Sunday, July 22, 2012

Solar Prominence Animation

This weekend, I created this animation from a series of frames captured 2 min apart from 22h00 to 23h30 UTC July 21, 2012.  Most of the very active sunspot regions have rotated out of view. I wonder what active section of the sun this corresponds to.

Here is a single frame of the animation.

And here is a link to YouTube with the animation sequence.

Images were taken with DMK41.AU02 camera, 3x Powermate, and Lunt LS60T/PS Hydrogen-Alpha telescope.

Friday, July 13, 2012

View of AR-1520 Sunspot

Between clouds, I had a peek at the sun this evening and got a nice shot of AR-1520 in a quiet state.  Far cry from the X1.4 class flare it released yesterday at 11h52 CDT according to news reports.  I will try to watch over the weekend weather permitting.

This image was taken at 19h25 CDT using DMK41.AU02 camera with 3x extender through a Lunt LS60T/PT Hydrogen-Alpha telescope

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ecoxotic Panorama Pro LED

This weekend, I replaced the lighting fixture on my 185g reef tank.  Previously,  I was using a Hamilton Cebu Sun fixture with three 250W 14k single-ended metal halide bulbs and four 72" T5 actinic fluorescent bulbs.  Main reasons for this replacement were to reduce electrical costs and generated heat and eliminate the cost and hassle of replacing bulbs every 6 months

Original MH/T5 fixture suspended from ceiling
MH and T5 ballasts needed to run lights
After much debate, I picked the Ecoxotic Panorama Pro fixture.  I obtained three 24" modules.  These have a mixture of pure blue modules (2) and 12k/blue modules (3).  To each panel I added a fourth 12k/blue module.   There is room in each panel to add 3 more modules if I purchase additional AC adapters.

The panels do not come with mounting hardware since several options are available.  I did not want to suspend my lights again so I ordered wall mounts.  These however, were intended to be mounted behind a tank flush with the wall.  My tank has a 7" space behind it.   To deal with this, I built a 1.5" thick wood frame from plywood to which I attached the three wall mount brackets.  This frame also gave me a place to tie down all of the messy wiring.  I mounted the 6 dimmer switches on the outer edge of the frame for easy access.

Wood frame acts as a "fake wall" to mount brackets
  In addition to mounting the lights to this "fake wall", I also only inserted the light panels part way onto the support arms.  I left 7" spacing between the back of the panels and the mounting bracket.  This allowed me to center the lights on the tank.

Once assembled, the whole unit slipped behind the tank onto the back lip of my tank stand.

Lighting assembly mounted to the back of the tank stand
From the front, you can see the LED panels are place 6" above the water surface.   I created a pair of L-shaped wooded trim pieces for the top rim of the tank.  To these I fastened a section of black plastic panel.  These lift off individually.  When in place, they completely hide the glare from LED fixture yet don't trap any heat in the tank. Since each panel is driven by two AC adapters, I can have each of these on a different timer so that I can turn on lights in the tank progressively.  In the photo below, note that each panel has only half the modules turned on, both blue and one 12k/blue. 

Panels are hidden behind decorative trim

The wall-mounts have a built-in device to allow the panel to rest in this 30 degree position.  This is very convenient for cleaning and accessing the tank.  Actually more convenient than the adjustable hanging system I was using on the previous fixture.

Cleaning position for the panels
This final photo shows the completed system with all lights turned on.  Though hard to make a comparison between these photos, to my eye, the new lights have significantly more blue in the spectrum and the coral colors "pop" much more.   I did a quick test with a Lux meter when I got the new lights.   I found that I was getting about 40% more light in the upper part of the tank but about 30% less light at the bottom of the tank.

Ecoxotic Panorama Pro - fully turned on.
It remains to be seen how the corals and nuisance algae will respond to the new lighting regime.

Update 2012.08.24 - The fixture is still really easy to work with and keep clean.  The added blue light makes coral colors stand out more, especially the fluorescent greens.  The corals are growing at about the same rate as before.  Cyanobacteria has not bloomed as it was doing with the aged VHO/MH combination I had before but it is not completely absent.  So far, I am still pleased with the change.

Update 2012.09.20 - I have now had two of the 24V 60W AC/DC adapters fail.  Ecoxotic was very easy to deal with; simply filled out an on-line return request and emailed receipt photo.

Update 2012.12.01 - I had put the remainder of the adapters on a "heat sink" and put a little fan across them.  No new failures.

Update 2013.03.20 - Over the past few weeks I have gotten failures on several dozen LED elements.  These mostly on the modules that are on for the longer photo-period so have had more total run-time.   Not sure what is going on because these, unlike the AC adapters,  are out in the open in a cool room with plenty of circulation around them.

You can see on these 6 modules the number of dark slots.  I measured a temperature of 106 F on the sides of the modules which are lit.  Ecoxotic specifies a required temperature of 131 F or less.

Update 2013.04.06 - I received and installed the replacement LED modules.  I also raised the lights from 6" to 8" above the water.  6" was the minimum height specified by Ecoxotic.  Temperatures on the modules when lit range from 89 °F to 109 °F.

Update 2013.05.05 - Two more modules of the original batch are failing,  these being from the shorter photo-period.  Ecoxotic has replaced these as well.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

X1.1 Solar Flare in AR1515

Serendipity strikes again!  Yesterday evening, after getting home from work, I decided to check out the solar conditions and to look at the new sunspot complex just coming into view.   For reference, here is a NASA white-light image showing the position of various sunspots today.  The new complex is on the lower-left and AR1515, which has been very active recently, is on the lower-right.  Note the size of Earth in comparison!

I set up my Lunt LS60T/PS Hydrogen-Alpha telescope with a DMK41.AU02 camera and a 3x tele-extender.  There was lots of activity across the entire surface so I decided to make a high resolution mosaic image of the surface and the prominences.  

Near the beginning of my sequence, I obtained this image of AR1515 at 22h52 UTC.  Some activity in the region, but nothing spectacular.

AR1515 Sunspot - 22h52 UTC
After sequencing through about 20 frames, I went back to admire AR1515 again. To my amazement, it looked quite different.  After verifying that I had not inadvertently changed the exposure parameters,  I captured this image at 23h16 UTC.

AR1515 Sunspot - 23h16 UTC
Clearly a flare had erupted in the intervening 24 minutes.  I did not have enough experience to judge if this was a large or small event, but it was bigger than anything else I had seen in my telescope. 

Since the camera was saturated at this exposure, I reduced the exposure length by a few stops to see more detail.  I continued to capture frames at this exposure as the flared died down.  A few of these are shown in the sequence below.

AR1515 Sunspot - 23h17 UTC
AR1515 Sunspot -23h21 UTC
AR1515 Sunspot -23h23 UTC
AR1515 Sunspot -23h27 UTC
AR1515 Sunspot -23h33 UTC
AR1515 Sunspot -23h35 UTC
AR1515 Sunspot -23h37 UTC
This was my first capture of an obvious flare in progress.  The next morning, I received a news bulletin on my iPhone application "3D Sun" indicating that a class X1.1 flare had occurred at 23h08 UTC in the AR1515 complex.  Right in the middle of taking the mosaic.

Solar Bulletin received on iPhone
This event has even made it onto a number of internet news sites as the biggest flare event of the summer season, though not nearly as large as the X5.4 event on March 6, 2012.  Never know what you are going to see when you look at the sun!

UPDATE  2012.07.08 - Completed the original mosaic image of solar disk and prominences.

Mosaic including flare image from 23h16 UTC