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Corona’s clues to ‘space weather’

Scientists at the University of St Andrews are part of an international team investigating the Sun’s atmosphere for clues about so-called ‘space weather’.

Mathematicians Professor Eric Priest and Dr Clare Parnell are involved in the Japanese-USA-UK mission that has just launched the new satellite “Hinode” (pronounced ‘hee-no-deh’ and meaning sunrise) into space. Aimed at investigating the interaction between the Sun’s magnetic field and its atmosphere or ‘corona’, the satellite involves three advanced solar telescopes that will provide measurements of unprecedented precision.

The researchers hope to make new discoveries about how the corona is heated to an incredible two million degrees, compared to the surface of the Sun’s temperature of only 6000 degrees.

Professor Priest said: “The aims of the mission are to understand the mechanisms that power the solar atmosphere and drive solar eruptions. This information will tell us much about how the Sun generates magnetic disturbances and high-energy particle storms that propagate from the Sun to the Earth and beyond; in this sense, Hinode will help us predict “space weather”.

“This is a very exciting time for the solar theory group in St Andrews which hopes to be actively involved in understanding the startling new observations that are expected at much higher resolution than before”.

Dr Parnell added: “I am intrigued to learn how magnetic fields are behaving in the Sun’s surface and what effect this has on the overlying atmosphere”.

Three advanced solar telescopes are on the mission. The first is the largest optical solar telescope ever flown in space, which will measure magnetic fields with unprecedented precision. The second will measure X-rays coming from the Sun and so will provide images of the corona at different temperatures. The third, working in the extreme ultra-violet, and led by a team from London University, will measure the dynamic properties of the atmosphere.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

THE RESEARCHERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW:

PROFESSOR ERIC PRIEST: 01334 463709, email eric@mcs.st- and.ac.uk DR CLARE PARNELL: 01334 463706, email cep@st-andrews.ac.uk

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

IMAGES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE PRESS OFFICE – CONTACTS BELOW

CAPTIONS:

The Sun’s corona, taken from Yohkoh, the last Japanese solar satellite.

Dr Parnell and Professor Priest with an image of the Sun’s corona from the last Japanese solar satellite.

Issued by Beattie Media – www.beattiegroup.com On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st- andrews.ac.uk Ref: coronas clues 270906.doc View the latest University press releases at http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk

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