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Observing the Sun & Anomalies Explained
The Solar System

Jump in and start exploring the Solar System on your own.
Watch the position of the planets and of the satellites; STEREO Ahead, STEREO Behind, Spitzer, Kepler, Rosetta, Voyager 1 & 2, EPOXI, New Horizons, etc
>> Start Exploring

Learning How to Navigate Eyes On the Solar System

Free software online to explore the Solar System
No download requiered
Free Software Downloads
Eyes on the Solar System Stellarium
Worldwide Telescope (Webclient)  
Free SkyMaps  

More Useful Links: Planet Hunting | Observe the Planets in Realtime | The relative position of the planets in our inner solar system in realtime | Watch the Sun Live | Solar System Live | AuroraMax: Aurora Borealis in Realtime | Ask an Astronomer | Current Positions of Planets

Observing the Sun
Learn about the Sun: Explore
"In Sept. of 1859, the entire Earth was engulfed in a gigantic cloud of seething gas, and a blood-red aurora erupted across the planet from the poles to the tropics. Around the world, telegraph systems crashed, machines burst into flames, and electric shocks rendered operators unconscious. Compasses and other sensitive instruments reeled as if struck by a massive magnetic fist. For the first time, people began to suspect that the Earth was not isolated from the rest of the universe... Carrington's observations of a mysterious explosion on the surface of the Sun and how his brilliant insight--that the Sun's magnetism directly influences the Earth." http://www.stuartclark.com/publications/2-publications/4-the-sun-kings

NASA | X-Class: A Guide to Solar Flares

Flares happen when the powerful magnetic fields in and around the sun reconnect. They're usually associated with active regions, often seen as sun spots, where the magnetic fields are strongest. Flares are classified according to their strength. The smallest ones are B-class, followed by C, M and X, the largest. Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each letter represents a ten-fold increase in energy output. So an X is 10 times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class, there is a finer scale from 1 to 9. C-class flares are too weak to noticeably affect Earth. M-class flares can cause brief radio blackouts at the poles and minor radiation storms that might endanger astronauts. Although X is the last letter, there are flares more than 10 times the power of an X1, so X-class flares can go higher than 9. The most powerful flare on record was in 2003, during the last solar maximum. It was so powerful that it overloaded the sensors measuring it. They cut-out at X28. A powerful X-class flare like that can create long lasting radiation storms, which can harm satellites and even give airline passengers, flying near the poles, small radiation doses. X flares also have the potential to create global transmission problems and world-wide blackouts.

This video is public domain and can be downloaded at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?10109

Also watch a movie of the X7 class Solar flare on the morning of August 9 2011 at 0805 UT, produced by sunspot 1263

X-flares of Solar Cycle 24:
Feb. 15, 2011 (X2), March 9, 2011 (X1), Aug. 9, 2011 (X7). Before these three, the previous X-flare occured on Dec.14, 2006, (X1) and a
(Solar cycle 23 also had a X11 and a record-setting X17.2 on Oct 28 2003 during old Solar Cycle 23.)

Note: The Februari 15 2011 and the March 9 2011 were earth directed, the August 9 2011 and the December 14 2006 of Solar Cycle 23 were not earth directed.
(Both the X11 and record-setting X17.2 in Oct 2003 during old Solar Cycle 23 were earth directed.)

Sun - Earth Events

Aug. 9, 2011 (X7)
Not Earth directed
March 9, 2011 (X1)
Earth directed
Feb. 15, 2011 (X2)
Earth directed
Dec.14, 2006, (X1) during old Solar Cycle 23
Not Earth directed
Record-setting X17.2 on Oct 28 2003 during old Solar Cycle 23
Earth directed

Expected Solar Maximum: May 2013
Learn more about the sun and the solar maximum
11-Year Solar Cycle
List of Solar Cycles
Solar Cycle 24
Solar Maximum
Solar Cycle Progression and Prediction
Solar Storm Archive: Archive of the most severe solar storms
Sun - Earth Events History
Would you like to take a quick Sun/Solar Test and feel like a real solar scientist?

Realtime Monitoring - Spaceweather Alerts
NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center - Space Weather Alerts
Solar monitor
Spaceweather data
CME and Solar flare Impact Prediction System
Sun today solar flares online
Solar monitor
Helio viewer
Solar System Scope
Space Weather Alerts and Warnings Timeline
Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC)
Current Space Weather Conditions
Geomagnetic Realtime Station Display
Realtime Magnetosphere Simulation
SolarSoft Latest Events
SDO - Solar Dynamics Observatory
Technical Information
Solar Radiation Storms
Solarflare Risk
Radio Blackouts
The Classification of X-ray Solar Flares
Planetary K-index explanation
NOAA Space Weather Scales
SDO AIA Wavelenghts
Swiss Ephemeris Information
Solar Facts and Spaceweather

Latest GOES-15 SXI Image
SOHO Realtime Images
Anomalies in SOHO images explained
STEREO Learning Center - Image artifacts

How to Search for STEREO Images
Select: Camera: Ahead or Behind
Select Resolution: between 128 (= small) and 2048 (= large = HQ)
Select: List for list of images, Image for image or Slideshow for movie
Select: Date (yymmdd) - recent (yymmdd)
Press search: a list of images or Movie/Slideshow (depending ur choice) will appear

Anomalies in SOHO images explained
STEREO Learning Center - Image artifacts

STEREO Learning Center - Image artifacts - Stars, planets, and comets

Anomalies Explained
Planet Transits

Astronomical transit
A transit is the astronomical event that occurs when one celestial body appears to move across the face of another celestial body, hiding a small part of it, as seen by an observer at some particular vantage point. If the first celestial body hides a major part, or all of, the second celestial body, then it is an occultation rather than a transit.

A transit occurs when a celestial body crosses the meridian due to the Earth's rotation, about halfway between rising and setting. For instance, the Sun transits the meridian at solar noon . Observation of meridian transits was once very important for timekeeping purposes (see transit instrument ).

The term star transit is used for the passage of a star through the eyepiece of a telescope . Precise observations of elevation or time are carried out to determine star positions or the local vertical ( geographic latitude /longitude)

Known natural objects which can appear between the Earth and the Sun are the Moon (solar eclipse), Mercury (transit of Mercury), Venus (transit of Venus), and some asteroids and comets. Transit of asteroids and comets can only be observed by very large telescopes. For example all attempts to watch the transit of Comet Halley in front of the sun in 1910 failed as result of its small diameter. All such transits can be calculated very well.

List of Transits of Venus: 5 000 BC - 10 000 AD
List of Transits of Mercury on Earth: 5 000 BC - 10 000 AD

List of Lunar Eclipses: BC 5 000 - AD 10 000
List of Solar eclipses during transits: 50 000 BC - 50 000 AD

Moon Transit
Lunar Phases | Moon info

Lunar Phase Diagram | >>Enlarge Lunar libration with phase - Oct 2007 | >>Enlarge

This is what a transit of the Moon across the face of the Sun looks like

>> Enlarge | Source

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes behind the Earth so that the Earth blocks the Sun 's rays from striking the Moon. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, a lunar eclipse can only occur the night of a full moon .

The next Lunar Eclipse will be
Dec 10 2011
June 4 2012
Nov 28 2012

Venus Transit

A Transit of Venus occurs when the planet Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth. (disambigiation)

The next transit of Venus will be:
June 56 2012
22:09 UTC
June 5
01:29 UTC
June 6
04:49 UTC
June 6
Visible in its entirety from Hawaii, Alaska, Australia, the Pacific and eastern Asia, with the beginning of the transit visible from North America. Transit of Venus, 2012
Predictions for the transit of Venus, 2012 June 5-6 | Transit of Venus Website
The transit of Venus across the Sun (PDF)

Mercury Transit

The transit of Mercury occurs when the planet Mercury passes between the Sun and the Earth.

The next transit of Mercury will be:

May 9 2016
11:12 UTC
14:57 UTC
18:42 UTC
Image of transit of Mercury of May 27 2003
Simultaneous occurrence of solar eclipse and transit of Mercury

This is what a transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun looks like (June 6 2004)

Transit visibility from planets superior to the transiting body

Useful Links:
Transits Page
JPL Horizons (useful for calculating positions of solar system objects)
This is what a moon eclipse looks like
Quicktime Movie of a Moon Eclipse
This is what a planet transit looks like
About transits of Minor Planets/Asteroids
Solar Eclipses During Transits
STEREO Planet Finder or the STEREO Orbit Tool
Solar System Simulator: Here u can select a date and a spacecraft to get a view of what the spacecraft sees from different perspectives
List of observations of solar and lunar transits of unknown objects
Astrological Transit

Identify Objects in STEREO Images

Uploaded by 3WMElliott
Many of you will have seen the varied claims that are made about imagery from the STEREO satellites - it can't be Venus, it must be a comet, it's releasing a CME, it's Nibiru... you may even have seen other videos debunking those claims - debunkings that takes absolutely no time at all.

This video shows over 7000 images from STEREO-B's HI1 instrument taken since January 1st 2010, and over the course of the seven months we get to see a selection of reflections, diffractions, corrupted imagery, spacecraft rolls, distant stars, the milky way... everything can be easily explained within this imagery, so sit back and chill out - you might learn a thing or two.

If you want to learn more about the STEREO imagery there are some key links to get you started listed below.

If there ever comes a time when something truly strange is spotted in STEREO imagery, these links will know about it before YouTube, but until that day - if it ever arrives - enjoy STEREO for what it does show.

STEREO Homepage: http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/
Where is STEREO?: http://stereo-ssc.nascom.nasa.gov/where.shtml (click on the Orbit Tool link on this page to generate customized plots for any date you wish)
Latest Beacon Images: http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/beacon/ (the very latest imagery, with links to a complete image search tools for individual satellites, instruments and dates)
What to look for: http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/stereo_images.shtml (guides to the instruments, imagery, fields of view and image artifacts)
Image Artifacts: http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/artifacts/artifacts.shtml (guides to all sort of image artifacts known to affect STEREO imagery, including examples and explanations)
Planet Finder: http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/beacon/planets/ (recent imagery with known planets labelled and circled - the most obvious page anyone should look at)

Sungrazer: http://sungrazer.nrl.navy.mil/ (includes information for both STEREO and SOHO, the latest comet discoveries, and planet transits through SOHO's view. These guys work on processing the COR2 data from STEREO, among other things)
Ghosts: http://sungrazer.nrl.navy.mil/index.php?p=news_arch89#ghosts (a news article going into detail about image artifacts, how they're created and so on)

Solar Stormwatch: http://solarstormwatch.com/ (interactive site that teaches you how to spot solar storms within STEREO imagery, and allows you to help science do exactly that)
Solar Stormwatch Forums: http://forum.solarstormwatch.com/ (if you find something unusual or have any questions, you can talk to the guys who work on the data directly)

Celestia: http://www.shatters.net/celestia/

The images are shown in the order of the relative positions of the viewpoints, Behind, Earth, and Ahead. For the Heliospheric Imager (HI) images below, the order is reversed to reflect the fact that the HI Ahead telescopes look to the left of the Sun, and those on Behind look to the right. Also, the HI images are not rotated to put solar north up.

Note: The bright dot on the right of Mercury is Antares, the brightness in the left corner is the Milky Way
The Milky Way passing through the field-of-view of the STEREO Ahead HI1 telescope on October 12, 2009.
The planets Venus (left) and Mercury (right) as seen by the STEREO Behind COR2 telescope on October 13, 2009

How to Search for STEREO Images
Select: Camera: Ahead or Behind
Select Resolution: between 128 (= small) and 2048 (= large = HQ)
Select: List for list of images, Image for image or Slideshow for movie
Select: Date (yymmdd) - recent (yymmdd)
Press search: a list of images or Movie/Slideshow (depending ur choice) will appear

Anomalies in SOHO images explained
STEREO Learning Center - Image artifacts

STEREO Learning Center - Image artifacts - Stars, planets, and comets

Recognize Lens flares and Artifacts in Pictures

Lensflares: when an optical effect occurs inside the optics of a camera creating extra circular orb anomalies
Bokeh: a source of circles around out-of-focus bright points, also due in part to the internals of the lens.
Diffraction spike:
a type of lens flare seen in some telescopes
Anti-reflective coating:
used to reduce lens flare and produces the red and green colors common in lens flare

Examples of Lensflares:
>> More examples
1 second exposure | >> Enlarge

What causes the sun to appear as a black dot when I take a digital photo?

Black Dots on the sun occur when too much light gets into the camera

Examples of over-exposure of light:
>>More examples

Sun dogs: A sun dog or sundog is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky, often on a luminous ring or halo on either side of the sun. Sundogs may appear as a colored patch of light to the left or right of the sun, 22° distant and at the same distance above the horizon as the sun, and in ice halos. They can be seen anywhere in the world during any season, but they are not always obvious or bright. Sundogs are best seen and are most conspicuous when the sun is low.

Examples of Sun dogs: >> More examples

What is Field Rotation?

Field rotation
is a circular movement of the stars evident in the field of view of your telescope when it is not polar aligned. (celestial object may look tilted)

What is field rotation? How does it affect my scope's viewing and imaging?

Field rotation is the apparent rotation of a celestial object in the field of view of a telescope during the course of the night. All objects in the eyepiece field or on the camera's image will move in arcs. It's usually either ignored or not noticed for visual observations, but cannot be ignored for photography.

It happens when you are using an altazimuth mount or a misaligned equatorial mount. In these cases, all the stars will appear to move around the point or star that is being tracked. Field rotation will occur unless the mount is exactly aligned to counteract the earth's rotation.

Field rotation can be visualized by thinking about what happens when a constellation or the moon rises, transits and sets. From northern latitudes, Orion will rise on his side with his left shoulder (the one north of Rigel) highest. As he crosses the sky he will reach and transit the meridian, when both shoulders will be the same height. When he sets, the right shoulder (Betelgeuse) will appear highest. It's like he's climbed the dome of the sky, reaching the top and then goes down the other side. The angle of his body changes during the course of the night, first tilting to the east, then tilting to the west. Similarly, the moon will rise with the Sea of Crises (Mare Crisium) edge leading upwards, the Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum) following and lower. Both of these dark areas will appear about the same altitude when it transits, then the Ocean of Storms will be higher than the Sea of Crises as the moon sets. Again the tilt changes as the moon moves across the sky. Both examples show field rotation with your head and body acting like an altazimuth mount.

Because of field rotation, visual directions north, south, west and east will change relative to the top and bottom of the eyepiece during the night. Usually this is not important but you should be aware of it.

On photos, even if tracking on a star is perfect, unless the mount itself is perfectly polar aligned, there will be some degree of field rotation. Only the center will show pinpoint stars or sharp detail. Towards the edge of the field of view, all stars will show arcs concentric with the center. If you are guiding a photograph and using a star off-center or outside the field of view for guiding, then the arcs will be concentric on the guide star.

Because of field rotation, no altazimuth mount is suitable for long-exposure astrophotography. Only a properly polar-aligned equatorial mount will eliminate field rotation.

    Simulation of Field Rotation on a Fork Mount

Here is a video simulation of the sky around the constellation Cassiopeia, from about 5 PM to 10 PM on a December evening. Each frame represents 15 minutes of elapsed time. You can see the constellation slowly moving across the sky, rotating around Polaris, at the North Celestial Pole.

The animations on this page use "animated gif" graphics. If you are not seeing moving pictures, make sure that your browser settings have not disabled animated gif graphics.


Now, let's imagine we have a camera attached to a fork mount telescope. This is a very large camera with a very wide field, so we can fit all of Cassiopeia in the frame. The field of view of the camera is shown as a rectangle in this video. (In reality, Cassiopeia is too large to photograph through a telescope, but it helps this example to use a familiar target.)

This is a good quality fork mount, well-aligned, and it is tracking the central star in Cassiopeia perfectly. Notice how the central star stays perfectly centred in the frame all night.

The frame remains oriented perfectly horizontally all night, because fork mounted telescopes always remain oriented horizontally. (i.e. the top of the telescope tube remains the top, wherever the telescope is pointed.)

Observe Cassiopeia in the frame closely. Although the central star remains perfectly centred, you can see that the rest of the constellation is rotating around it as this very long exposure progresses.


Let's make that easier to see. Here we zoom in on the camera frame. This is exactly the same video - nothing is changed, except that we are seeing only what the camera sees.

The fork mount is doing its job perfectly - the centre star in our target is remaining perfectly centred. However, because the sky is rotating and the camera is not, the other stars in the frame are rotating as this long exposure proceeds.

If we were taking a long-exposure photograph, the centre star would be perfect, but all the other stars would show up as circular arcs. The longer the exposure, the longer the arcs would be.

  Why an Equatorial Mount Doesn't Have Field Rotation

An equatorial mount doesn't suffer from field rotation, assuming it is properly polar-aligned. This applies to any equatorial mount, including traditional equatorial mounts like the one shown here, and fork mounts on equatorial wedges.

This is because when an equatorial mount tracks an object across the sky, the telescope does not remain horizontal, the tube rotates. Observe this equatorially-mounted telescope closely, and note how the "top" of the tube changes as the scope moves across the sky.


Here is our camera field simulation again. This time, however, the camera is on a telescope on an equatorial mount.

Note how the frame of the camera rotates as the target is tracked across the sky. Now, note that all the stars of our target are remaining in the same relative position inside the rotating camera frame.

  From the camera's point of view, the target is not rotating at all, and all of the stars will come out perfectly in a long exposure.

Jupiter's Field Rotation in Starry Night
Uploaded by TBar1984 op 30 aug 2011

More links:

Field rotation
What is field rotation?
Wikipedia Ecliptic
Field Rotation in Altitude over Azimuth Mounts and Its Effect on CCD Imaging - What is the maximum exposure? [PDF]
Motorize your Telescope - Field Rotation
How to process a sequence affected by field rotation
Faraday effect
Mathematics of Field Rotation in an Altitude over Azimuth Mount

Its like the sun comes up and goes down in a different place than usual, how can this be?

The Earth's Axis has shifted and shortened the day caused by the Chilean Earthquake and the Japan Earthquake, in the following video dr Michio Kaku explains this

More info:
NASA about the shift of Earth's Axis after the Chile quake
NASA about the shift of Earth's Axis after the Japan quake

Note: When you check your compass you will see that North now points East.

Is Venus Unleashing Solar Flares? (Dec 28th, 2011) | Video Link | Nasa Link
Image artifacts - Internal reflections: Light reflecting inside the telescope optics, and diffracting off edges within the telescopes, can produce some interesting effects. Consider this series of images showing the planet Venus leaving the field of view of the HI1-B telescope betwee n Janary 26-31, 2009. As Venus approaches the edge of the field-of-view, a ring shape is seen apparently coming out of the planet. This is caused by reflections of the bright planet off of the camera barrel. (If you look closely at the full-field version of the January 26, 2009 image above, you'll see a large, faint bubble on the left side of the image, which is also an internal reflection of Venus.) The ring grows progressively larger as time goes by. On January 31, a horizontal streak appears near the position where Venus disappeared. This latter effect is caused by diffraction off of the optical baffles.

More info: http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/ artifacts/artifacts.shtml

What NASA has to say about 2012

Bookofresearch 2011 ©

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In Research:
The Connection Between Solar Activity, Volcanic Eruptions and Earthquakes, Weather, Cycles on Earth and Human Behaviour

What is the Triangle shaped Structure in STEREO Behind HI2 on Dec 29 and 30 2011?

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