For some students or staff who have ever wanted to stare at the sun and examine it, now there is a chance. 

The Athens Astronomical Society will throw a Sun Party on Friday, in which passersby can safely take a glimpse at the sun through a telescope at Scripps Amphitheater. 

“The stuff is always over your head and not many people look up very often, especially not at the sun through a telescope,” Ben Weiser, the vice president of the Athens Astronomical Society, said. “It’s curious to see how people react to getting the universe right in their eyes.”

If You Go:

What: Sun Party

When: 1 p.m., Friday

Where: Scripps Amphitheater

Admission: Free

The upcoming Sun Party is a tradition known as sidewalk astronomy or guerrilla astronomy that started in the 1970s in San Francisco, George Ebert, the adviser for Athens Astronomical Society, said. 

“It’s basically doing astronomy on some street corner and inviting anybody passing by to share,” Ebert said. “Doing sidewalk astronomy is a good way that all astronomy groups do outreach.” 

Looking directly at the sun or looking through a telescope can cause permanent retinal damage, but the group will use a Coronado H-Alpha filter that connects to the telescope to study the sun.  The white light filter cuts about 99 percent of the light coming from the sun. The one percent of light makes the sun’s distinct features visible, such as its disc and sunspots. 

Sunspots are darker regions of the sun that have intense magnetic fields and is cooler than the rest of the solar surface, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“Normally, there’s a bunch of material being convected up through the interior of the sun,” Weiser, a senior at Athens High School, said. “But occasionally, the huge magnetic field lines of the sun get tangled and they inhibit that flow, creating a dark cool spot on the sun, and they look like little flowers.”

The sun goes through a roughly 11-year solar cycle, in which the sun has a maximum amount of sunspots and then a minimum number of sunspots. The most recent peak number of sunspots occurred in 2011 or 2012, Ebert said. 

“Astronomers will not be surprised, if in a few years, the sunspots don’t come back as much as they normally have,” Ebert said. “We may be entering a time of very minimal solar activity.” 

The lack of sunspots is a much less serious situation than having too many sunspots, Ebert said. 

“If there’s way too many sunspots, then a lot of our communication technology might be fried,” Ebert said. “You definitely want to see that one coming.”

Jackie Briski, a member of the Athens Astronomical Society, said she is looking forward to seeing some of the details of the sun, like the sunspots.

“The thing that interests me about sunspots is the fact that they are details you can’t see with the naked eye,” Briski, an Athens resident, said. “I had heard about them, but when I first saw them I was pretty amazed.” 

The Athens Astronomical Society hosts other opportunities to stargaze and look at outer space such as open observatory nights at the observatory at Ridges facilities. Ethan Gower, the president of the organization and who is a blogger for The Post, officially founded the group in January of 2017, but the group has been meeting since the beginning of 2016. 

People are welcome to swing by and take a look without it taking all afternoon, Briski said. 

“I don’t think people think about (the sun) very much,” Briski said. “You notice if it’s sunny, you notice if it’s cloudy. But you don’t actually notice the sun unless it’s inconveniencing you in some way. Either it’s too bright and you need sunglasses or it’s cloudy and you can’t see anything.”


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