Irish scientists attempt to answer mysteries of solar weather

Belfast scientists will play a central part in helping us find out some of answers to the mysteries of solar weather. They are to study and observe the build up on the sun’s surface of magnetic energy lead to solar flares and explosions that affects the earth.

Solar activity to be studied by scientists at Queens University, Belfast

Solar activity to be studied by scientists at Queens University, Belfast Image by NASA Goddard Space Fligh / CC BY 2.0

This activity has serious ramifications on this planet as it disrupts power grids and telecommunications, with one case taking out the entire grid in Quebec, Canada, for 12 hours, BBC Northern Ireland reports. Prof Mihalis Mathioudakis, from Queen's University explained that they would now try to predict when such explosions would occur. That way, they could give a warning to the public about blackouts of power or grounding of airflights, he added.

The University is also playing a leading role, in tandem with a consortium of UK universities and businesses, in the construction of cameras for the world's biggest solar telescope, which will cost £226 million. It will be four years though, before the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) will be launched on a mountain in Maui, Hawaii. It will possess a four metre-wide mirror that will be able to pick up previously undiscovered details of the surface of the star. It has been likened to scrutinizing a £1 coin in Dublin from a telescope watching from Belfast. Prof Mathioudakis said the new telescope would allow scientists to explore solar magnetic field generation and dissipation like never before.

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