Amateur Astronomer Captures Incredible Movie of Looping Prominences on the Sun

Posted on August 23, 2013

This close-up movie of looping, dancing prominences on the Sun looks like something you’d see from one of the spacecraft we have studying the Sun, such as the Solar Dynamics Observatory. However, the images were taken from Earth by amateur astronomer Michel Collart from France. He was able to capture incredible detail (see his list of equipment below) of this region on the Sun’s western limb, and in a series of 120 frames, shows a lot of activity taking place on the morning of August 20, 2013.

It is easy to become mesmerized watching the matter ejected at high speed from the surface, then falling back down due to the Sun’s gravity.

“We saw beautiful loops this morning, and as a bonus, we see a beautiful ejection of matter from the left and return to its starting point — great!” Collart posted on the WebAstro Forum.

And while these loops are huge – see the image below comparing the size of the Earth and Moon to the prominences — this is just a small area of the Sun.

See the full view of the Sun taken by Michel:

Full disk view of the Sun on August 20, 2013. The 'small' prominences on the right side of the Sun in this image are the ones captured in the closeup image above -- not the bigger prominences on the left side. Credit and copyright: Michel Collart.

Full disk view of the Sun on August 20, 2013. The The ‘small’ prominences on the right side of the Sun in this image are the ones captured in the closeup image above — not the bigger prominences on the left side. Credit and copyright: Michel Collart.

And the comparison of sizes between the loops, Earth, the Moon and the distance between the Earth and Moon:

Size comparison of the looping prominences on the Sun on August 20, 2013. Credit and copyright: Michel Collart.

Size comparison of the looping prominences on the Sun on August 20, 2013. Credit and copyright: Michel Collart.

Michel told Universe Today that he’s been imaging the Sun for about 15 years and this is the first time he’s been able to take images of them. “These loops are very rare to catch,” he said.

The series of 120 frames (1 per 30 seconds, so 1 hour total) were taken by Michel on Tuesday August 20th, between 7:25 and 8:25 UTC on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, about the same time the Sun blasted a coronal mass ejection with billions of tons of solar particles toward Earth at the mind-boggling speed of 3.3 million km/h (2 million mph).

Here’s a video version of the loops, complete with music:

Michel Collart’s equipment and methods:

Michel Collart's telescope and imaging set up. Image courtesy Michel Collart.

Michel Collart’s telescope and imaging set up. Image courtesy Michel Collart.

Takahashi Refractor TOA 130mm, Coronado Solarmax90 double stacked with Coronado PST etalon and blocking filter BF15, Televue 1.8x Barlow and Point Grey Camera Grasshopper3 ICX674 sensor.

120 videos of 10s spaced by 20s at 40 frames/s taken the 20/08/2013 between 7:25 and 8:25 GMT.

Processing: Autostakkert2 + Registax6 and export as video on Registax5, Finalizing the video in VirtualDub and export GIF

Source: Universe Today, story by Nancy Atkinson