2005 – Start of Solar Obsession

Although I enjoyed planetary, lunar, and deep sky objects, I started lurking in the solar forum on Cloudy Night’s Telescope Reviews in 2005. I remember wondering if I could I justify purchasing a small glass white light filter for the ETX and if it was worth spending that much to view one star.

Paul (my husband) and I eventually spent the money for a glass white light filter. We lived in town for a few years, next door to my grandmother, and the Sun ended up being a perfect target for me to enjoy. I can’t remember which of us took the first light photos of the Sun using the new filter…most likely Paul. I didn’t really understand what I was looking at, but knew that it opened up more observing time for me. NOAAs 10730, 10733, 10734, 10735 were the active regions that day. Link to Feb 12, 2005 first light.

In 2005, we attended our first star party in Bellevue, Ohio at the Sky Tour event and met up with three other members of CN for the first time. I completed my first solar sketch that weekend. I distinctly remember John Crilly telling me that one of the mistakes he often sees people make is sketching sunspots larger than they actually are. From experience, I can certainly admit it’s easy to do. I believe a factor of that is sketching in two small of a circle making it difficult to add all the details withing the active regions. Sketching larger will help eliminate the tendency to oversize the features in your sketches. Link to June 04, 2005 first solar sketch.

L-R: Scott Horstman, John Crilly, Jim Winter, Erika Rix, Paul Rix

A few months later, the five us met up again at a small star party in Michigan that involved meeting four more CN members. It’s safe to say that was the star party that truly got me hooked for solar viewing. One of the best things about star parties is meeting up with good folks that share your love of astronomy; the other is getting to test out new gear without the expense of spending money on purchases! I got my first views in h-alpha and it nearly took my breath away.

12-inch RCX with a Thousand Oaks prominence filter

There was a 12-inch RXC with a Thousand Oaks prominence filter at my disposal that John brought. One of the largest prominences I have ever seen, even to this day, proudly displayed through the eyepiece.

Gary Gibbs

Another friend, Gary Gibbs, came to this star party with an internally double-stacked 60mm h-alpha Maxscope, binoviewers, and disc mount. It felt like I was pulled through the eyepiece and was hovering over the Sun. It was amazing and left me down in the lip that all I had was a little white light filter. Little did I know at the time that I would find later how important that little filter would be for my solar observations. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a photo of him with his (now mine, thanks to Gary’s generous offer) doublestacked Maxscope 60mm. But for the sake of including a photo of one of the people that led me to my love for solar observing, here’s a photo of Gary with his Obsession.

At some stage, I became a moderator for CN for a few years, specifically in the solar and sketching forums. It was wonderful to see both take off participation wise with the increased availability in affordable h-alpha systems and more people willing to try their hand at sketching. Alas, I had no h-alpha filter of my own!

ETX70 next to the PST for both white light and h-alpha viewing.

That was soon amended with just a phone call. John graciously lent me his PST until Paul eventually bought one for me for my birthday in 2006. John’s been a wonderful friend and is not only very generous and supportive, but very knowledgeable with equipment and usually has fun toys for me to try out. It was during that time that other sketchers from the sketching forum helped me with trials and errors on sketch media and techniques to improve my solar sketching technique. After a session, I would publish my sketches, techniques, and my concerns about the sketch and we’d have an open discussion on methods/media to try next for improvement. It’s an ongoing project really as I’m constantly striving for accuracy and the best ways to record my observations through sketching true to what I visually see.

My early attempts at solar observing/sketching can be found in the following links for the year 2005…the beginning of a wild solar ride and loving every minute of it!

2005 12 08 white light report

2005 12 10 first h-alpha sketch

2005 12 12 first close up prominence sketch

2005 12 19 solar h-alpha prominences


2005 12 20 First Solar Projection


~ by Erika Rix on December 8, 2010.

2 Responses to “2005 – Start of Solar Obsession”

  1. It’s a wonderfully heartfelt start, Erika. I’m looking forward to all the amazing sketches, images, and good stories you will add to your website over time.

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