UCL News


The sun is flaring up

17 September 2006

Humanity is about to get its first early-warning system against solar flares, the massive explosions that periodically erupt from the sun, with the launch of three satellites to study the phenomenon.

This week a consortium of the world's space research agencies is due to launch Solar B, the first of three satellites designed to study such flares  - and create the first early-warning system against them. …

Solar B, built by teams from Britain, America and Japan, is due to be launched on September 22 from the Uchinoura space centre in southern Japan. Its three instruments will try to find out what happens on the sun's surface just before solar flares erupt. One of them, a telescope built by a team from UCL, will watch the sun's atmosphere for signs suggesting the surface is building up to an explosion.

"Solar flares are fast and furious and can cause communication blackouts on Earth within 30 minutes of erupting from the sun's surface," said Dr Louise Harra, the UK Solar B project scientist based at the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory. "It is imperative that we understand what triggers these events." …

Jonathan Leake, 'Sunday Times'