Lowitz arcs appeared in the sky of Kuusamo, Finland

Observed phenomena: Halo phenomena
Light source: Sun
Origin: High clouds (cirrostratus)
Observed halo forms:

  • 22° halo
  • Parhelia
  • Upper 22° tangent arc
  • Circumzenithal arc
  • Supralateral arc
  • Parhelic circle
  • Upper suncave Parry arc
  • Lowitz arcs (middle- and lower Lowitz arcs)

Date: 27.03.2015
Time: 13:45-14:15
Observing place: Ruka, Kuusamo, Finland
Observing method: Photography
Technical information about photographing equipment: Camera: Olympus µ 1030 SW

During 27th of March 2015 I was guiding a group of international students in Kuusamo, Finland, when a magnificent and bright halo display appeared in the sky! The students got a truly unique opportunity to witness a really special natural light display!

In this halo display, several halo forms were present: 22° halo, upper 22° tangent arc, parhelia, circumzenithal arc, supralateral arc, parhelic circle, upper suncave Parry arc and two kinds of Lowitz arcs: middle- and lower Lowitz arc. This halo display had at least three aspects that made this display so special: 1) the halo forms in this display were bright and well-developed, 2) there was one rare and one extremely rare halo form in this display and 3), there were roughly 50 observers observing and photographing this halo display! This was first time for me to observe Lowitz arcs in the sky! I had already seen the upper suncave Parry arc twice before this.

Upper suncave Parry arc is just one of four known kinds of Parry arcs and it is the most common one of them. Parry arc is named after Sir William Edward Parry (1790–1855) who was trying to navigate through the Northwest passage. During the expedition, he and his crew got stuck in ice, and while being stuck, he observed a halo display with new kind of halo form – a halo form now known as upper suncave Parry arc. Upper suncave Parry arc is a rare halo, it is usually seen only once in a year on average. Lowitz arcs are named after Johann Tobias Lowitz (or Lovits) (1757 – 1804), a German-born Russian apothecary and experimental chemist who first observed this halo phenomena in 1790 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Lowitz arcs are so rare, that they can be seen only 1-2 times in a decade!

Photos from the halo display of March 27th 2015:

Picture 1. Right sundog with middle- and lower Lowitz arcs.
Picture 1. Right sundog with middle- and lower Lowitz arcs.
Picture 2. Same photo than in picture 1. but enhanced with B-R technique.
Picture 2. Same photo than in picture 1. but enhanced with B-R technique.
Picture 3. Halo forms present in pictures 1 and 2 explained.
Picture 3. Halo forms present in pictures 1 and 2 explained.
Picture 4. 22° halo, upper 22° tangent arc and upper suncave Parry arc.
Picture 4. 22° halo, upper 22° tangent arc and upper suncave Parry arc.
P3270401_edit_explained
Picture 5. Previous picture explained.
Picture 6. The photo of picture 4 with B-R enhancement.
Picture 6. The photo of picture 4 with B-R enhancement.
Picture 7. 22° halo, upper 22° tangent arc, upper suncave Parry arc, circumzenithal arc and supralateral arc.
Picture 7. 22° halo, upper 22° tangent arc, upper suncave Parry arc, circumzenithal arc and supralateral arc.
Picture 8. Circumzenithal arc, supralateral arc, upper suncave Parry arc and upper 22° tangent arc.
Picture 8. Circumzenithal arc, supralateral arc, upper suncave Parry arc and upper 22° tangent arc.
Picture 9. Circumzenithal arc with supralateral arc.
Picture 9. Circumzenithal arc with supralateral arc.
Picture 10. Halo observing in Kuusamo.
Picture 10. Halo observing in Kuusamo.
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The solar eclipse of March 20th 2015 was observed in Finland

  • Observed phenomena: Solar eclipse
  • Type of eclipse: Partial, 87,7%
  • Type of observation: Positive
  • Date and time: 20.3.2015; 09:05-11:17 UT
  • Observing place: Kiiminki, Oulu, Finland
  • Observing method: Photography
  • Technical information about photographing equipment: Camera: Canon EOS 1100D, telescope: refractor 4”/f9.8 (L102/1000mm), AstroSolar-filter
  • Observing conditions: Clear sky most of the time

The weather forecast for the site I’m still dwelling (Kuusamo, Northeastern Finland) weren’t very promising for the eclipse day, but instead the sky was predicted to be totally clear in Oulu region (200 km southwest from Kuusamo) according to the Finnish Meteorological Institute. In the early hours of March 20th, I woke up and made a decision to drive to Oulu to observe the eclipse. I was driving towards Oulu when sky totally cleared up, and I decided to stay in village of Kiiminki 20km northeast of Oulu to observe the eclipse. I was observing in a parking lot of a service station/gas station in Kiiminki. The place was busy with lot’s of people, but it offered an open view towards southern sky.

The sky was totally clear during most of the duration of the eclipse. Only during late eclipse some clouds interfered a little. During maximum eclipse I could easily observe how the intensity of the light decreased, and somekind of twilight appeared. But very soon after the maximum eclipse, the lighting returned back to normal full daylight lighting. It appears to be so, that the effect of the eclipse to the lighting of the landscape and environment can be observed only in eclipses that are at least as deep as this one was (87,7%) or deeper. So, this was a succesfull attempt in observing this relatively rare natural phenomena!

I’m convinced that I made the right decision to drive 200 kilometers after the eclipse, because weather was totally cloudy here in Kuusamo according to the locals. Here’s a photo of the eclipsed Sun during the maximum eclipse.

@ 10:11 UT, maximum eclipse
@ 10:11 UT, maximum eclipse
150320_auringonpimennys_3
A series of photos showing the progress of the eclipse.

Last minute tips for solar eclipse 20.3.2015

So, tomorrow, where weather permits, a solar eclipse will be visible in Europe, Northern Africa and in parts of Middle East, Central Asia and Western Siberia. The line of totality of this eclipse will be in Northern Atlantic Ocean. Only land areas, where a total eclipse can be seen are Faroe islands and Svalbard islands in the Arctic ocean. Everywhere else, the eclipse will be a partial eclipse. The maximum lenght of totality in this eclipse is 2m and 46s. The duration of the whole eclipse is roughly two hours. There’s plenty of information about the eclipse for example at site called solareclipse2015.org.uk.

Visibility map of solar eclipse March 20th 2015.
Visibility map of solar eclipse March 20th 2015.

How to observe the eclipse safely?

When observing Sun and the eclipse, you should do it safely and with safe methods! Do not ever attempt to look straight towards the Sun with naked eye or with telescope, not even if the eclipse is very deep at your location! Only during the couple minutes of totality it is safe to have a look at the eclipsed Sun with naked eye.

There are two safe methods for observing the eclipse: 1) observing with solar filter, 2) projecting method. Ideally, you should have a proper solar filter made specifically for solar observing. It can be a filter made of AstroSolar -film or it can be a filter made of special glass. AstroSolar -film is a cheap but safe alternative, and you can easily get started with filter of that kind. Four years ago I wrote a blogpost about how to easily make a solar filter for you of AstroSolar -film. With the method presented in that article, it is easy to make a simple solar filter for your telescope, binoculars or a camera lens. It is also possible to watch the eclipse with naked eye through the AstroSolar -film. At the homepage of sky and Telescope, there is a good article about how to safely observe the Sun, and how to observe the sun with projecting method. If you don’t have AstroSolar or any other proper solar filter available, you can use a welder’s glass for watching the solar eclipse. The welder’s glass should be properly dark for safe solar viewing. You can ask for welder’s glass at your local hardware store.

How to photograph the eclipse?

Now I’m going to give you couple of hints about how to photograph the solar eclipse. These tips are specifically for the ones who have an opportunity to photograph the eclipse through a telescope. First of all, you need a DSLR camera and an adaptor ring for your camera. You also should have a adaptor sleeve in your telescope with proper threads for the adaptor ring. You just simply remove the lens from the camera, and set the adaptor ring to the camera the same way you set a lens to the camera. Then just make sure, that the solar filter is in it’s place at the objective side of your telescope.

When the camera is attached to the telescope, aim the telescope roughly to Sun. Do not look through the finder for locating the Sun! Instead, use the image of the Sun for locating the Sun in field your telescope. For example, place a white piece of paper behind the finderscope so that you can see the shadow of the finderscope at the paper. If you can also see the projected image of the Sun at the paper, then just turn the telescope (around rectascension and/or declination axises) so that the image of the Sun s exactly at the shadow of the finderscope. Then the Sun should be in the field (assuming that your finderscope is in alignment with the telescope). Then use the ‘live view’ mode of your camera to make sure that the Sun is in the middle of the view and to make sure that it is focused. Focus normally with the focusing wheel of your telescope. In live view mode, you can zoom in to some sunspots or at the limb of the Sun to make sure, that the image is as well focused as possible.

When taking photos, use short exposure times. The exposure time can be as short as 1/800s – 1/3200s. Ideally, you should take some test shots before the eclipse for finding the best settings for your setup. Also during the eclipse, you can take series of photos with different settings and then choose the best shots afterwards. ISO value can be something like 100 to 400. As the white balace setting, you can use for example daylight or automate mode. And remember to use the manual (M) program for solar photography!

If you don’t have an DSLR camera, you can take photos through the ocular of your telescope with your compact camera or a camera of your smartphone. This method is simply known as digiscoping.

The partial eclipse of June 2nd 2011 observed and photographed by me in Utsjoki, Finland with digispocing -method.
The partial eclipse of June 2nd 2011 observed and photographed by me in Utsjoki, Finland with digispocing -method.

Briefly:

  • Exposure time: 1/800s to 1/3200s
  • ISO: 100 to 400
  • White balance: automate or daylight mode

Okay, so with these tips you should have better chances at succesfully observing and photographing the solar eclipse on 20th March 2015! I wish you the best of luck with observing this rare, natural phenomena!

Wonderful display of northern lights 17./18.3.2015

Observed phenomena: Aurora borealis
Date: 17./18.3.2015
Time: 17:25-21:00 UT
Observing place: Kuusamo, Finland
Observing method: Photography
Technical information about photographing equipment: Camera: Canon EOS 1100D, lens: Samyang 8mm fish eye
Observing conditions: Clear sky, no Moon
Observed aurora forms:

  • Veil
  • Belt
  • Rays
  • Corona

Couple of days ago a massive eruption happened in the Sun in massive sunspot group AR 2297. The particles ejected by the eruption reached Earth early in the morning (Finnish time) in 17th of March. The particles launched a massive geomagnetic storm all over the planet. The storm generated very colourful and stunning northern lights all over the Northern hemisphere, and Finland was no exception. I was observing this magnificent natural light show in Kuusamo, Northeastern Finland. In Kuusamo, northern lights appeared in the sky already at 17.25 UT when the sky wasn’t even properly dark yet! During the night, I observed two different substorms with really bright and active northern lights! The display was at least as good as the one that I observed in March of 2013 in Turku, Finland.

One week to solar eclipse

Observed object: Sun and sunspot group AR 2297
Date: 22.03.2015
Time: 10:15 UT
Observing site: Kuusamo, Finland
Instrument: Canon EOS 1100D, 4” refractor

Today when I’m writing this post, it’s exactly one week to go to the solar eclipse! Now weather has been really fantastic, days and nights have been clear and now the length of the day almost equals the length of the night! I’m just a bit worried about the timing of this period of clear skies, I’m now wondering, how long it lasts? Does it last until the eclipse day? Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Yesterday (12.3.2015) I was practicing solar photography with my telescope here in Kuusamo. My telescope was f/9.8/4” refractor (102mm/1000mm). My camera is Canon EOS 1100D. I’m using solar filter made of Astrosolar -filter material. Yeasterday there was large group of sunspots, and it was so large, that it was well visible with naked eye too!

I noticed, that it is good idea to keep the exposure time as short as possible. The exposure time can be as short as 1/400 to 1/800 seconds or even shorter. Then camera “freezes” the turbulence of atmosphere better, and the sunspots become more clearly visible. ISO value can be something like 100-400. White balance should be on in daylight- or sunlight setting.

So, today I’m going to carry on the rehearsals. I just might report them here later, so keep on looking my blog! 🙂

Here you can see the results of the rehearsals of yesterday:

_MG_3919
Sun photographed 12.3. in Kuusamo, Finland with 4” refractor and Canon EOS 1100D.