CV-135 Gema Araujo, Spain

CV-Helios Network member since 22nd August 2002

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Spanish Amateur Astronomer Sets Her Sight on the Sun

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a joint space mission to observe the sun conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The SOHO web site is well worth a visit, especially because the site is very friendly to amateur astronomers. A future news story will have much more about the amateur astronomer connections with SOHO.

The SOHO web site web site has featured some stories by various amateur astronomers. One recent feature is by a Spanish amateur astronomer who devotes several hours a day to observing the sun through her personal equipment. Her story is so inspirational that it deserves to be repeated here:

"My name is Gema Araujo. I'm a 34 year-old Spanish housewife. I live in a small tourist city called Merida, located in the south of Spain and declared an historical patrimony of humanity because of its Roman ruins. I began to observe the sun during the solar eclipse of August 1999 (partial in Spain) and was fascinated with the sunspots. Since the year 2000, I observe daily between two and three hours. I follow the evolution of the groups of spots and keep an observation log. During each session I make a drawing of the visible spots. Despite having a camera, I don't track spots that way because, besides helping me to calculate the Wolf number (an international sunspot counting formula), the drawing is very relaxing for me. I also make images of the groups with a webcam. I regularly collaborate with several associations and bodies like the AAVSO (The American Association Of Variable Star Observers), CV-Helios Network (Norway), Solar Observers Society (Poland) and SIDC (Sunspot Index Data Center, Royal Observatory of Belgium) in order to calculate the indices of the solar activity by sending them data from my observations. For ALPO (Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers) I send daily images of the active groups. I have collaborated also on occasion with amateur magazines that publish solar images and articles about solar observation.

"Observing the Sun is very relaxing and pleasant for me and it has generated unforgettable moments, such as the pursuit of the maximum of activity of the year the 2000 or observation of the transits of Mercury and Venus, events that I had the luck of being able to follow and to capture almost in its totality. One of the best moments was a month ago when I could for the first time observe the Sun in H-alpha with my new Coronado PST 40 and I was completely fascinated. In the future I'd like to mount a small station for radio astronomy in my house to complete the pursuit of solar activity. I consider myself a very lucky person because where I live in a climate that is sunny most days and I have the time to dedicate to observation. In spring and summer the sun is very high and I must improvise an observatory in the patio.

"My learning has been self-taught. I do not have an academic background in this, but I try to read everything that I can (books, articles, manuals) about solar observation, physics and to learn from the experience of other observers. At the moment, and with the aid of other amateurs, I am learning to photograph and to process images in H-alpha. I attempt to expand solar observation by amateur astronomers and those who follow solar activity and encourage their interest. For this I participate in e-mail groups to which to ship images and alert whenever some important spot can be seen and trying to help new observers. In 2001 seeing that on the internet there was not much information in Spanish on the sun and its observation, I decided to create a Web page with my observations and a manual of observation. Now on the site numerous observers collaborate by publishing their works (articles, drawings and photographs). It offers a forum that tries to unite Spanish language observers for sharing observations and questions. On occasion an amateur has written me to say thanks because my observations or the page Web have caused that they are now also observing the sun and that is very rewarding for me.

"Ever since I began to observe I follow closely the images of the SOHO. They were in the beginning helpful for fixing the position and size of the groups since I did not have a camera. Now I can take my own photographs and measure them, but I continue watching and keeping a daily image of the MDI and especially those from EIT. The SOHO images also allow me to follow solar activity when the atmospheric conditions are poor and I cannot make observations. My equipment consists of an achromatic refractor of 80mm and a Coronado PST. This picture was taken the 28th April. In the monitor of the computer is visible the active region 0756 in H-alpha. I observe from a room of my house."