is quite modest by today's standards, but thus far, an amazing amount of fine structure has been both observed and imaged.
I am particularly interested in studying prominences and filaments, and learning how they work.  Recently I have been viewing and imaging their various forms by way of line of sight doppler effect, essentially tuning the filter off line into the blue and red wings of H-alpha, then producing a doppler gram from the resulting images.  Though results are not quantitative, they do help to more clearly reveal plasma moving toward and away from viewer line of site.  Often prominence and filament plasma viewed in the blue wing will show structure that is not visible in the red wing and vic-versa. 

I have also begun to experiment with time-lapse videos of prominences like those that excited me so when I was young.  The time-lapse animations add a 3rd dimension to views of active plasma along the limb.   Particularly exciting are flare related prominences. 

New, August 20th 2011:  I have acquired a Daystar ION 0.8 Angstrom H-alpha filter with a 100mm energy rejection filter.  I intend to use the 100mm f/28 system primarily for solar prominence photography. 

50mm Aperture H-alpha Solar Chromosphere Gallery

50mm Aperture H-alpha Solar Prominences Gallery

100mm Aperture H-alpha Solar Prominence Gallery

100mm Aperture H-alpha Solar Chromosphere Gallery

Jim Ferreira, Livermore CA


limb flare and surge, 24 May

limb flare and surge prominence movie, 24 May

evolution of polar crown solar prominence

Venus transit, red continuum, H-alpha, 05 June 2012

Ingress Venus Transit, H-alpha filtergrams

Stereogram of ingress Venus transit, H-alpha filtergrams

Partial solar eclipse, H-alpha filtergrams


WARNING!  The sun cannot be viewed with just any telescope or pair of binoculars.  WARNING!
Very special filters must be used on the telescope to avoid serious eye-damage, or, total loss of eye sight.

Lunt LS50F  SV102ED  DMK21

Lunt LS50F Hydrogen-alpha filter is used on a 4" ED refractor for close up viewing and imaging.  When attached to the 2.5" f/6 ED refractor the system becomes a pseudo prominence telescope, allowing me to image the entire solar disc.  A solar wedge system with green continuum filter is used with the 4" refractor for white light viewing and imaging.   DMK21 and DMK41 monochrome USB video cameras are used on the equipment pretty exclusively.  I seldom view through eyepieces, preferring the considerable flexibility of adjusting the view on the laptop monitor for exposure, gain and gamma. 

DMK21  DBK21  SV102ED  Losmandy GM8

 The entire system is carried on a Losmandy GM8 mount.  Note the small solar finder scope that uses a pinhole to project a tiny solar image on a translucent screen.

A roll around computer cart fitted with a dark cloth is used while viewing the laptop monitor.  The focusers on both scopes are easy to reach and adjust while still under the cloth.  I do need to stand up, though, to tune the H-alpha filter.  This is probably as close as I will come to having an observatory....

Two fans are used on the computer cart, one to help cool the laptop (out of view in this image), the other, the white tower, blows air on me.   I will shortly replace the black felt with a lighter weight, dull silver cover which will be opaque to sunlight, and be cooler to work under. 

With the telescope slow motion controls there at the laptop, and comfotably seated, I can spend extended periods of time viewing and imaging both the chromosphere and prominences with either scope, avoiding prolong skin exposure to direct sun.

Equipment:  Lunt LS50F filter on a 400mm FL ED refractor used primarily for full disk viewing and imaging.  Daystar ION 0.8 Angstrom
filter with 100mm aperture energy rejection filter on a 102ED f/7 refractor with 4x telecentric -- system operates at f/28.  Cameras;
DMK21 and DMK41 digital video cameras for live viewing and imaging, and Watec analog video camera primarily for full disk viewing.