Our Sun: Friend or Foe

Essential information

Event type: 
Date and time: 
21 September | 7pm - 8pm
Adult £10.00 | Concession £8.50 | Child £7.00 | Members 10% discount
Planetarium & Astronomy Centre
Talks & courses

Dr. Helen Mason brings to life our dynamic star in this illuminating solar physics talk.

The Sun, our star, provides everything needed to sustain life here on Earth. However,  the Sun is also very dynamic, with periods of intense activity, and other times when it  is quieter.

During active times, the Sun produces solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections, which can impinge on the Earth's environment, causing beautiful aurorae and/or harmful effects for astronauts and modern technology.

This talk will cover observations of the Sun from space (SoHO, SDO, Hinode and IRIS) which give us a deeper insight into what is happening in the solar atmosphere.

Age: 11+

Dr. Helen Mason

Helen Mason's research group has a very high international reputation in the field of solar physics with particular expertise is the analysis of the ultraviolet (UV) and X-ray spectrum from the solar atmosphere. The group carries out both theoretical simulations and observational work.
She has been involved in many solar space projects: Skylab, Solar Maximum Mission, Spacelab and YOHKOH. Over the past two decades, she has been working as a co-investigator on a major ESA/NASA project - the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), which was launched in December 1995 and is still operational. The instruments on SOHO are used to monitor and study the solar interior, solar atmosphere and the solar wind. These observations, combined with those from other satellites in the near Earth environment, allow an unprecedented insight into the nature of the Sun and its interaction with the Earth. More recently she has been working on the joint Japanese/UK/NASA/ESA solar satellite, Hinode, in particular with the UK-led EUV Imaging Spectrometer, EIS, team at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL. Recent work involves the study of solar active regions, solar flares and jets with NASA's SDO/AIA (Solar Dynamics Observatory) and the IRIS solar satellite. This research is important for understanding and predicting space weather events (such as coronal mass ejections).
Helen led the production of a major website for UK schools called Sun|trek (www.suntrek.org), sponsored by STFC. Launched in 2007, Sun|trek has become very popular both nationally and internationally. She is also keen to promote education in developing countries, and has worked extensively with teachers and school children in South Africa and India.
Her outreach work was recognised in 2010, when she was nominated as one of the six 'Women of Outstanding Achievement'. A large photo-portrait of her now hangs at the London headquaters of the Institute of Physics.
In 2014, Helen was awarded an OBE for her services to Higher Education and to Women in SET.