Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Solar 1st of March

Yesterday, on that superbly sunny 1st of March, one of the side walksof JMU's campus got the rather rare chance to host astronomy students busy at work and eager to set up some solar observations. Although no solar storm was expected and the sunspot activity was quite mild, the excitement was high for playing with JMU's Physics and Astronomy Department Coronado solar telescope (with its sheltering H-alpha filter) and a Sunspotter (the safest solar telescope human beign ever invented). The Astr221 students saw for themselves the active Sun (sunspots and flares), and attempted to present this phenomenon to as many of their JMU colleagues as would venture on the (our!) side walk during that noon hour.
The Astr 221 classmates Thomas Redpath (senior), Kyle Eskridge (sophomore), and Andrew Rowe (sophomore) estimate that they were able to explain various things about energy production in the core of the Sun or about the origin and properties of the sunspots to at least 15 students who were brave enough to spend a few minutes with us on their way to or from their classes. Senior Collin Wilson happily joined us initially for a few minutes, but as it turned out, he found it impossible to leave us alone with the Sun.

Many thanks are due to Sean Scully for his help with finding the best spot for the observations, recalling that counterweights are needed to stabilize the telescope and for finding such weights in a fashionable time. He claims to be rewarded by the sight of his colleague(Anca Constantin; the Astr221 instructor)'s crazily enthusiastic efforts to convert every single passer-by into a scientist.