Big solar flares caught in Glasgow

GLASGOW_20131025_150000_59.fitThe recent flurry of solar activity has seen several large flares emitted by the Sun. The rapid release of energy in the Sun’s atmosphere heats material and accelerates particles resulting in bright emission seen by a myriad of satellite’s including NASA’s RHESSI. These were also caught by the solar radio telescope at our Acre Rd Observatory, which observes the electrons accelerated to high energies in flares. Our telescope uses a CALLISTO spectrometer and it provides live observations of the Sun at radio frequencies between 45 and 80 MHz with 0.125 second cadence. This strong radio emission can interrupt communications on the ground across many frequencies.

Glasgow Solar Physicists Honoured by NASA

rhessi_team_collage_2013In July the Science and Data Analysis Team working on NASA’s RHESSI satellite was honoured with a NASA Group Achievement Award. Of the 40 members of the team, 9 have strong links with Glasgow University, being current staff members and/or past PhD graduates in Solar Physics. The strong Glasgow representation in this international team builds on the early seminal work of Professor John C. Brown, ex Regius Chair in Astronomy in the School of Physics and Astronomy. The award was made in recognition of the team’s sustained, outstanding scientific achievement over a full solar cycle.

500 years of Glasgow Astronomy

Dr David Clarke (Honorary Research Fellow and ex-Observatory Director) has written a book on the history of astronomy in Glasgow titled “Reflections on the Astronomy of Glasgow: A story of some 500 years” (Edinburgh University Press). In it David describes how astronomy contributed to the educational enlightenment of Glasgow and to its society and commerce.

The book is available at a special price from Edinburgh University Press till 30-Sep-2013 via this form and is also available on amazon.

How Astronomy contributed to the educational enlightenment of Glasgow, to its society and to its commerce

The book provides a comprehensive narrative concerning Glasgow’s connections with Astronomy since the University’s establishment in 1451. It covers the educational and scientific contributions of notable and sometimes notorious individuals, providing biographies of outstanding people, including George Sinclair, the Professors Dick , the Professors Wilson, James Watt, John Pringle Nichol, Robert Grant, Ludwig Becker and William Smart. Through such people, discoveries related to sunspots, the monochromaticity within light, the behaviour of dew-point and the discovery of infra-red radiation remarkably have Glasgow connections.

The early part nineteenth century saw a thirst for astronomical knowledge by the local population with the establishment of two public observatories in the City. The second was rescued financially by the University in 1845 with a remit for establishing a time service for shipping on the Clyde. Following ‘Glasgow’s Big Bang of 1863’, with an unwarranted Edinburgh intrusion for establishing a time-gun, the resulting spat was covered in heated exchanges in the Herald with the editor demeaning of the title of Astronomer Royal for Scotland; in the end the local Horselethill Observatory won out to provide telegraphic time signals for the control of City public clocks. The establishment of eight different observatories is described with details of their architecture.

Overall, the story is a collection of local material and its relationship to the general development of the subject of astronomy, with insights on commercial and social aspects, so supporting a unique picture of astronomical connections with the City of Glasgow.

Group research selected for journal cover image

A figure from a recent published paper by group members was chosen as cover image for this month’s volume of the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal. The image shows a map of heated plasma ejected from the corona and the paper (Hannah & Kontar, A&A v553 A10 2013) is focused on a method to obtain maps of the emission as a function of temperature from observations of a coronal mass ejection (CME) observed by NASA’s SDO/AIA.

Memorial service for Professor Archie Roy

We are deeply saddened to report that Professor Archie Roy passed away on December 27 aged 88. Most of the current A&A group knew Archie well, and we have lost a good friend. Archie was an active member of the group, well into his 80s. We will miss his humour, zestful enthusiasm and seemingly boundless energy in everything he did over a remarkable career.

A Memorial Service and Tribute to the late Professor Archie Roy will be held in Glasgow University Chapel on Thursday March 14 at 14.30 and will be followed by a reception in Hunter Hall West approx 15.30-17.00. All are welcome.

Update: Professor Archie Roy’s Memorial Service two weeks ago included a short film, made by his son Ian, showing photos from Archie’s life. The family has made the film available at

SUPA Cormack Astronomy Meeting

The Scottish Universities Physics Alliance and the Royal Royal Society of Edinburgh (Cormack Bequest) will hold a one-day Scottish astronomy meeting, SCAM2012, on Tuesday 13th November 2012 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. More information is available here.

The programme is particularly relevant to research students and staff working in Scottish universities and gives the opportunity for them to meet, discuss research and hear about new developments in the field. Coffee and lunch are included.

There is no registration fee for this meeting, but if you plan on attending please complete the online registration form. There is the opportunity to present your work at a general interest level in a 20 minute talk, or, for more focussed research, through an extensive poster session which will be judged in a competition.

Transit of Venus 2012 event

On June 5th and 6th 2012 the world will witness a very special astronomical event: a Transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun. Such transits are extremely rare: only six have been observed throughout recorded history and the next transit will not occur until 2117.

To mark the transit we are hosting a celebration at Glasgow University that will link up with transit observers around the world and (hopefully) culminate with observing the transit here in Glasgow early on June 6th. Also in recognition of the huge historical significance of this event and to mark the launch of Glasgow Science Festival 2012, you are warmly invited to join us for an all-night celebration of the Transit in Glasgow.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this event (or indeed in participating) the website is now up and running.

Happy 10th Birthday RHESSI

NASA’s Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) was launched 10 years ago on 5 Feb 2002. Its unprecedented view of the high energy X-ray and γ-ray emission from solar flares has provided many insights into these explosive phenomena. The Glasgow A&A group are heavily involved with analysing and interpreting the data from RHESSI, with these results recently reviewed by group members in the RHESSI monograph.

Professor John Brown awarded RAS Gold Medal

Congratulations to Professor John Brown who has been awarded the 2012 Royal Astronomy Society Gold Medal for Geophysics.

Professor John Brown, 10th Astronomer Royal for Scotland and former Regius Chair of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow is awarded the 2012 RAS Gold Medal for Geophysics.

Early in his career Professor Brown’s ‘collisional thick-target model’ led to a new paradigm for the production of X-rays by electrons in solar flares. Identifying the mechanism of electron acceleration remains a central and unsolved problem in solar activity and his seminal work on deriving the accelerated electron distributions from their observable X-ray emission is still the landmark paper in the field, cited over 600 times.

His leading role in NASA’s award-winning Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) mission is testament to his impact in high-energy solar physics, where his work encompasses the interpretation of the properties of X-ray signatures, the modelling of particle acceleration and transport in the solar atmosphere and the analysis of the response of the flaring solar atmosphere.

Throughout his distinguished and productive research career John has collaborated widely, and – especially in his role as Astronomer Royal for Scotland – has inspired the astronomical passions of thousands of people across the UK and overseas through presentations, in person and on television and radio.

For his outstanding work in research, leadership and outreach Professor Brown is awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Full RAS press release.

A&A Group on a trip to the Sun

The European Space Agency has selected the Solar Orbiter Mission as one of its next two missions to fly. Several members of the A&A group are Co-Investigators on Solar Orbiter instruments, in particular on the STIX X-ray imager. The group’s involvement with Solar Orbiter and STIX continues a long history of pioneering research in solar physics (dating back to the first Regius Chair in 1760) and solar X-rays in particular – a heritage which includes Co-I-ship on NASA’s award-winning RHESSI mission. With an expected launch date of 2017, the Solar Orbiter carries several instruments deep into the inner solar system to co-rotate with the Sun, imaging activity on its surface and sampling its magnetic field and solar wind.