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Advice on Starting Solar Imaging?

Solar Imaging
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#1 hyperion0001



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Posted 21 May 2024 - 07:08 PM



I've been doing deep sky and planetary imaging for about 10 years now and have gotten reasonably good at it. I'd like to get into solar imaging and was wondering if anyone would like to share their story getting into it - what they did right, wrong, and if they could do it again, what might they do differently?

Budget-wise over the next few years, I could probably handle 5-10K, and you can read my current equipment from my footer below.



#2 MalVeauX


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Posted 21 May 2024 - 07:11 PM



I think we all seem to chase aperture first, due to habit from other astronomy paradigms. But long term, I think it's way more important to focus on getting high quality high uniformity filters and do not stress aperture nearly as much. Be prepared for the visual experience to be better than your images for a long time or even indefinitely.


Very best,

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#3 Tapio


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Posted 21 May 2024 - 07:45 PM

I started my solar imaging with Coronado PST over 10 years ago. It was a good version and I was immediately hooked.
Then 3 years ago I noticed a second hand Lunt 50Tha for sale so I decided it's time for upgrade.
Surprisingly there wasn't too much improvement in image quality, but more of useability - tuning the etalon and focusing.
Because sun was so fascinating and ever changing object (and because sun was becoming more active with solar maximum) I decided to buy Daystar Quark (second hand again) for details.
And although people say buying a Quark can be hit and miss I was pleased.
The best views I get with Quark.
Lunt is good for quick full disks - no need to wait for 10-15min for Quark to be ready.

But considering your budget I recommend getting Lunt 60 or 80. And getting double stack for it.
Can guarantee you will have fun with it.

#4 JonnyMegaPower


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Posted 21 May 2024 - 08:24 PM

Hi Terry,


I recommend that you first start off with this book.  I wish I did, but then again it was not yet published.  The reason I recommend the book is solar imaging is a lot different than planetary and deep sky imaging.  I have spent allot of time/money not knowing what I was doing and not understanding what I was looking at via solar imaging and gear. 


At first, I wanted to capture fantastic images and share with my wife and friends. Like some of the images in this book.   For me now, it all about the hunt for solar activity and understanding what is happing on the sun.  Sure, Imaging is part of the hunt for me but can honestly say I don't even process 99% of my data.  If I do, I really don't jazz it up too much because my viewing/hunting experience has modified my perceptive on what makes a great solar shot. Like Marty said:  "be prepared for the visual experience to be better than your images for a long time".  for me it probably will be life.   


I just curious how many solar eclipse imagers forgot to look at the shadows on earth and missed something that was very cool.  Good luck on the journey and if you buy the book, you will never regret it. 

Edited by JonnyMegaPower, 21 May 2024 - 08:26 PM.

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#5 rigel123



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Posted 21 May 2024 - 09:03 PM

I have the same Lunt 60mm tilt tuned scope that I purchased 12 years ago to watch the Venus transit (it was cloudy that day!).  I bought the double stack unit for it 7 years later.  I used to do a lot of DSO imaging and that’s gone by the wayside, but Solar observing/imaging is never boring, even during minimum there are still things to see.


Another great book when you are first starting out is Jamey Jenkin's pocket field guide:



#6 gstrumol



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Posted 21 May 2024 - 09:16 PM

Jonny is right, get that book - it's fantastic! Anything and everything you'd want to know about solar observing and imaging.

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#7 hamers


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Posted 21 May 2024 - 11:06 PM

+1 on the Solar Astronomy book.  It's a fantastic book, high-quality images and great explanatory text.  

#8 timmywampus


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Posted 21 May 2024 - 11:40 PM

  1. imaging is completely different. Abandon expectations of long exposure, single frame or stacking with different filters. You’ll going to see most people here doing high frame rate, monochrome imaging because the solar filters are either white light for spots, calcium single wavelength or Hydrogen single wavelength. Different colors, but all mono.
  2. Target is big and usually pretty easy to find.  Some would say it’s the easiest one to find at that time of day 
  3. The skywatcher SolarQuest is life changing if your payload permits. Awesome for travel. 
  4. Someday you’re going to be forced to choose a side in a very contentious, opinionated state of uneasy tolerance, a near civil war tension of black and white vs false color vs inverted images.  Choose wisely. Choose carefully. 

#9 BYoesle



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Posted 22 May 2024 - 10:39 AM

I'd like to get into solar imaging and was wondering if anyone would like to share their story getting into it - what they did right, wrong, and if they could do it again, what might they do differently?


Hi Terry,


If you are located near an astronomy club that has folks with solar equipment, take the time to visit and look through the various incarnations and learn what people have to say about how they use and like their equipment. Even the better companies can produce a lemon now and then - only after observing through well functioning equipment will you be able to tell the difference and be a good judge of image quality.


This is a complex field and there are a plethora of choices. My recommendation is that you test the waters and learn the basics of etalon tuning and observing with a smaller easy to use H alpha telescope like the Lunt 40 or 50 mm, and a good white light filter like the Baader Astrosolar film on a good quality refractor.


Narrow band solar is nothing like deep sky imaging, but more akin to lunar imaging. The really good uniform and narrow band filter systems are really expensive, and take time and effort to perfect. So don't expect cheap and good. If you're wanting to be serious, consider high-end solar to be a lifetime investment and when you're ready spend accordingly. Narrow-band full disc contrast uniformity is the most difficult aspect of observing and imaging, completely dependent on your etalon quality and implementation, and your observing & tuning skills. Double stacking etalons makes this even more so, but should be the ultimate goal for H alpha solar.


I started observing in white light and imaging with paper and pencil in the early 1960's, same with H alpha solar in the 1970's. This taught me how to observe the small and subtle changes that otherwise often get overlooked in the haste to get into imaging before becoming a competent narrow band solar observer. It also made me a better imager since I had mastered all the hard aspects of etalon use and configuration.


Unlike deep sky objects, the sun in H-alpha is the most dynamic and interesting object you can actually see with the Mark I eyeball through any telescope. Imaging it should be secondary unless you have an untoward vision problem. Otherwise it's similar to your going to the Grand Canyon and taking a bunch of photos to rush home to develop, and missing the real experience. Then some people invert their pictures of the Canyon and think its even better. To me it's a distortion of reality; but hey when I was younger I used to enjoy certain drugs to alter reality as well.


Besides the above two mentioned books, read and digest the posts in the Best of Solar Forum topic. Beware that there's misinformation that can get bandied about by some folks on forums like this, and even alleged "experts" like me can get it wrong now and then.


The whole issue of imaging and why we do it and its purpose is an individual choice. Being older, my biases are that while we are not doing science, I don't prefer artistic and unrealistic presentations. I've always been science oriented versus into fantasy or magical thinking, and now into science literacy in this age of rampant disinformation and distortion. So I apply this philosophy with my solar endeavors. I'll dabble with color and inverted prominence images because of some aspects are instructive or appealing - not because it is a popular fad or "pretty," and ubiquitously disguises images that are often quite poor or have defects like being off-band and have non-uniform contrast, etc.


If you post a inverted, colorized, or highly processed image and ask for advice on how it looks or what's wrong with it be prepared for a sometimes frank and honest response you may not like; I won't give a perfunctory "nice image" that will lead you nowhere.


I generally prefer observing (something rarely discussed on the forum) and doing outreach for citizen science education to imaging, but I still do occasional imaging to challenge myself.

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