We all know that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. It’s a cycle we live by since birth, and often forget about as we go about our daily business. We live out our days under that bright beacon in the sky. In this article, we’ll explore “sun gazing” and provide information around everything you’ll need to safely observe the sun.
Have you ever wondered what is actually going on up there? Or what the sun truly looks like?
Sure, you’ve probably seen the images put out by NASA, but have you ever wanted to look at the surface with your own eyes? That’s completely possible.
What exactly is sun gazing?
When you think about the phrase sun gazing, you might associate that with peering up at the sun. Well, believe it or not, there is much more than that.
While the sun might blind you if you look at it for too long without protection, there are actually methods you can use to view the surface of the sun. It might come as a shock to you, but you don’t need to go blind in order to see the sun in its true form.
How is this possible?
Techniques for looking at the sun tend to vary, based on the method you’re most drawn too, but tend to include telescopes and binoculars. While you can use the glasses they provide for solar eclipses, you really won’t see too much with those.
So for the purpose of this brief article, we’ll be looking at a couple of the more advanced options. Not only will you be shown how to look at the sun, but you’ll also learn a bit along the way.
Haven’t you always wanted to know what that ball of fire in the sky is actually up to?
So without wasting anymore time, let’s dive right in, and take a look at everything you need to know about sun gazing.
What exactly is the sun made of?
While you might know the sun as your little yellow beacon of light, you’ll soon discover that there is so much more to it. If you know anything about space, then you know that the sun is a giant ball of gas.
Depending on your knowledge of celestial objects, this might come as a bit of a shock. The sun is a star, and all stars are made up of a collection of gas surrounding a core. Just like the Earth, the sun has a core at the middle. The light that is emitted from the surface is what you perceive to be the sun.
The sun is made up of a collection of different gases in the following concentrations:
- Hydrogen (70 percent)
- Nitrogen (half a percent)
- Oxygen (half a percent)
- Carbon (half a percent)
- Helium (about 25 percent)
- Iron (less than 1 percent)
- Magnesium (less than 1 percent)
- Sulfur (less than 1 percent)
- Silicon (less than 1 percent)
So while you might know that the sun is mostly hydrogen based, you might be surprised that the sun is actually made up of a combination of plenty of other gas.
The sun is also the largest star in our solar system, which is why its gravitational pull is strong enough to house the planets in our solar system. Plus, believe it or not, the sun is over 96 million miles away from earth.
Without the sun, life as we know it would simply cease to exist. It heats our planet, provides us with night and day, and is responsible for our understanding of time. So while that yellow ball in the sky might not seem like a big deal, you should definitely be thanking it.
Now that we have an understanding of what the sun is made of, let’s look at the different ways you can observe the sun safely.
Let’s start sun gazing!
Now that you know what you’ll be looking at, it’s time to get to the fun part. The part where you get to witness firsthand the magnificent beauty of the sun. While a ball of gas might not seem interesting to look at, you’ll find that it can actually put on quite the show.
Why would I want to start sun gazing?
If you’re still on the fence, don’t worry, because you’re about to learn exactly why sun gazing is a beautiful thing. There are plenty of reactions, solar flares, and excitement to look at on the surface of the sun. So let’s start by breaking down some of this beauty.
Sunspots and coronal heating
Sunspots are extremely interesting, because they appear darker than your traditional areas of the sun. While this might make it seem like these areas are even hotter, the temperature in these areas tends to be much less than the rest of the sun.
Sunspots tend to occur due to a fluctuation of the sun’s magnetic field, due to the fact that these fluctuations lead to a reduced amount of convection. A lot of the sun’s heat comes from convection, so it is no surprise that an area with less convection will appear to be a bit darker.
Like craters of the moon, these areas can be extremely interesting to view. Plus, believe it or not, astronomers don’t fully understand the science behind this. Sure, they have a rough idea, but nobody knows why they start to occur.
If you want to start your sun gazing journey, taking a look at a sunspot is an absolute must. You’ll need the right telescope for the job, but don’t worry, because Amazon has your back.
The Meade Day and Night Telescope
If you want to see sunspots, you’ll need the right telescope and lens cap to handle this. After all, we know how bright the sun can be. A great telescope for beginners is the Meade Day and Night Telescope. This model comes under $100, and will be able to have you up and running in minutes.
If you’re new to solar viewing, and are unsure if you want to make this a full time hobby, this telescope is perfect to get you started and it’s great for kids too!
The reason this telescope is a great choice, is due to the portability and ease of use. You won’t need to purchase additional lens caps or components, because everything you need comes right in the box.
Let’s take a look at some of the great features the Meade Day and Night Telescope has to offer:
- A white light solar filter that blocks out UV light
- The solar filter is ISO certified, so you won’t need to worry about going blind
- A 360 swivel base mount, which allows for great rotation
- It’s small size makes it great for families
- The solar filter is removable, so you can use it for both day and night viewing
- Two eyepieces that provide diversity in magnification settings (9 millimeters and 26 millimeters
The Celestron EclipSmart telescope
If you’re a fan of Celestron products, there is no need to worry, because they also make an excellent telescope for sun gazing. The Celestron EclipSmart comes packed with everything you need, and offers a bit more power than the Meade telescope.
Let’s take a look at what sets the Celestron EclipSmart apart:
- Solar alignment technology
- ISO safe
- An impressive viewing field
- A case and tripod are included
- High quality eyepieces
- 18x magnification (20 millimeters)
- Adjustable height
The only downside to this telescope is that it is specifically designed to view the sun. So if you plan on doing more than sun gazing, you might want to go with the Meade option.
Sunspots are one of the easier things to view when it comes to sun gazing. You don’t need a telescope to get a good look at the surface. If you’re someone who prefers binoculars, don’t worry, because there is a great set for beginners out there. Meade also makes an excellent white light filter pair of binoculars for solar viewing.
The Meade EclipseView Binoculars
These Meade EclipseView Binoculars come packed with everything you need to stare up at the sun right out of the box. If you’re a beginner, or someone who wants everything out of the box, you can’t beat the Meade EclipseView pair of binoculars. Just like their portable telescope, you’ll find that they offer great zoom, excellent lighting, and a great comfort.
Let’s take a look at the great features that these binoculars come packed with:
- White light filters for solar viewing (removable)
- 10x magnification
- Neck strap
- ISO certified for safe viewing
- Fitted with rubber for eye protection
- Coated optic lenses
- A carrying case
If you’re someone who is looking to start their sun gazing journey in a handheld way, these binoculars are a great choice.
Solar Flares and Energy Bursts
One thing that sun does is emit sudden bursts of energy. This energy tends to be comprised of radiation, and is commonly referred to as a solar flare. Solar flares are pretty nasty things, because the wave of energy that it sends out can actually be felt here on Earth. The power can be devastating, and can actually cause blackouts if this goes unchecked.
Believe it or not, the Earth has an electromagnetic shield that protects it from the direct radiation that the sun emits. This protection is great, but a solar flare can cause a disruption in this shield due to the sheer power of the energy burst. The best part about a solar flare is that you can actually see it. Yes, believe it or not, you can watch the sun emit one of these powerful bursts of energy.
If you want to see these bursts of beautiful energy, you’ll need the proper equipment. Unlike the options listed above, you’ll find that these are a bit higher in price due to technology they bring to the table. More power equates to better viewing capabilities.
The Meade Cornado PST telescope
This Meade Cornado PST telescope is one that truly packs a punch. If you want to witness solar flares, and experience the outer edges of the sun, this is the top rated telescope to do so. The Cornado PST comes packed with advanced features that show great detail of the sun’s surface. The lenses are well equipped for high magnification, and the price point is definitely fair.
Let’s take a look at some of the excellent features the Meade Cornado PST comes packed with:
- 40 millimeter lens that promotes excellent magnification
- Fine adjustment controls that come packed with the ability to provide highly focused sun viewing
- Computerized technology for guidance
- An H-alpha band-pass for high quality solar viewing, which is great for solar flares and sunspots
- Built in solar viewfinder
- 400 millimeter focal length
- Filtering optics to ensure your eyes are protected
If you’re an amateur sun gazer, and are looking to really get a crisp and detailed view of the sun, this telescope has everything you need right out of the box.
If you’re looking to see the solar winds that keep our solar system nice and toasty, the Cornado is the right telescope for the job.
What if I already have a solid telescope?
If you already have a telescope, don’t worry, because you won’t need to run out and buy a brand new one. You’ll be pleased to know that you can actually find plenty of different solar lenses on Amazon to get your telescope sun gazing ready. So let’s take a look at some of the best lens options out there for you.
Orion Solar Filters
If you’re looking for a solid solar filter for your telescope, Orion makes phenomenal filter products. The beauty of these lenses is that they are compatible with an array of telescopes.
When it comes to features, you definitely won’t be disappointed. With all Orion Solar Filters, you’ll find:
- A potent white light filter
- A glass design
- Adhesive tabs that allow you to easily place this lens within your telescope
- Blocks 99% of the sun’s light
If you’re interested in converting your standard telescope into a sun gazing telescope, you can find these lenses on Amazon here.
Celestron Solar Filters
You’ll also find that the Celestron Solar Filters are excellent for upgrading your Celestron telescope. The lens comes packed with a great white light filter, and is ISO compliant for sun viewing safety.
They come in varying sizes, and the adhesive grip makes it a cakewalk to connect with your telescope. The Celestron models can also fit other brands as well, but it comes down to the diameter of the telescope.
Let’s look at some of the great features this products has to offer:
- ISO rated safety
- Protects against both UV as well as IR radiation
- Velcro straps
- A solid fit
Thousand Oaks Optical solar filter sheet
If you’re more of a DIY kind of person, you’ll find that you can purchase a Filter Sheets that you can tailor to your needs. The price is much more inexpensive, but you’ll find that it takes a bit more work on your end.
The black filter, made of high quality polymer, is safe to view the sun through. Plus, believe it or not, you can use this with any telescope. This product also works well for both binoculars and telescopes alike.
Sun Gazing Recap
While looking up at the sun without protection is a terrible idea, you’ll find that the tools provided in this article are perfect for sun gazing. You might be nervous, you might be scared, you might be intimated, but you don’t want to miss out.
The sun is not just a yellow ball of light, you’ll find that there is so much more going on. So much going on that you’ll need to witness it with your own eyes. You can’t just see a picture, you really need to look at. You need to gaze at it.
If you’ve ever wanted to do a bit of sun gazing, now is the time to do it. The technology is there, the tools are there, and it is actually completely safe.
Why wait when you can see what others can’t?
The question is: are you ready to start sun gazing?
Other Articles of Interest…
I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed this article that provides you with everything you need to know to start sun gazing. I’ve compiled a short-list of articles below that you may be interested in as well:
- What Causes the Northern Lights?
- Moon Gazing: How To Observe The Moon
- 10 Tips For Buying Your First Telescope
- Best Telescopes Under $500
- Best Kids Telescope For Viewing Planets (Update 2019)
- Best Binoculars For Astronomy Under $500