Never, ever look at the Sun directly through any optical instrument - instant blindness could be the result.
Even looking at the Sun with the naked eye can be harmful.
DO NOT look at the Sun with magnifying glasses, cameras, binoculars or telescopes, any optical instrument in fact, without the use of a properly
designed, approved and tested filter or specialised instrument.
DO NOT use photographic film, smoked or tinted glass, plastic or metal film.
Use only materials and instruments designed for the specific purpose for viewing the Sun.
If in doubt, seek expert advice first!
Viewing our closest star can be a very enjoyable experience for all ages and despite the warning above it can also be very easy to do so.
Plus I thought given that with the approaching Solar maximum, increase in Solar activity and increase in interest about our Sun especially here on ATS
the time is right to do a bit of a write up and guide on how to safely view the Sun and the different types of ways people can do this and what they
can realistically expect to see using different methods without getting too technical. I am aware that I will probably miss certain things out but
that doesn't stop others from adding to the thread. This isn't the difinitive Solar viewing guide, just an introduction of sorts.
I also think it is worth people knowing what they will require to safely view the Sun. Time and time again I see people suggest to use something like
welding glass or worse as a safe alternative, IT IS NOT!
There are a number of ways one can enjoy seeing the Sun safely and the features that it offers ranging from some inexpensive home made materials no
telescope required to the thousands of dollars state of the art equipment, there is a price range for everyone.
The 3 most popular ways of viewing the sun are Solar Projection, White light and with a dedicated Hydrogen Alpha(Ha) solar scope. Between the three
methods they will allow you to see features such as sunspots, surface granulation, promininces, filaments and solar flares. But not each method will
allow you to see such all the details described.
I also think it is a good idea for people to understand the difference between what you see with your own eyes visually and what you see in the
stunning photographs that amatures can produce because there is a difference.
Firstly I will cover the Solar Projection method, which can be the easiest and cheapest way to view the Sun and a great way to get children involved,
it's that simple. Plus it can be argued that this is the safest method of viewing the sun as you are not actually looking directly at it but the
image it projects onto a piece of card or paper. This method is popular with those who like to track sunspots and sketch them or just those who enjoy
looking at the Sun in a new way.
What will I be able to see?
The disc of the Sun, sunspots, solar eclipses[/url] and solar/planetary transits.
By far the simplest and cheapest method is to use a Pinhole Projector, all you need are two pices of card, and on one piece of card you make a small
hole in the center, you then hold that card above the second one and position it so the Sun shines through the hole onto the second card.
You can get creative too, maybe you would like to create a box instead of fiddling with two bits of card. You could try different size holes or more
However you may find that this produces only a small image and would like a bigger image to look at. Well using the same principle this method can be
adapted for use with binoculars and telescopes and is a popular method used by amatures. Basically you just replace the piece of card with the hole in
it with a pair of binoculars or a telescope and hold the second piece behind the eyepiece.
It is very important that you do not look through the eyepiece at this point or when setting it up, the Suns rays magnified are even more dangerous.
Also you must cover up any finderscopes of the side of the binoculars you are not using, we don't need any spot fires behind you whilst observing.
There is also a neat little kit you can buy that generally you build yourself which contains a couple of small lenses and mirrors and makes for a very
handy and portable solar viewer. I still use mine to this day.
Solar projection kit
What is in the link is just an example, there are many other makes to choose from.
Here are a couple of links and a pic to give you a rough Idea of you you may see.
White light filters
Now solar projection is a great introduction to solar viewing and a quick and easy work horse for sunspot monitoring but it has it's limitations to
what you can see, so the next logical step is to use specialised solar filters for viewing in "White light" which will enable you to see more detail
on the Sun's surface beyond just sunspots. This will require a certified and tested solar filter which ranges from coated glass, mylar and the DIY
favourite solar film.
Again this method is not purely restricted to having to have a telescope although it does make a big difference in the size and detail that you will
see, however there are certified eye glasses and binoculars that are available that use filters to enable safe and more accessible viewing.
What will I be able to see?
The disc of the Sun, sunspots(umbra and prenumbra), solar ecipses, planetary/satellite transits, faculae.
Solar eye glasses
These are a neat little disposable gimmicky product primarily designed to allow people a safe way to view solar eclipses. Depending on their make some
are sold just for eclipses and others use the same type of tested solar filter used in telescopes, they are a great way to get people involved without
an expensive set up.
One thing you should remember though is the actual size the Sun appears in our sky is the same size as the Moon appears so what you will see is fairly
small hence why they are generally used for special events such as eclipses and planetary transits.
Another thing to take note of with these glasses is the fact that the filters are easily scratched and even dust can cause pinholes which can let
harmful light in, unless you plan on being extremely careful with your storage of them they should be considered as a disposable type of thing, don't
leave them around to gather dust for a year and then use them again. Better safe than sorry really.
Still these are real cheap, only a few dollars a pair so you get value for money.
Here are a couple of examples......
A cheap and disposable novelty item that is best used for special occasions, always pay attention to the instructions given by the manufacturer.