Wednesday 13 December 2017

Hello sunshine: Irish role in solar camera

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

THE sun's blazing inferno has been crystallised into a blue corona and green gas in these stunning new photographs beamed to Earth from a satellite.

It is one of the images captured by a new state-of-the-art camera which was designed in conjunction with a 12-strong team of scientists from Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

Showing the sun's atmosphere, the camera onboard the Proba-2 satellite will beam down photographs every minute for the next four years helping to unlock the mystery of solar storms.

Dr Peter Gallagher, leader of the TCD Solar Physics team, said the revolutionary camera had allowed scientists to take pictures of the sun's atmosphere in high-speed "burst mode" every 60 seconds before transmitting them first to Belgium and then to Dublin.

"The blue picture of the sun shows the sun's atmosphere, the corona. It has a temperature of about one million degrees kelvin (celsius), so it's very hot.

"There are huge explosions that occur in the atmosphere of the sun and which can send hot blobs of gas down towards us. When they hit the Earth they can create the aurora borealis or they can cause errors in technology here, for example with GPS (global positioning systems)."

The first observations were unveiled at a conference at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels yesterday.

"We're really chuffed. They give a nice snapshot of what's happening on the sun," Dr Gallagher said.

Irish Independent

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