A Solar “Wow!”

The weather was perfect, and the solar telescope was set up in my driveway.  I was playing around with the settings on my new Point Grey Research Chameleon camera.  My eyes were fixed on the laptop screen and I was just trying to get the exposure right so that I could image some surface details.  Then I saw something odd.  It looked like a huge prominence, almost as large as half the solar disc; but I didn’t think they got that big.  I am a solar newbie, but I’ve never even seen a picture of such a large prominence.  There must be some other explanation, but just in case, I decided to capture some images.

At about the same time, Tucker, my son, woke up from his nap and I ran upstairs and got him.  We both came back downstairs and decided to check the Internet to see if anyone else was seeing this.  Sure enough, a post on cloudy nights confirmed it.  Something is going on and it’s big!  With Tucker in my arms, I went outside and continued to fiddle with the settings until I was happy with the image.  Then I set it up to do some recording.  I brought Tucker back inside and sat him in front of a bowl of cereal, then ran back out to see the flare dissipating.  As quickly as it started, it ended; maybe 20 minutes total.

Meanwhile, a few others were posting on Cloudy Nights and I felt it was my responsibility to get my initial images out.  I did a very quick process job, and posted the first image just as some of the others rolled in.  No more then five to ten amateurs had recorded it, and I was one of them.  Yes.  I was excited.  The next day, I woke up early and checked space weather.  It turns out it was an M1.8 solar flare with an associated Coronal Mass Ejection.  Many of the solar experts claimed it was the largest they’ve ever seen.  I was just lucky enough to have caught it on camera.

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