Sunspot observations in May 2011

In may Sun was shining in many days during May here in Finland. In the beginning of May, I was unfortunately in Southern Finland, where I didn’t have proper equipment for solar obsevations, so there is a gap in observation series. And when I came back to Sodankylä, there was a cloudy period of several days, so I wasn’t able to make observations.

Nevertheless, I was able to make observations in late May. In late May, there was a quiet period with very little sunspots for three days, but in 26th of May the activity began to rose again. In the last days of May, the sunspot number was nearly 100, and there was a one large sunspot producing relatively large flares which caused aurorae. According to Spaceweather.com, many observers have made aurora observatios in the midde latitudes of both Northern- and Southern hemispehres. For example, observatios have came from Alberta, Kanada, Tasmania and New Zealand.

Here are my sunspot observations from may as a table:

And as a graph:

With sunny greetings,

Juha

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NELM and SQM in late March in Sodankylä, Finland

During late March I made some observations of naked eye limiting magnitude and SQM -measurements. My observing place was Kaanaanmaa neighbourhood in Sodankylä town, in northern Finland. The observing place is semi-urban and there are street lights causing direct light pollution. The light pollution glow caused by Sodankylä town is evident in south. East, North and zenith are relatively dark (I got some SQM readings in NE sky around 20,00 mag/arc sec). When I made my measurements, Moon was not in the sky, and there were thick cover of snow on the ground. I made these measurements from zenith. I made also estimations of seeing, backround sky darkness and of transparency (scale from 1-5, 1 is best).

These measurements are just preliminary data, and it is not possible to make any reliable conclusions based on this. But anyway, I could make some notes from this data:

1. I made the first and last observations in a parking lot, which is relatively well protected from direct light pollution. Other measurements were made without any direct light pollution shelter. In the sheltered parking lot (there are trees around the parking lot that are acting as a direct light pollution protection) I got slightly better SQM values than in the other spot. So it is good idea to make your measurements in a spot that is protected from direct light pollution!

2. When NELM is around 5,4 (mean value of my measurements) SQM is around 18,68 (mean value of my measurements)

Here you can see my observations as a table:

And as a graphical presentation:

Now the sky has already got too light here up north, that it is not possible to make these mesurements before autumn. But more observations well be coming then!

Amateur astronomy and minimalism

During recent couple of years, I have been reading blogs and articles related to minimalism. Minimalist philosphy and way of life has had a deep impact on me!

I’m not very skilled writer, and I cannot write as stunning posts as all excellent writers, whose texts I have been reading (like Zen Habits by Leo Babauta and Castles in the air by Nina Yau), but still, I want to try to share some thoughts about minimalism and amateur astronomy.

A minimalist person is focusing just on those few things that matter the most and he/she wants to clear all clutter out from his/her life. A minimalist person usually wants to enjoy free and simple activities, like having a walk in the nature or perhaps watching the stars!

Actually my way of doing astronomical observations has always been quite minimalistic. I have always been a visual observer, and for me it has been important to search and see the celestial objects by myself – without any help from technology, I haven’t ever owned or even tried a GOTO scope! I have always made notes and sketches of everything I have seen in the sky, I have always done everything in very simple way, just me, my scope and paper and pencil!

To do everything slowly and without too much hurrying is an essential part of minimalistic mindset. For a minimalist, every moment in life is as important as whole life, and minimalist tries to take everything out of every second! Minimalists wants to enjoy every step and breath on the planet!

When I’m doing astronomical observations in my observing site, I spend even hours just gazig the sky, without any optical aid and without any plan to make dozens of observations! I love just to gaze the sky, and see all the twinkling stars above and forget all worries and troubles in my ordinary life! I always look at the sky with awe, I’m always stunned by the beauty of the dark sky filled with myriads of stars! I love just looking at the sky without any worries or any tight observing schedule! Nevertheless I do always have somekind of a plan, but I’m not tied by it and usually I end up observing and sketching much less than I originally planned – just because I very often end up just looking at the sky and admiring the sheer beauty of the starred sky!

And those of you, who haven’t yet tried just looking at the sky, gazing the stars with naked eye and admiring the beauty of the sky, try it! It is a wonderful feeling to be under the dark, starred sky without any hurry and stress, just being still and calm! Go and try it, even tonight if sky above you is clear enough!