Sun in full view at Spruce

DAVE DORMER

, Last Updated: 2:09 PM ET

Telescopes are usually used for spying objects in the sky you can't see with the naked eye.

But there's one set up at Spruce Meadows this weekend offering visitors a close up view of something that's so visible, your parents probably warned you against ever looking right at it.

That's the Sun.

In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo first using a telescope to discover the moons of Jupiter, which kick-started the modern era of science and astronomy, the Telus World of Science has set up an H-Alpha Scope -- especially designed to block all light except the hydrogen-alpha band, giving as true a view of the sun as possible.

"That's because the Sun is made of hydrogen gas," said Mark Windsor, discovery leader for astronomy at the Telus World of Science.

"So the reactions that happen with hydrogren gas emit light."

Looking through the scope, the Sun appears as a giant orange orb with tiny waves licking off its side like heat rising off a desert highway.

"The Sun is about 91 Earths across, so you can imagine how big (the flames) are, even though they look small," Windsor said.

A second telescope fitted with a special filter allows users to see sun spots when they occur.

"It's like a pair of super sunglasses. It blocks out over 99% of the light, but it's all visible light, so we see everything, and (the sun) looks white.

"At night, we take the filter off and look at the stars and moon."

Allowing people, especially kids, to see the heavens can help give them a sense of just how big the universe is, said Jennifer Howse of the University of Calgary Observatory.

"You're naturally curious about the natural world, and this gives you a glimpse into something you normally can't see," Howse said.

The telescopes are set up behind the BMO Fan Centre, and viewing is available all day.


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