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: http://www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_270276_en.html
Read the paper at: http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/765/2/81/

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.

ALMA workshop, Glasgow, May 14, 2012

ALMA/CASA workshop with solar emphasis will be held at Glasgow University on Monday, May 14. The agenda and timetable can be found at the UK ALMA homepage  http://www.alma.ac.uk/events/glasgow-workshop (courtesy of George Bendo). Organiser and further info email Eduard Kontar.

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.

Astronomy Summer Research Projects

Astronomy and Astrophysics Group offers a number of undergraduate Summer Vacation Research Projects in the field of Astronomy. Second, third, and forth year students are invited to contact the potential supervisor and discuss the project.

More details can be found here.


PhD Studentships from SUPA – deadline extended to February 10, 2012

The deadline for applications for PhD prize scholarships sponsored by SUPA has been extended to Friday 10th February and for references to Monday 20th February. As a part of Scotish University Physics Alliance (SUPA) Astronomy and Astrophysics Group,  University of Glasgow, encourages applications for SUPA prize scholarships.
Please see details application details: http://apply.supa.ac.uk/

The SUPA Prize Studentships are prestigious and competitive awards intended to attract outstanding physics students from around the world, irrespective of nationality, to study for a PhD in Scotland.

Undergraduate student contributes to improved plasma diagnostic in eruptive prominences from SDO/AIA observations

2010-06-13 prominence eruption

Evolution of the 2010-06-13 prominence eruption. The circle marks the part of the prominence which was tracked. The field of view in the images is 300 × 300 arcsec.

Theoretical calculations have shown that when solar prominences move away from the surface of the Sun, their radiative output is affected via the Doppler dimming or brightening effects. In this paper co-authored between Dr Nicolas Labrosse and undergraduate student Kris McGlinchey we ask whether observational signatures of the changes in the radiative output of eruptive prominences can be found in EUV (extreme ultraviolet) observations of the first resonance line of ionised helium at 304 Å. We also investigate whether these observations can be used to perform a diagnostic of the plasma of the eruptive prominence. We find that observations of intensities in various parts of the four eruptive prominences studied here are sometimes consistent with the Doppler dimming effect on the He II 304 Å line. However, in some cases, one observes an increase in intensity in the 304 channel with velocity, in contradiction to what is expected from the Doppler dimming effect alone. The use of the non-LTE models allows us to explain the different behaviour of the intensity by changes in the plasma parameters inside the prominence, in particular the column mass of the plasma and its temperature.

This work is also described in this UKSP nugget.

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.

Spatially resolved hard X-ray polarization in solar flares

Solar flare X-ray polarization may provide us with a method of determining photon anisotropy – an essential tool for constraining models of electron transport and acceleration.

Spatially resolved polarization across the extent of a single X-ray source has been simulated. A RHESSI nugget (Nugget 165) outlining the main ideas of the paper can be found here.



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.

New A&A group webpages

This is our new website so bear with us till we have everything working properly and updated.