Living with a star: surviving near our explosive Sun

Living with a star The twin STEREO spacecraft observe the Sun from 2 different view points allowing scientists to create 3-D images of the Sun and it’s eruptions CREDIT: NASA

Professor Peter Cargill, Imperial College London
Professor Louise Harra, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London
Professor Richard Harrison, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Dr Helen Mason, University of Cambridge
Dr Robert Walsh, University of Central Lancashire

The Sun's explosions and eruptions understood using the latest space missions

A collaboration of researchers from the UK are using two new space missions to better understand how the Sun produces the largest eruptions in the Solar System, as part of International Heliophysical Year (IHY). The Hinode and STEREO missions will allow scientists to understand how the eruptions are triggered and to predict which ones will hit the Earth.

The eruptions, called coronal mass ejections (CMEs), blast high-speed particles into the Solar System.

“The Sun regularly produces immense eruptions,” explains Dr Lucie Green from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London. “If CMEs hit the Earth they can damage satellites and disrupt electrical power lines, but until now we haven’t been able to accurately predict which CMEs are headed our way.”

“The new missions are special because they give us a 3D view of the Sun and allow us to track CMEs on route to the Earth,” continues Lucie. “Using these new observations we can not only better understand the Sun’s activities, but we should be able to predict ‘space weather’.”

The UK team consists of scientists from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Universities of Aberystwyth, Cambridge and Central Lancashire, Imperial College London and University College London and Armagh Observatory.