alan-friedman-sun-2

Why wait for the professionals to release gorgeous images of space when a man can do it from his own backyard? Amateur astronomer Alan Friedman uses nothing more than an industrial strength webcam and a small telescope to create powerful images of the Sun from his own backyard in Buffalo, NY.

What’s so shocking is how relatively simple his process seems.

To record my images, I use a filter that passes only a narrow slice of the deep red end of the visible spectrum. Called a Hydrogen Alpha filter, it is attached to the front end of a small (3 ½” aperture) telescope. Think of it as a 450mm f5 telephoto lens. The camera used is an industrial webcam. It can stream images at a speed of 15 to 120 frames a second.

No spectacular computers. No physics. No complex mathematical calculations. It’s a process most professionals, and probably amateur photographers, can replicate with the right amount of funding.

While most of the pictures he takes come out unusable, roughly 10 percent produce an image Friedman can work with thanks to an astronomical term known as Lucky Imaging. He goes through thousands of images one at a time, and compiles all of the useful ones onto a single photo. While the photos are naturally black and white upon development, he claims they are colored to both represent “accuracy” and still highlight the “power of the image.”

DVICE says the camera used can be compared with those taking pictures of license plates driving through red lights. The Hydrogen Alpha filter and camera might be hard and a little expensive to get a hold of I wager, but hardly the billions of dollars is costs to operate the Hubble Telescope. Anybody interested in giving it a chance as a fun project with the kids?