Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project Helps Students Capture Amazing Images of the Sun
Thursday, January 05, 2012
On Dec. 19, 2011, a sixth-grade student at Hopewell Middle School in Alpharetta, Ga. captured an image of an extremely rare Calcium K wavelength image of a Boeing 737 transiting a massive sunspot group on the nearest star - the sun (pictured above). This image and many others like it were captured using observatory quality equipment provided by the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project.
This cutting edge science outreach program was founded and is directed by Atlanta Center controller and 23-year NATCA member Stephen W. Ramsden.
“I know I can take pretty good images,” said Ramsden. “But it is so much more rewarding when you teach a student how to do it themselves.”
Students take their own images of the Sun through the programs narrowband telescopes and high-speed imagers (pictured below).
Ramsden lectures on Solar Physics and provides interactive solar observing and imaging to over 60,000 students at 50-60 school events annually around the country.
“When I was a kid, everyone I knew wanted to be an astronaut or scientist,” Ramsden said. “We were completely absorbed by the passion for space exploration during the Apollo missions. I want to reignite this drive for science in our youth. This project combines solar astronomy and aviation safety from the ATC point of view just in time for any potential safety impacts experienced during the upcoming Solar Maximum in 2013.”
Through the NATCA Charitable Foundation, NATCA is able to provide free solar viewing glasses for each and every attendee at Ramsden’s outreach events. The NASA Night Sky Network recently certified the program as America’s highest volume astronomy outreach program and Ramsden as being one of the world’s foremost solar astronomers. He has had images and articles disseminated in Sky & Telescope, Astronomy Now, Astronomy Technology Today and other publications including this recent image featured in National Geographic:
The image pictured above was captured by a ninth-grade student at one of Ramsden’s events and was featured on websites all over the world. The Charlie Bates Project also sponsors remote outreach programs in 17 countries by providing expertise, advice and equipment through an Internet based astronomy outreach club.
Ramsden will be driving the SUN.S.P.O.T. van at CFS where he will lecture about the sun, and how recent and upcoming solar activity may impact aviation safety. For more information on the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project, visit www.solarastronomy.org.