Staring at the sun… safely!

Specially designed telescopes will reveal some of the sun’s features to this year’s festival audience.

As we approach this year’s Times Cheltenham Science Festival we will not only be looking forward to the incredible diversity of science on offer but we will also be hoping for clear skies so we can enjoy our science in the sun.

The Cotswold Astronomical Society will also be hoping for clear skies. At this year’s festival they will be giving the festival audience the opportunity to look at the sun in a unique way. Using specially designed solar telescopes they will be allow people to stare (safely!) at the Sun and to see some of its features.

The above picture is what the sun looks like using a filter which blocks 99.999% of the light and heat energy radiating from the Sun. The picture was taken by Rik McRae. “The heat from the sun makes the image shimmer – just like the heat haze you sometimes see – so getting a single sharp image is almost impossible. What I did was to take 30 images and then [combined them] into a single ‘best’ image,” he explained.

This picture reveals a cluster of sunspots. “Apart from the colour, this is very much the view you see through a white light filtered scope when using an eyepiece. In fact the human eye (more properly the brain) does such a good job of ‘image processing’ that you can normally see even more detail than captured here,” explained Rik.

WARNING: You must NEVER look at the Sun with your naked eye or through ordinary sunglasses, and especially not through an unprotected telescope – this will cause permanent blindness.

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