Solar Autoguider

The Sun has been gaining popularity as a target for astrophotographers of late, thanks to a spectacular awakening from a prolonged solar minimum, and special events such as the recent Cairns total eclipse and transit of Venus. The specialised equipment needed for solar viewing and photography has also become increasingly more affordable, and so it’s no surprise that we are seeing some stunning images and observations of our nearest star.
One of the most interesting areas of solar imaging to emerge is time lapse - watching billowing prominences and filaments, lapping like a kitten at milk, is a beautifully inspiring sight. There are several challenges for anyone who attempts to capture these phenomena, one of which is guiding. Normal night-time astrophotography has many autoguiding solutions available, via relatively affordable hardware and software that has become a staple of any modern imaging rig. Most of us are familiar with how this works - a guide scope and camera aligned to the imaging scope, software using digital movements of a guide star providing tracking corrections to the mount. However, this method can’t be directly applied to solar time lapse photography, as pointing a guide scope or camera to the Sun would quickly damage the equipment and could become dangerous. Not to mention the disc would be too large to use as a guide star anyway. The prevailing way to overcome this has been to achieve a perfect polar alignment prior to imaging, but in reality this is easy to say but impractical, if not impossible, to do.
In development since 2009, the first iteration of the Solar Autoguider won its category in the Astronomy Society of NSW South Pacific Star Party Awards in 2010. The current version took out the same award in 2012.

Demonstration videos made with Time Source and the Solar Autoguider.

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