The Sun is a fascinating astronomical object to observe. Extreme care is required if you wish to observe the Sun safely. Never look directly at the Sun with the naked eye or with any optical instrument. You must be familiar with the safe observing methods before attempting to observe the Sun.
The observing method I use is to project the Sun's image using a telescope and then view the projected image. This avoids looking at or anywhere near the Sun and you can, if you wish, draw what you see on your projection screen. On most days you will see sunspots and faculae.
Below is a recent drawing of the Sun with sunspots.
The number of sunspots and sunspot groups changes day by day and month by month in a cycle of approximately 11 years. The duration of a solar cycle can be as short as 7 years or so long as 17 years. By making observations on every possible day, a monthly averaged sunspot number can be calculated. The graph below shows the monthly sunspot numbers since January 1996 using my disk drawings.
Further drawings, other measures of solar activity derived from my observations and monthly summaries of sunspot activity and much more can be seen on this site.
I am an Assistant Director of the British Astronomical Association Solar Section and the Solar Editor of The Astronomer magazine. My solar observations are also submitted to Silso (Sunspot Index and Long-tem Solar Observations) and used, along with about 70 other solar observers, to create the International Sunspot Number. I have been solar observing for over 30 years and use a modest 80mm refractor with the safe projection method to produce the disk drawings you can see on this web site. To help in analysis of the disk drawings I have written three Windows® software programs, including Helio Viewer and Helio Creator.
Last updated on 26 September 2020. Comments to Peter Meadows