Staring at the Sun, 16

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An M-Class Flare

8/7/2010: I got a good look at the Sun in the middle of the afternoon just as clouds began to move in from the south. Did a double take. A very complex, very large, very bright flare was wrapped around an intricate region of chromospheric detail (AR 11093). And then a cloud covered the Sun. It was a small cloud but it was moving excruciatingly slowly. I checked the Sun's x-ray flux using the link above and was not at all surprised to find an M-class flare in progress and near peak intensity. Thirty-five long minutes later, there was still plenty to see:


M-class flare

Lunt LS60HaDS50, Canon 50D, iso 400. Two barlows on prime-focus adapter. Red Bayer plane isolated in Maxim; 50 x 0.25s stacked in Registax; Focus Magic for deconvolution. Levels adjusted and different treatments of limb detail in Photoshop. Click the image for a closer view. There's a lot of detail in there.


More photos to come but there's a LOT of data to work with today. I think these images can be worked better than I've managed so far. Stay tuned.



Blue arrow indicates when the photos on this page were made.


m1 flare



M1 flare



Best 8 frames selected, aligned on multiple targets in Registax,
wavelets applied, Focus Magic deconvolution, cropped,
histogram equalized, unsharp masked and colorized (and not).


Once again I am astonished at how tough it is to keep all the details sharp without letting the images get all harsh and noisy. Clouds. I could use a good spell of clouds while I figure this out. Another thing that routinely astonishes me: this is not the 2.4-inch department store refractor of my youth.


m1 flare


D'oh! It's dope-slap time. What do you do whenever the dynamic range of the image exceeds that which can be neatly, pleasantly displayed? Dynamic masking, people. I've been doing this for years for all sorts of subjects, so today it takes me 9 hours to remember to give it a try? Here it's been applied very late in the workflow, to the 8-bit output image. Works OK. It'll work better soon. (Quick guide to dynamic masking in Photoshop: copy the entire image into a new layer on top of the original; invert the new layer to a negative; change blending mode to soft light; work the curves in the negative layer to lighten or darken detail; flatten, continue as needed.)


Here are time lapse clips from the Solar Dynamics Observatory in orbit. The video repeats the flare as seen at several far-ultraviolet wavelengths. The images above were made at the deep red wavelength of hydrogen-alpha light (6563A) while the SDO recorded the event at wavelengths from about 100A to 400A.


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                   © 2010, David Cortner