Daystar Quark Chromosphere Hydrogen Alpha Solar Filter

Quark; Fun in the (Bank Holiday) Sun! Monday 28th August 2017

Damian’s review – see Andy’s previously posted!


Wow – a Bank Holiday and sunshine!

Julie was pleased – we’d only just got back from a short break in South Wales at mum’s caravan, so all the washing was sorted whilst the house solar panels were kicking out the kWs and now it was all out on the line drying awaiting my super ironing skills!

I invited ‘observing buddy’ Andy (yep, that’s him above – shy you see!) around too, he came with his own Quark Chromo plus his SkyWatcher Equinox 80 and new to him Manfrotto tripod with video head. I like this a lot – far better than his Altair Astro Sabre mount.

Ice creams, food and drink, sun and warmth, good company… this solar malarkey is rather good fun!

So, third time out for the Quark and new sketching tools….

This time the Pentel 0.7mm Graphgear 1000 mechanical pencil was equipped with the new ‘Pilot Color Eno Neox’ red leads that had come all the way from Japan (via Amazon!) I gave Andy my second Graphgear pencil, but with the *orange Neox leads so he could try sketching (in reverse) as well. I like the mechanical pencil – it’s got a nice grip, retains it’s balance and you don’t need to stop to keep sharpening the point! I like the way this device has an extended metal tube to hold the lead and the way it retracts for safe storage.

*Coloured mechanical pencil leads:

When I started this experiment I chose Pentel red leads first as reviews stated they were less susceptible to snapping than the Staedtler ‘Mars Micro range’. They were also reasonably priced, so ‘worth a chance’ to see if they would ‘work’ on black paper (that the scanner could pick it up and I could see enough to work with when actually outside). The Pentel’s were… OK, but I found them rather hard and ‘scratchy’. This did give a nice filamentary effect to prominence sketches, but were quite hard work to get some coverage down onto the paper and took a bit too much processing in Photoshop afterwards to get the look I was after.

The internet search continued… to the Pilot Color Eno Neox – there is a cheaper ‘non Neox’ version I understand. These get good reviews in artistic circles. Soft but not too brittle, plenty of pigment, easy to rub out…   more expensive!

A purchase on Amazon and a wait for delivery…. I disappointingly found that the orange lead colour appeared more white on the cheaper black (dark grey) paper I was already using with the Pentel leads. In office scanner tests there was still enough of a colour to select in Photoshop for tuning later. Next purchase was a better black card stock. Thicker card, more ‘tooth’ to pick up the pigment in the leads and darker to aid colour contrast.

‘Canson’ black card stock (Amazon yet again). It has a decent weight (240g/m2), is much ‘blacker’ than the cheaper paper I had been using (helps the scan afterwards as well as giving more contrast when sketching), plus takes rubbing out without leaving marks on the surface. I still feel that perhaps the grain is too much, so will continue my search for an even smoother stock.

This though was an improvement, but decided that the red leads would be even better. So another purchase and wait!

Photo: Samsung Galaxy S7 through 32mm TV Plossl

Same, with iPhone 6

Well, it still doesn’t appear a rich red (like you see in Ha observing) when sketching onto black, but it’s easy to see when actually sketching out under the sun. It’s also much easier to scan and then tease into what I want the final image to be, without having to push/force things in Photoshop.

The orange leads could even be used for night time sketching as it would be easy to desaturate any remaining colour back to white.

The leads are easy to work – plenty of colour/coverage is easy to put down with minimum effort. I’ve not had one snap as yet either. They are easy to rub out without damaging the paper, soft so can be manipulated/smudged for subtle effects – would be good for galaxies/nebula…. but being soft, will run down quickly…. remind me of my old (and favourite) Caran d’Ache pencils from art college.

The other purchase that arrived for this observing session was the photo studio flash umbrella from eBay for £6 that had been mentioned previously on a SGL forum solar post. I had intended to fix with a goose neck device, but found that a bulldog clip did the job just as well. This is much lighter than the felt like fabric I’ve used at night (which gets damp…) It does let a small amount of light through, but being silver backed, doesn’t get overly hot. I found that using my sun hat pushes out the loose fabric of the umbrella – giving me room to work/sketch – a ‘result’!

Now you see me…

Now you don’t!

Another good three hours then under the sun. Some nice proms and a sunspot to entertain us. The Quarks performed superbly yet again. Under the right conditions I think both the new 25mm TV Plossl and the second hand 20mm Pentax XW will be of use from what I saw on Monday.

Sketches from the day – I think I’m homing in finally on my own style. Not quite there yet (think it’s the background that’s putting me off). My own representation then of what I saw – never going to be exact like a photograph, but a record of the event… with some fiery oomph thrown in!

Sketches not reversed.

Above prom seen at around 7pm on the GONG image below.

Below sketch of prom seen at roughly 10pm on the GONG image below.

**Also see Roger’s images posted from the day…



Clear skies,


Quark; Fun in the Sun! Sunday 2nd July, 2017

Sunday afternoon’s weather was better than expected, so I decided to give the Quark its second run out…

Thought it was a good chance to run it from my RavPower LiPoly battery pack that I use to power the Nexus WiFi device and occasionally the iPad running SkySafari (rather than the mains adapter). Useful to know for when mains isn’t available when doing outreach and the like. Andy finds that one of his packs turns off periodically – when the Quark has heated up and then stops drawing power… note also new, matching ‘red/black’ micro USB cable (a single pound from Amazon… all the way from China!)

As well as the 32mm Plossl used before, I’d acquired a S/H 40mm Televue (awaiting the 25mm) off eBay, so it was a chance to try out that as well.

Rather than using white pencil on black paper as previous, I’d been thinking of other methods – so this time I was going to experiment with a new Pentel 0.7mm Graphgear 1000 mechanical pencil with red leads onto white paper.

Pleased to find that the battery doesn’t auto switch-off and over the 2 hours of observing didn’t even drop a quarter of it’s power (according to its four little blue lights). The 40mm is useful for when the conditions don’t allow for the 32 (although the eye relief is too much – I’m going to get some of them TV eye extenders I think).

It’s amazing the difference my black (night time observing), cloth increases the view, but it is a little too heavy and warm… so I took a chance and purchased one of those photo studio flash umbrellas from eBay for £6, that was mentioned in a thread a few weeks ago on StargazersLounge. I have a plan to attach it to my homemade sun-shield… or something !

Sketches from the day. Inverted in Photoshop. I’m liking the red pencil leads although they are slightly hard. I’ve got some hopefully softer leads on the way and will probably change paper stock as well.


GONG image included for comparison. My sketches above not inverted but you can match up easily the ‘second’ and ‘fifth’ sketches to  those on the upper left and right of the GONG image. When I was drawing the ‘fifth’ one around 5.15, I thought it reminded me of a fishing fly… it still does here!

The Quark behaved admirably yet again and seems a good match to the TSA, showing superb prominence structure and plenty of surface features (despite the lack of them yesterday!)

Clear skies,




Solar observing and photography in Hydrogen Alpha, using Damian’s new & Andy’s not-so-new Daystar Quark Chromosphere filters

What a fantastic day! The sun shone all day with hardly a cloud in sight – an ideal day for Damian to try out his new (second hand – collected yesterday) Daystar Quark Chromosphere Hydrogen Alpha filter. For those of you new to these devices, they look like an eyepiece and fit into the diagonal at the eyepiece end of the telescope. You then fit an eyepiece into the filter (the Quark is the red thing in the photos below) or camera and start observing.

We saw multiple prominences and two sunspots. Our experience demonstrated that Damian has done very well with his purpose – and excellent filter with a narrower band-width than my own (I bought along my own Daystar Quark Chromosphere today) which meant we could see better surface detail on the sun using his device. Not that I am concerned – my own performs well – it is just that Damian has done even better. Well done on a fantastic purpose!

We discovered a number of things today:

(i) Damian’s Novohitch mount is really quite stunning, not just for night time observation but also for observing the sun. In particular, it has some excellent fine movement controls that allow the observer to move around the solar disc when it is highly magnified, as happens with the Quark.

(ii) Daystar’s recommendation of the 32mm Televue Plossl really is a good choice for visual observing with this filter, whether in my Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm or through Damian’s Takahashi. There is roughly 60% more focal length in his scope but even so the 32mm performs excellently in both.

(iii) I need to get an appropriately sized Allen Key for my Equinox 80mm bag – the imperial bolts that I needed to use to hold a Vixen bar onto the bottom of the scope’s own bar (to prevent marring and to give longer bar I added this one on) can’t be tightened using a standard set of British (metric) Allen keys. Good job Damian found one in his kit as my scope was wobbling around a bit!

(iv) The fold out laptop sun shades recommended by Ed Mann are wonderfully useful devices and worth every penny. Damian showed me how to fold it up again – thanks Damian! It wasn’t obvious how to do the necessary twist.

(v) I was using my scope with my Altair Astro alt-az mount today – not good – too much striction. My Half Hitch would be a better choice (little brother to Damian’s Novohitch) – both of the Hitch mounts are made by a meticulous single-handed chap in the USA who ensures there is absolutely no striction whatsoever.

(vi) I eventually got my DMK camera working with it – the use of a 0.5x focal reducer (borrowed from Damian) really helped – I have one somewhere and need to search it out. I have included some video taken with the DMK below.

(vii) I must remember to bring counter-weights – embarrassing!

(viii) I also managed to scratch Damian’s outside door (sorry!) but thankfully did not drop anything…..yet – I am going back in a couple of hours for part II – a night-time observing session.

(vix) A tracking mount would help when trying to photograph. However I got success on my videos with a drift method – starting at one side, turn video on and then collect video as sun drifts past camera field of view.

(vx) At one point my DMK over-heated in the sun and stopped working. We did not know this was possible until today.

(vxi) Possibly the best lesson of the day was just how useful a solar finder composed of a standard finder with a white light solar filter made from solar film is – once aligned with the sun it makes it much easier to find it again – the zero power finders from the likes of Televue etc. just don’t cut the mustard in this respect. Damian had made one and I saw its usefulness in action – so I made one on the spot and immediately found the process of videoing the sun easier.

Andy and Damian


Damian observing with his new Daystar Quark Chromosphere Hydrogen Alpha filter on his Takahashi telescope with Novohitch mount (below):

Andy and Damian


Andy with his Sky Watcher Equinox 80mm Telescope and Daystar Quark Hydrogen Alpha filter on Altar Astro alt-az mount (below):

The following photographs were taken at Damian’s telescope through the 32mm Plossl eyepiece attached to the Quark. Andy used his Samsung S7 camera hand held afocally next to the eyepiece (below). They show prominences on the edge of the solar disc:


The next photograph was taken by Damian at his telescope using his iPhone 6 (below). This also shows a large detached prominence at edge of solar disc (below):

These photographs are taken from Damian’s laptop screen showing a filament on the solar disc, Newtons rings (horizontal striping) and two sunspots on the disc and an arcing prominence seen through Damian’s telescope with Quark & pictured by his DMK camera used instead of an eyepiece on the Quark  (below):

The following show sunspots, one through each scope – first Damian’s and second (colour) Andy’s – both of us have DMK cameras – mine is colour and Damian’s black and white:


Videos of the solar disc showing sunspots and prominences on Equinox Pro 80mm scope with Quark. The camera is the colour DMK (below):