Our star is a marvelous orb of seething hot gas. It periodically grows sunspots, “cooler” regions where the magnetic field has become tangled and knotted. Tendrils of plasma called prominences unfurl from the solar limb into space, sometimes making the Sun look like a hairy ball when viewed through a telescope.

You should never gaze directly at the Sun through binoculars or a scope without a proper filter, because the lens magnifies the light so much that it could damage your eyes. But with the proper solar gear, you can observe the Sun at your leisure.

We’ve pulled together all the tips you’ll need to safely observe the Sun. We also have information on how to observe and sketch sunspots.

Faculae along solar limb on July 18, 2014

Blank Sun? Faculae to the Rescue!

Fascinating faculae provide a way for anyone with a small telescope to track the ups and downs of the solar cycle — even when there are no sunspots. Sunspots get all the press. Last week the Web hummed with articles about a spotless Sun, the first time since August 2011 our star wore a...

Welder's filter used as a solar filter

Solar Filter Safety

Before an eclipse occurs the media often provides information on how to watch the event safely. Unfortunately, despite the best intentions, inaccurate or confusing information on safe observing techniques is often provided. Here are the facts.

Why do you need a hydrogen-alpha filter to see solar prominences?

If I can see solar prominences with the naked eye during a total eclipse, why do I need a hydrogen-alpha filter to see them at other times? During a total eclipse the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s photosphere, or visible “surface,” allowing prominences (and the corona) to shine in all their glory. Without the...