Offaly telescope detects huge explosions on the sun

Justin Kelly

Reporter:

Justin Kelly

Email:

justin.kelly@iconicnews.ie

Offaly telescope detects huge explosion on the sun

Offaly telescope detects huge explosion on the sun

The new LOFAR telescope in Birr, Co. Offaly, has detected an explosion on the sun, an event that could result in a visible aurora in our skies tonight, Wednesday, September 14.

A similar event last week resulted in solar storms and the Northern Lights being visible over parts of Ireland. 

The past two weeks have been very stormy for the sun, and the recently installed LOFAR radio telescope in Birr has been key to helping scientists keep an eye on weather conditions on the sun and to forecasting its effects here on Earth.

“This sunspot group has unleashed one of the the largest flares in over a decade and one of the biggest in the last 40 years”, according to Professor Peter Gallagher, a solar physicist in the School of Physics at Trinity,

“And we detected another whopping solar storm last Sunday, which was moving at about 3,000 km/s and arrived at Earth last night.”

Solar flares are huge bursts of radiation that can release energies equivalent to billions of hydrogen bombs in several minutes and can be associated with ejections of hot clouds of gas into space at millions of kilometers per hour. While solar storms can produce beautiful displays of the northern lights, they can also cause problems in the communication and navigation systems that we use as part of our every-day lives.

“The recent solar storms have reportedly caused problems with radio communications systems used by first responders dealing with the fall-out of Hurricane Irma in the US.” says Prof. Gallagher. “We have been using our instruments at Birr Castle to monitor this activity and its effects on the Earth’s upper atmosphere and magnetic field.”

Key to monitoring this increased solar activity has been the recently installed Irish Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR) radio telescope at Birr, Co. Offaly.

Research Fellow at Trinity, Dr Diana Morosan, said: “I-LOFAR uses hundreds of sensitive antennae to detect bursts of radio waves from solar flares and solar storms. I-LOFAR is enabling us to observe the Sun with greater accuracy than ever before and therefore to better understand its effects on our planet and on the technologies we depend on every day.”

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