Glasgow Sun

As we are heading through solar maximum there are several sunspots and filaments visible on the solar disk. The image below was obtained on the ground in Glasgow, taken by two undergraduate students (Peter Wakeford and Ruari MacKenzie) using an H-alpha telescope at our Acre Road Observatory.


Feeling the heat of the photons

THEMIS telescope building

THEMIS telescope building

Two solar scientists from the Glasgow group are currently observing the Sun with the THEMIS telescope at the Observatorio del Teide on the Island of Tenerife.

Dr Nicolas Labrosse and PhD student Peter Levens are leading an international team which has been awarded 20 days of observing time with THEMIS as part of the SOLARNET Transnational Access and Service Programme.

These observations will be part of a larger observing campaign in coordination with other instruments, including more ground-based observatories (Solar Tower of Observatoire de Meudon, Fuxian Solar Observatory) and satellites (SDO, Hinode, IRIS).

The objective is the measurement of magnetic fields in prominences and tornadoes, exploiting the excellent spectro-polarimetric capabilities of THEMIS in the He D3 line to infer the magnetic field vector. These phenomena represent unique examples of the small-scale coupling between magnetic field and plasma in environments with distinct dynamical behaviour. As such they represent key case studies for deepening our understanding of the Sun.

Peter Levens is pointing the telescope on an attractive target.

Peter Levens is pointing the telescope on an attractive target.

Some pictures of their trip can be found here.

Plasma publishing accolades

“Simulation of transient energy distributions in sub-ns streamer formation” by MacLachlan, Potts & Diver (  has been selected by the editors of Plasma Sources Science & Technology  for inclusion in the exclusive “Highlights of 2013″, on the basis of its outstanding research and impact on the low-temperature plasma community.

Additionally, a recent article on electron acceleration above thunderclouds (Fullekrug,…, Diver et al, Environ. Res. Lett. 8 035027 has been downloaded nearly 1200 times in 5 months.

Graham Kerr wins Hunter-Cumming Prize

gkerr_picGraham Kerr, a second year Astronomy and Astrophysics PhD student has won the Hunter-Cumming Prize for his first year work, presented in his report on ‘Observations and Modelling of Solar Chromospheric Flares’. Graham has been working on observations of solar flares in the optical part of the spectrum, using data from the Hinode spacecraft to deduce the temperature and energy content of ‘white light’ flares. He has recently begun running radiation hydrodynamic simulations, to help interpret the behaviour that is observed. Congratulations Graham!

Student 2014 trip to the Burn House

February 7-10th 2014 saw the annual Astronomy 2 observing trip to the Burn House, near Edzell. Group Photo

Despite some poor weather, both night and day/solar observing were achieved. And more importantly the weekend is booked for the February 2015 trip.


H-alpha Sun


Jupiter & 4 Moons

Major funding boost to A&A group

The A&A group receives a major boost with funding from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for space-related research.

A powerful X-class flare observed by Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) on Dec. 13, 2006

Dr. Lyndsay Fletcher and Dr Nicolas Labrosse from the Astronomy & Astrophysics group in the School of Physics and Astronomy will investigate the physics of solar flares.

The F-CHROMA project (Flare CHRomospheres: Observations, Models and Archives) will bring together experts from seven institutions to collect, synthesise and analyse data from satellite and earthbound observations of solar flares. Solar flares are energetic outbursts of solar radiation which span the whole electromagnetic spectrum. Mid-sized flares can release energy equivalent to a hundred million megatons of TNT in just a few minutes, most of which ultimately turns into electromagnetic radiation. This radiation is emitted primarily by a thin, and complicated, part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the chromosphere.

Lyndsay Fletcher, Principal Investigator, said that this project will allow the team to combine ultra-high detail observation of solar flare events with advanced theoretical and computational modeling to shed light on the way a flare’s energy is stored, released, and converted into other forms.

The outcomes of F-CHROMA will be used to inform preparations for major forthcoming projects including the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope which will see first light in 2019 in Hawai’i and ESA’s Solar Orbiter Mission which is expected to start beaming back solar images and spectra from its orbit in the inner solar system at around the same time.

F-CHROMA is one of two projects led by the University of Glasgow receiving funding from the European Commission.

Astro group solar physicist, Dr Bian visits Southern Siberia

Dr Nic Bian (Glasgow) and a colleague from the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Irkutsk at the Siberian Solar Radio Telescope.

Awardee of the Russian President joins the group

Galina Motorina, a winner of the all-Russia competition, was awarded a scholarship of the President of the Russian Federation to pursue solar flare research in Glasgow. The awards are for PhD students who “achieved considerable success in fundamental or applied researches”.

Ionospheric perturbations ‘decorated’ solar radio dynamic spectrum observed in December

Ionospheric perturbations strongly affect radio propagation, and can produce rather peculiar patterns in the dynamic spectra of solar radio emission (for details – see the paper Meyer-Vernet, N., Daigne, G., and Lecacheux, A., Astronomy and Astrophysics, 1981). Such unusual patterns can be seen in Glasgow radio data as well – see images and the radio data from other radio observatories (CALLISTO status report/news letter #47):

Dr. Iain Hannah – new Royal Society University Research Fellow

We congratulate Dr‌ Iain Hannah from our group who has taken up his post as one of 41 new Royal Society University Research Fellows (URFs) for 2013, to conduct a research programme into the physics of high energy solar flares. The University Research Fellowship scheme aims to provide outstanding scientists, who have the potential to become leaders in their chosen fields, with the opportunity to build an independent research career. Iain’s research into solar flares involves X-ray imaging and spectroscopy, multi-wavelength studies, statistical surveys and numerical simulations.

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.

Royal Astronomical Society Specialist Discussion Meeting on the life of solar prominences

SDO/AIA images of a filament on the sun from August 31, 2012. From upper left and going clockwise: 335, 171, 304 and 131 Å channels

SDO/AIA images of a filament on the sun from August 31, 2012. From upper left and going clockwise: 335, 171, 304 and 131 Å channels

Registration is now open for the Royal Astronomy Society Specialist Discussion Meeting devoted to solar prominences on Friday 21st February in the RAS premises in London, UK. Abstracts can be submitted at the meeting web page.

This specialist discussion meeting aims to review our current understanding of the life-cycle of solar prominences. How do they form? How do they interact with their environment, from the photosphere to the corona? How do they disappear? What is their contribution to Space Weather? Addressing these questions relies on interactions between experts in plasma physics, MHD, magnetic field modelling and observation, spectroscopy, radiation transfer, … This will be an excellent opportunity to discuss open issues in this area of interest to solar and stellar physicists, keeping in mind recent and future developments in observations and in modelling.

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.

Auroras Shine Light On Solar Flares — Group Research in University News

Solar flares are huge cosmic blasts of UV light, X-rays and high-energy particles from the Sun that can damage power grids and satellites. Inspired by the Northern Lights, Dr Alexander Russell and Dr Lyndsay Fletcher have shown how magnetic waves could help move energy tens of thousands of kilometres in less than a second to power flares.

See the story at:
Read the paper at:

Natasha Jeffrey awarded Thomson prize

Natasha Jeffrey was awarded Thomson prize in recognition of excellent work on her PhD studies.

Dr Iain Hannah awarded RAS Fowler Prize

Dr Iain Hannah has been awarded the Fowler Prize for geophysics by the Royal Astronomical Society. This prize, awarded annually, honours individuals who have made a particularly noteworthy contribution at any early stage of their career. See here for details.

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

Solar ALMA Workshop

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile, is the largest astronomical project in existence.

The workshop (see details here….) aims to bring together the ALMA-minded solar community to discuss solar observational issues with ALMA, solar science and planned observations with ALMA, and the planning of solar ALMA observations.

Th workshop is hosted by Astronomy & Astrophysics Group,  and will take place in School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow.

First light observations by e-Callisto at Acre Rd Observatory

The first light dynamic spectra of solar radio burst detected by a newly installed CALLISTO receiver at Acre Rd Observatory


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.

Workshop on High Energy Flare Physics, 25-26 June 2012

This workshop is a continuation of the Alliance workshops held under the Franco-British partnership research programme in 2009-2011.


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.

Prize International Internship: “Computer Vision for Space Applications”

An exciting opportunity for an outstanding intern to work on a project entitled “Computer Vision for Space Applications” has arisen in the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Glasgow.

Images in science carry a lot of information. As image resolution increases, extracting information in a timely manner and providing it to end-users is more and more challenging. It requires analysing and interpreting automatically a large amount of data from different instruments, as well as rapid and robust image processing algorithms such as feature extraction, image mosaic and time series analysis.

Depending on the preferences of the successful candidate, the intern will focus on one or more of the following areas:
− Feature extraction: the intern will develop computer vision tools to automatically extract and classify features of interest from satellite images.
− Time-tracking: the intern will implement time-tracking algorithms to perform crucial time series analyses to reveal trends and processes from the data.
− Benchmarking: the intern will design test cases allowing reliable comparisons between different algorithms developed by the project leaders to assess and enhance their performance and robustness.

The project will last for ten weeks with a start date preferably between 15th and 30th June 2012. IDL programming skill is highly desirable. To apply, please email the following documents to both Dr Labrosse and Dr Li: (1) a one-page CV including academic grades, (2) a brief statement of why you are interested in this project and how you fit the proposed projects, and (3) one letter of reference. Deadline is 31 May 2012.

Contact Dr Nicolas Labrosse (School of Physics and Astronomy) and Dr Zhenhong Li (School of Geographical and Earth Sciences) for further information.