Solar Viewings – Summer 2024

It’s been a big year for the sun on PEI: we had the solar eclipse in April, and Northern Lights caused by solar ejections in May. We invite you to get a more detailed view of the sun (than eclipse glasses or a pinhole projector can provide) by looking through our solar telescopes.

We will be having public viewing sessions with our solar telescopes on the following dates (every second Friday) from 12:30-2:00pm.

  • May 31 Cancelled due to cloudy forecast
  • June 14 Cancelled due to cloudy forecast
  • June 28
  • July 12
  • July 26
  • August 9
  • August 23

Based on our experience, we anticipate that we will have to cancel at least half of the above dates due to cloudy weather. If it’s too cloudy to see the sun, then we will cancel that day’s event. This post will be updated in the event of any cancellations.

What you can expect to see

We will offer you views of two of the sun’s atmospheric layers, showing features caused by the sun’s dynamic magnetic activity. With a white-light solar filter on our observatory telescope, you will get to view the sun’s photosphere, which is currently showing many sunspots (see example image below). Through our hydrogen-alpha solar telescope, you will view the sun’s chromosphere – a dimmer atmospheric layer than can only be seen by filtering out all the light except the red emitted by hot hydrogen. The chromosphere shows prominences and filaments, which are protrusions of plasma. A web-like pattern covers the chromosphere, outlining supergranules. You may also see plages, which are bright areas usually surrounding sunspots.

Sunspots visible on the photosphere of the sun, as imaged by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on May 14, 2024.
The sun’s chromosphere (viewed through a red solar filter), showing dark filaments and bright plages on the solar disk, and prominences protruding along the edge. Image captured using UPEI’s hydrogen-alpha telescope on May 14, 2024.

Meeting area

The meeting location for this event will be the grassy area between Memorial Hall and Robertson Library (see photo and campus map below). There you’ll find our hydrogen-alpha telescope that you can look through. We’ll direct you on how to find your way to the observatory when space is available. (Due to the observatory’s small size, we have to control how many people can go into it at once.)

The event meeting area is this grassy area next to Memorial Hall. This photo also shows our observatory on top of Memorial Hall.
The event will be held between Memorial Hall (building 9) and Robertson Library (building 15) and is marked with a yellow star on the campus map above. Parking is available in campus lots A, (ungated) B, D, and the MacLauchlan Arena lot.

Accessibility

To reach our observatory, you must be able to climb stairs, because the building’s elevator can’t take people beyond the fourth floor, and the observatory is one storey above that. However, our ground-based telescope is accessible for people who are not able to climb stairs.

Age to attend

We welcome attendees of any age; however, to fully enjoy the viewing experience, anyone attending needs to be able to follow directions regarding how to look into a telescope eyepiece, what they can touch, and what they can’t touch. We leave it up to parents/guardians to assess whether their child is capable of the above tasks. We will also have our Sunspotter telescope at the event, which shows sunspots and doesn’t require looking into an eyepiece.

Our Sunspotter telescope provides a view of sunspots on the photosphere that can be viewed by people who have trouble looking through a telescope eyepiece; for example very young children.

Winter 2024 Public Viewings

We will once again schedule viewings every two weeks this semester, anticipating that at least half of the events will be cancelled by cloudy weather. We’re also switching our viewing night to a weekday evening (to work around the early building lock-up that happens on weekends).

The dates and times that we’ve scheduled are below. Note that the event times shift later as the dates get closer to the spring equinox (and that the times jump an hour later in March after Daylight Saving Time begins).

  • Thursday, February 1, 7:00-9:00 PM CANCELLED due to cloudy weather
  • Thursday, February 15, 7:00-9:00 PM CANCELLED due to cloudy weather
  • Thursday, February 29, 7:30-9:30 PM CANCELLED due to cloudy weather
  • Thursday, March 14, 8:30-10:30 PM CANCELLED due to cloudy weather
  • Thursday, March 28, 8:30-10:30 PM CANCELLED due to cloudy weather

In the event of cloudy weather, this post will be updated to indicate if an event is cancelled.

If you’re coming to our event, meet us in room 417 of Memorial Hall. We’ll have some astronomy activities and information for a variety of ages that you can peruse while you wait for your turn to go up to the observatory.

Accessibility: You can take an elevator up to room 417, but it is necessary to climb stairs from there up to the roof and into the observatory to reach the telescope.

Fall 2023 Public Viewings

This fall, we are going to try scheduling a viewing approximately every two weeks, with the expectation that cloudy weather will likely force us to cancel half of the events. We have used this strategy in recent years for our summer solar viewings with reasonable success; now we’ll see how it works with PEI fall weather!

  • Saturday, November 4, 7:00-9:00 PM – a challenging viewing with patchy clouds, but 44 guests got to view Jupiter and its 4 largest moons.
  • Saturday, November 18, 6:30-8:30 PM CANCELLED (due to cloudy weather)
  • Saturday, December 2, 6:30-8:30 PM CANCELLED (due to cloudy weather)
  • Thursday, December 21 (the winter solstice), 6:00-8:00 PM CANCELLED (due to cloudy weather)

In the event of cloudy weather, this post will be updated to indicate if an event is cancelled.

If you’re coming to our event, meet us in room 417 of Memorial Hall. We’ll have some astronomy activities and information for a variety of ages that you can peruse while you wait for your turn to go up to the observatory.

Accessibility: You can take an elevator up to room 417, but it is necessary to climb stairs from there up to the roof and into the observatory to reach the telescope.

International Observe the Moon Night 2023 – CANCELLED

UPDATE (7:40am Oct 21): Due to the cloudy weather, this event has been cancelled.

Join people around the world viewing the moon on Saturday, October 21 by stopping by our observatory between 7:00 and 9:00 pm, where you can get an up-close view of our astronomical neighbour.

Come to Memorial Hall room 417 where Physics Department staff or local astronomy enthusiasts will greet you and direct you up to the observatory when it is your turn. There will be moon-themed activities for all ages while you wait.

If clouds block the view of the moon, this event will be cancelled. This post will be updated by 9:00am on October 21 in the event of a cancellation.

Accessibility: While you can take an elevator up to the 4th floor of Memorial Hall, it is necessary to be able to climb stairs to reach the roof and the observatory.