Sunny Day for Trinity Researchers

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Well we start the day with a good news story and more importantly a good news story from Ireland. Trinity’s Dr Peter Gallagher – a lecturer in astrophysics and solar physics – is quite literally basking in the sun’s warm glow this morning as new image processing techniques developed under his eye at TCD have resulted in some jaw dropping new images of the sun showing the sun’s blazing inferno crystallised into “a blue corona and green gas”, as the Indo puts it.

Dr Peter Gallagher and his TCD team are the focus of worldwide attention today.

The TCD Solar Physics Group, in close cooperation with researchers at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, have led the development of object-oriented data analysis software for the archiving, distribution and scientific analysis of images from Proba-2. Commenting on the significance of the new technology, Dr Gallagher said: “It is the first time that object-oriented data analysis software has been developed for images from an ESA spacecraft, and is likely to form the basis for software for future missions, such as ESA’s  €450 million Solar Orbiter satellite, scheduled for launch in 2018.”

Gallagher and a 12-strong team of scientists will now see the fruits of their labour on a continual basis as the camera onboard the Proba-2 satellite – which Gallagher reveals allows scientists to take pictures of the sun’s atmosphere in high-speed “burst mode” every 60 seconds before transmitting them first to Belgium and then to Dublin –will beam down photographs for the next four years helping to unlock the mystery of solar storms.

Added Gallagher, “The blue picture of the sun shows the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. It has a temperature of about one million degrees kelvin (celsius), so it’s very hot. There are huge explosions that occur in the atmosphere of the sun and which can send hot blobs of gas down towards us. When they hit the Earth they can create the aurora borealis or they can cause errors in technology here, for example with GPS (global positioning systems).”

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