Conference celebrates award winning space mission

Thursday 2 September 2004

A group of maths experts from the University of St Andrews is hosting a major international conference to discuss the achievements of an award winning space mission which is helping to further mankind’s understanding of the Sun.

The Solar Theory Group from the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics has been actively involved in the achievements of the SOHO (SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory) mission which recently won the prestigious Laurels for Team Achievement Award.

The award, given by the International Academy of Astronautics, is a rarely bestowed accolade for space exploration. SOHO is only the third mission to win laurels, joining Russia’s Mir Space Station and NASA’s Space Shuttle in the astronautics hall of fame.

This award recognises both the outstanding achievements in designing, building and operating the SOHO mission, as well as the science it has performed and is a tribute to all the engineers and scientists that have contributed to one of the most successful space missions in history

Now, SOHO’s discoveries and the role played by St Andrews’ mathematicians will be the focus of a major international conference – SOHO 15 – taking place in St Andrews next week (September 6th to 10th).

Over 100 of the world’s leading solar scientists are expected to attend.

As part of the international conference, the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Professor John Brown, will give a free public lecture on Tuesday September 7th 2004 at 6 p.m. in the Physics and Astronomy Building, North Haugh, University of St Andrews. Afterwards, at 7pm, there will be refreshments and a chance for people to meet and put questions to some of the scientists working on the SOHO project.

Drs Ineke De Moortel, Daniel Brown and Clare Parnell, of the St Andrews’ Solar Theory Group, hope the lecture will allow the public of St Andrews and further afield to learn more about the magic of the sun and stars and the recent discoveries made the by SOHO mission.

“Every year a special international conference is held to celebrate the achievements of SOHO and for the first time, it’s the UK’s turn to play host. We’re absolutely delighted that St Andrews has been chosen as the venue and feel it’s very important that we offer the general public the opportunity to learn more about our studies of the Sun,” said Dr Parnell.

“SOHO is a project of international co-operation between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun, from its deep core to the outer atmosphere, and the solar wind. It carries twelve instruments (nine European-led and three American- led) and was launched by NASA’s Atlas II-AS rocket on 2 December 1995. The SOHO spacecraft is hovering in space about 1.5 million km from the Earth, but still 148 million km from the Sun.

“Over the past 9 years SOHO has totted up an impressive and unique list of achievements. For instance, it produced the first ever images of the turbulent outer shell of the Sun and of the structure below sunspots. It gave the most precise measurements of the solar temperature structure, the interior rotation and the gas flows inside the Sun. It measured the acceleration of the fast and slow solar winds and discovered new solar phenomena, such as solar tornadoes. It revolutionised our ability to forecast space weather, and helped our understanding of the impact of solar variability on Earth’s climate.”

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews. Contact : Niall Scott, tel 01334 462244, mobile 07711 223062



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