Peter Gallagher: What is the Sun?
Dr. Peter Gallagher in Trinity is doing lots of research into solar weather and solar flares. Solar flares are huge explosions on the Sun that send big plumes of radiation into our solar system.
The reason it is important to predict when these solar flares are coming is because a large amount of expensive equipment and instruments are orbiting the Earth and wandering through space. So it is good to know if a flare is coming, to help "batten down the hatches" and put everything into safe mode to help protect the equipment from getting fried!
Peter and his researchers look at lots of images of the Sun, lots of information is collected from different telescopes on Earth and in space.The instruments SOHO and STEREO look at the earth 24 hours and 365 days a year and collect tremendous amounts of information. A lot of the work in predicting solar weather involves dealing with the big amounts of information generated, and developing visualisation techniques for pinpointing solar flare clues. The group at Trinity use a 3D visualisation suite.
One of the cool things about the research on the Sun is that all the information is freely available. You can log onto the net and get on a site and look at photos of the Sun that were only taken a few hours ago. Peter collates all the information on a website www.solarmonitor.org
SOHO has been working for 10 years and STEREO was launched recently, with two satellites taking a picture of the Sun from different positions (one in front of the Earth, one behind it) so it can create images of the Sun in 3D.