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New Eyes on the Sun
Submitted: Thursday, 15th March 2012 by Peter Mead

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New Eyes on the Sun, by Dr. John Wilkinson


Such an information rich book, full of well explained concepts and detailed colour images to help understand modern solar astronomy and get an appreciation of the many technological advances in recent times. John works through How the Sun effect the Earth, using Sun data from USA, European Space Agency, Japan, Germany, the UK and Russia. He has presented his information via many colour photos, which helped me understand the features of the Sun's surface and atmosphere.

John explains how amateur astronomers can now partake in this field of research which was once only possible with specialised instruments. Now with the advent of affordable hydrogen-alpha telescopes, Amateurs can begin to contribute in this field, as I do using a PST.

John also goes into the vast array of imagery available on the Internet and how to interpret these images. What the latest 3D images are revealing. How to compare your own solar observations to that of SDO, SOHO, Hindone and STEREO.

The book goes into detail about transits, eclipses, space weather, and how our sun compares to other stars. The Sun, the only star close enough for us to study in full detail by using probes on-board satellites. It is now possible to monitor in detail prominences, filaments, spicules, colonial outbursts, and John explains how this is available for the amateur to study and get involved in this field.


New Eyes on the Sun has 10 chapters, a complete glossary or terms, and a full index.

Chapter 1: Warming to the Sun.

This chapter is a very informative journey to begin the book. Starting with the Solar System and continuing through, the Sun, Source of Energy and Luminosity, the interior of the Sun, the Sun's atmosphere, other solar radiation. I was particularly interested in the Sun's magnetic field and the Sun-Earth relationship, also Alternative Models of the Sun.

Chapter 2: Probing the Sun.

Covering the many solar probes from Early, Recent and Future Solar Probes. There are a lot more than I knew about, and there are more future probes being developed.

Chapter 3: Activity in the Photosphere.

John explains the features that can be observed on the Sun's visible surface. Including Granulation, Sunspots, Faculae, Flocculi and Plage.

Chapter 4: Activity in the Chromosphere and Corona.

Going into detail about the Sun's atmospheric activity such as Spicules, Prominences and Filaments, Solar Fares, Coronal Mass Ejections, Coronal Holes. I learned how to classify Prominences according to their shape.

Chapter 5: Eclipses and Transits

Covering Solar Eclipses, Lunar Eclipses, Solar Transits, and of course information that I feel will enhance my experience of the 2012 transit of Venus.

Chapter 6: Observing the Sun.

John describes safe methods for amateurs to observe the Sun. Including, White Light, Hydrogen-alpha and h-alpha telescopes and Calcium II K. Finding your directions on the sun, and Heliographic Coordinates. Some of John's own photography in this section is quite good.

Chapter 7: Satellite Images of the Sun.

In this chapter, John has written about all of the satellite imagery available and how to interpret them. Including SOHO, SDO, Solar Monitor, Solar Data Analysis Centre, Helioviewer and JHelioviewer and STEREO 3D images. Also covering 3D Sun for iPhone to assist your astronomy.

Chapter 8: Space Weather.

John presents information on the solar wind, and the Earth's magnetosphere. Including Auroras, Cosmic Rays, Tracking Solar Storms. John also talks about Space Weather Websites.

Chapter 9: The Sun and Earth's Climate.

John talks about the the effect the Sun has on our climate, and climate change. John also explains about the climate and the sunspot cycle and gives an overall picture of the Earth's climate.

Chapter 10: The Sun and Stars.

John examines our Sun as a star, then draws comparisons with other stars. Including Distance to Stars, Brightness, Temperature and Size of Stars, Spectral classification of Stars. Also, John talks about Star Formation, Stellar Evolution, and the Fate of the Sun over the next several billion years.


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Colour picture

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My thoughts

I finished this book feeling like I know more than I could have otherwise hoped for without formal tutition in this area. For amateur astronomers, this book can open a whole new avenue for your research to follow. For the enthusiast, it will be an enjoying reading and visual experience, especially John's own photographs, which I was very impressed with. It has certainly enhance my own viewing experience through our Coronado PST.
However, I felt the book may have brushed over some of the finer details of the forthcoming James Webb Telescope. In particular, there could have been more infomation on how it will use the near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec) and the mid-infrared spectrometer (MIRI) to perform meaningful observations. I would like to have had some more insight into how this new Telescope is going to work.

About the Author

Dr. John Wilkinson has worked in the field of science, physics and chemistry at university level and other education for over 30 years. He has authored over 100 science textbooks, and operates his own amateur observatory. John has also authored 'Probing the New Solar System' and 'The Moon in Close-up' both of which have been well regarded.

I have seen this book for sale on starting from $35 for a paperback or $19 for a Kindle version.

This book is now a valuable addition to my library.


Review by Peter Mead – BDAS President. Discuss this review on the IceInSpace Forum.

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