Tips to observe Sunrise behind SriPada

By Dr Kavan Ratnatunga

The SriPada Peak with a height of 2.2 km is about 64 km from Mount Lavinia and therefore seen at an altitude of about 2 degrees above the horizon. From Colombo the Mountain covers a region just smaller than the half a degree or apparent diameter of the Sun.

From Colombo the Sun rises about 24 degrees south of East on the 21st of December. From this southern extreme, the location of Sunrise moves north each day, rising towards east on the March 21st, around which time the direction of Sunrise moves north by about 0.4 degrees each day. Finally it is 24 degree north of East on June 21st, and starts moving South.

So on two days of each year from any particular location from Kandana to Kalutara, you can see the silhouette of the SriPada mountain against the Sun at Sunrise, if it is not cloudy towards the eastern horizon. Weather which limits the SriPada season from December to May, makes this the best period to have reasonable chance of clear view of the sun rise behind SriPada as well.

The first thing to find a location to which you can easily get to before Sunrise. Estimate azimuth to SriPada from your location of observation. In a website such as http://www.heavens-above.com/ you can set the longitude and latitude of your observing site and compute the daily azimuth of Sunrise to find when it is about the same as to SriPada from your location.

Conditions ideal for Photographing Sunrise behind SriPada

As always, Never try to observe or photograph the Sun without proper filters, when it is more than about 2 degrees above the horizon, as there is then insufficient atmosperic extinction.

In US I had purchased a Sony Mavica FD97 SLR 2.1MP digital camera with a good Macro to take images of coins. After a few attempts found it took too long. I had also hoped I could attach it to a Telescope, but only after I purchased it did I discover that the lens could not be removed like in a normal SLR camera. So this digital camera sat idle like most expensive toys.

It had now become very useful to photograph the Sun since it had 10X optical zoom and steady shot. it was also used for the 2010 January 15th Annular Eclipse photographs.

For more images from my quest to photograph sunrise behind SriPada please download and look at my PowerPoint presentation (2.8 MB).
See also a fabulous view from 2010 March 16th (0.93 MB)