Amazing pictures of the sun taken from St Margaret's back garden
This close-up of a region
on the surface of the sun shows a number of sunspots and hydrogen
gas flowing along magnetic lines. Picture: Paul Andrew
Here is the sun as you've never seen it before - from a Kent
The amazing pictures were taken in St
Margaret's, near Dover, by amateur astronomer Paul Andrew.
Using a solar telescope costing thousands of pounds, the
58-year-old took the photographs capturing the sun's
surface that give NASA a run for their money.
Paul is president and founder of South East Kent Astronomical
Society and lives in the village.
This year is the 40th anniversary of SEKAS,
which has 120 members, drawn mainly from the Deal-Dover area but
also from the Canterbury, Thanet and Folkestone-Hythe areas.
Solar telescopes are specialised and highly powerful, costing
several thousands of pounds.
"They allow people to view the sun in hydrogen alpha light which
is not visible in normal white light," said Paul.
"Of course, no one should ever look directly at the sun with any
optics unless you have a specially modified telescope and you know
what you are doing."
The full disc picture of the sun has been published in some of
the top astronomy websites in the UK and the US.
What looks like a squiggly line on it is a filament, which is
more than 600,000 kilometres long.
"Filaments are clouds of cooler gas suspended above the surface
of the sun by magnetic fields.
It is because they are cooler than their surroundings that they
appear dark. But if they appear on the edge of the sun, they then
appear brighter than space behind them. In that case we call them
"Basically filaments and prominences are the same thing, but
seen either against the surface of the sun or against the blackness
The other picture, showing a close-up of the solar surface,
shows what astronomers call an active region – a very turbulent
area where the gas on the sun is more active, with the sun's
magnetic field bursting through its surface and causing
The hair–like line in
this view of the sun is a filament more than 600,000 kms long.
Picture: Paul Andrew
All three pictures were also used in the Russian newspaper
Paul, who works as a photographer, said: "I have had photographs
used in books and magazines before, but this was the first time
they have been used in Russia.
"Someone from Pravda noticed them on a website and got in touch
Having the pictures used in Pravda and on some of the top
astronomy websites is an appropriate accolade in SEKAS's 40th
Paul, who has lived in St Margaret's since 1963, started the
society in 1972. He got hooked on astronomy after reading a book on
the subject by Patrick Moore when he was 11. He bought his first
telescope shortly afterwards.
He met his wife Catherine, a retired primary school teacher,
through the society in 1978.
Catherine is another keen astronomer who got to hear about SEKAS
and started coming along to meetings.
The couple's 28-year-old daughter Claire, who lives in Dover, is
another keen astronomer. And, of course, she is a SEKAS
Paul Andrew and fellow
astronomer Henry Williams with the solar telescope
Paul, who now has seven telescopes, has built two observatories
at his home. He will shortly start work on another for his solar
"Keen astronomers tend to buy one telescope and then get other,
more powerful ones.
"But astronomy does not have to be expensive. People can start
with a pair of binoculars. They can learn the constellations and
find out about the Milky Way and be blown away by that.
"But they will find that if they come along to our meetings or
observations, they get so much out of it."
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