28Oct2019

Imaging The Sun and Mercury Transit – How to Do it Safely

The Sun is very bright and is the source of a big headache when it comes to photography. How many times have you lined up the perfect shot and the glare from the Sun is ruining it?

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Taking photographs of the Sun is easier, safer, and less expensive than you would originally think

Photographing the Sun is seen by some as an unsafe venture. However, if you take the proper precautions it can be perfectly safe. Typically, in astrophotography, people don’t take pictures of the Sun. It is a bit strange when you think about since it’s the closet star we have.

By learning these techniques, you will be able to take a picture of the transit of Mercury. Read on to learn how to take pictures of the Sun and transit of Mercury!

White-light solar imaging:

There are many methods for taking pictures of the Sun. We are going to focus on white-light solar imaging. What does this mean? White-light solar photography means that whichever filtering we use, it is meant to reduce the amount of light instead of isolating any specific wave length (like when we use a specialized solar hydrogen-alpha filter).

This technique does a fantastic job illuminating sunspots and facula. This method is the easiest and most economical way of photographing the transit of Mercury. Typically, any color camera can capture a great white light image, so you won’t have to buy a new one.

Remember, solar photography is easy, but care must be taken. As we know, the Sun is very bright and hot, and it hurts to look directly at it. Using a large light-gathering optic captures all of that energy radiating off the Sun and focuses it into a smaller area. Focused, unfiltered sunlight will absolutely burn and melt anything at focal plane. This will include your sensors, camera shutters, and even your hands and eyes!

The trick to photographing the Sun is to reduce the light that your sensor is picking up to a safe level. There are many cheap white-light filters that can be placed over your front aperture of your telescope’s camera lens.

Billy Forte, a photography expert for Brit Student and Write My X says, “find a certified solar filter to purchase. They will reduce the amount of light entering your system by virtually 100 percent. This will make photographing the Sun and transit of Mercury a fun and safe task. It is a lot like taking a picture of the Moon!”

A cool idea is making your own full-aperture filter. Make sure you do not damage the material and buy AstroSolar film. Take the film and use it for your camera lens or telescope. All it takes is a bit of carboard and tape. Another idea is using the film to make solar-safe glasses or binocular film. The majority of these suggestions for imaging the Moon actually also work when doing white-light solar photography; one such example of this is locking up the mirror that you have in your DSLR.

When discussing Sun-specific photography tips, consider bringing along with you a blanket to block the light by putting it over your head during your work. It can be really tough to see the LCD screen on the back of your camera when you’re standing in bright sunlight, so this will give you some well-needed shade. When you’re taking photographs of the Sun, you should bracket your exposures so that way you know that one of them will be properly exposed at a minimum.

Bob Jacobson, a tech writer with Australia2Write and Next Coursework, suggests to photographers that “if you can, you should actually underexpose it a bit because you can easily lose the contrast on facula features or sunspots. This is when it’s best to trust the histogram, which means that the more spread out it looks to you, the better that is, even if it’s darker than you would expect (i.e., more to the left).”

Taking photographs of the Sun is easier, safer, and less expensive than you would originally think; however, you still want to respect that you are doing, because if you’re not aware of your actions or you slip up, it can have disastrous results. Happy photography, and stay safe!

Written and submitted by: Michael Dehoyos

Mike is a business expert at Phd Kingdom and Academicbrits.com. He assists companies in their marketing strategy concepts, and contributes to numerous sites and publications. He also contributes to Originwritings.com blog.

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