Observing Our Closest Star
May 4, 2015
The Sun, our closest star is about 93,000,000 miles away from Earth. It is so far away that light traveling at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, will take about 8 minutes to reach us. Why about 93 million miles away? The Earth does not travel around the sun in a perfect circle. Our orbit around the Sun is elliptical. This means that the distance between Earth and the sun changes over the course of the year. Around January 2nd the sun is 91.4 million miles away and around July 2nd it is 94.8 million miles away... give or take a few inches!
Observe The Sun Safely - Never look at the Sun without a filter!
To observe the sun with your telescope you will need an appropriate solar filter fitted for your telescope. Most telescopes have the option of purchasing a matching solar filter special designed to fit the telescope. With a solar filter you can see detail in sunspots, bright faculae near the limb and the mottled areas known as granules with these filters. The Sun offers constant changes and will keep your observing interesting and fun. Even small aperture telescopes can enjoy features of the Sun.
We strongly recommend only using a solar filter that covers the objective of the telescope. These are called Full Aperture Solar Filters. Some telescopes come with a "Solar Filter" that screws into the eyepiece. These filters are very unsafe and should be avoided.
Don't Forget about the Finderscope!
Locating the sun with a Solar Filter can be difficult. Never use the finderscope to locate the sun. It is best to remove or cover the finderscope so you will have no accidents. A neighbor or friend walking by may not understand the care needed to observe the sun and may peek into the wrong scope!
Locate the sun first by moving the telescope to the general area of the sun by hand. Then watch the shadow that the telescope itself gives off on the ground. When the shadow is shortest, you will be very close to the sun. It is also a good idea to use a very low powered eyepiece to first observe. This will give you the largest field of view and make locating the sun much easier.
If you take anything away from this article, it is that you need to be careful. This should not scare you away from the enjoyment of observing the sun, as long as you have the appropriate filter and always think safety, observing the sun will give your telescope 24-hours a day of enjoyment!