Trying Stuff Out

With the Transit of Venus coming up very soon, I’ve been taking every opportunity to practice observing and photographing the Sun. For the last few practice sessions, I’ve been trying out different equipment and techniques. This sort of thing might seem like a waste of time, but it often pays off.

 

Refractor and sun funnel

Small scope with a sun funnel

Sun funnels are great for showing the Sun to a lot of people at once. Over the last few years, the Sun has been pretty bland in white light, but with the run-up to the 2012 Transit of Venus, the plans have resurfaced. Here’s my Red Green-ish version of a sun funnel on a small refractor.

I was pleasantly surprised by the image of the Sun on the projection fabric. The image wasn’t as sharp as what you’d see in an eyepiece, but it wasn’t bad either. The image here doesn’t show as much contrast as you actually see on the projection fabric. I found it hard to get a good photo of the sun filter image, and boosting the contrast just over-emphasized the grain of the fabric.

Sun with a sun filter and a white-light filter
Left: Sun funnel; Right: White-light filter

The image on the right is unconventional, too. It’s the result of aiming a hand-held point-and-shoot camera down the eyepiece. For such a kludgey method, it’s a not a bad shot — certainly better than I’d expected. I’ve rarely had great results from afocal coupling with a hand-held camera.

By the end of the afternoon, I’d discovered that photographing the image on a sun funnel was harder than I’d imagined. I’d also found that quick and dirty afocal shots are easier with a little point-and-shoot camera than with a larger prosumer camera. That’s not a bad payoff for trying out methods I didn’t expect to use on Transit Day.

All this should encourage you to go try a few different techniques for yourself. The practice is always useful, and you might discover a few interesting surprises.

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About Tim Cole

Astronomy enthusiast and educator, all-around fancier of dark skies and starry nights
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