Stargazers are often night owls since that’s when the objects of their curiosity is best seen. Recently, however, a group from The Northwest Suburban Astronomers Club ventured out in broad daylight for a close up look at the earth’s nearest star: the sun.
They gathered at in Barrington Hills on Sept. 4, setting up specialized telescopes and filters to unveil the surface of the sun for themselves and visitors to the event.
The cheerful group took turns looking through the various telescopes and when the clouds obstructed the view, went about socializing and picnicking at tables full of shared dishes.
“I’ve arranged this, you see, so the sun comes out between clouds,” teased Mark Spreyer, Director of the Stillman Nature Center. “So when the cloud comes, you get a snack and when it moves, you go back.”
On a more serious note, Mark added, “You hear about this stuff and I think it’s fun. You hear how sunspots are going to affect the weather, radio transmission, whatever. Now, you can look at them. But you have to do it safely.”
He looked over at the impressive array of equipment on display on the edge of the property’s lake. “Look at the equipment they’ve got,” he observed. “This would be my nature center’s annual budget. So, it’s a win/win.”
“We’ve been over here several times in the last three years,” said Jim Wolford, the Vice President of Social Activities for the Astronomers Club.
“You need a solar filter to keep from burning your eyes,” Wolford said. “Once you’ve got that, then you can look at the various aspects of the sun.”
Bob Pease, who is vice president of observing for the club, was manning a telescope that was projecting images of the sun’s surface onto a small screen. The video revealed sunspots, filaments, and bumps, along with more technically advanced aspects.
He pointed out small dark spots on the enormous sphere. “You could fit several earths into each one of those,” he said. “Maybe hundreds.”
Pease began his love affair with the stars as a child. “My father worked for the Army Air Corps. He had to land jets by looking at the stars. Once it gets into you…” he said, trailing off as the clouds parted again.
Michelle Leonard and her son, Alex Tsoris, came out to catch a peek at our neighboring star. “We just saw that they were having this event and they said, ‘Come look at the sun,’ and we decided that’s what we would do,” Leonard said. “It’s been pretty impressive.”
Six-year-old Alex was taking full advantage of the multiple telescopes, listening and looking into the scope as the astronomers guided him through a tour of the sun. “I like that telescope,” he said gesturing behind him. “Because it’s huge!”
He then ran off to see the sun through the eye of another telescope, quite unaware that the definition of huge was on the other side of that lens.
For more information about Northwest Astronomers Club visit the website.
For more information about Stillman Nature Center visit its website.