On Thursday 8th February, AstroSoc held one of their much-awaited Tea, Talk and Telescope evenings. These are a series of termly public lectures organised by AstroSoc, with a friendly reception and refreshments, and the chance to observe the night sky with their telescopes—weather permitting! This time, we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Sarah Matthews, head of the solar group at the Mullard Space Science Lab at UCL.
Dr. Matthews’ talk was titled “Living in the Atmosphere of a Star: Studying the Sun from Space and the Ground”. While she mentioned that the sun could be considered the most mundane astrophysical object, Dr. Matthews made a strong case for why so many researchers study it. Firstly, our Earth’s atmosphere is heavily influenced by the Sun, so it’s crucial we understand it. Secondly, Dr. Matthews urged that “the Sun is our laboratory for astrophysics”. Being so close to the Sun means we have the opportunity to study it with unprecedented resolution. Simply put, understanding the Sun’s activity allows us to better understand other stars.
After explaining why we should study the Sun, Dr. Matthews continued by describing how. She talked about both ground and space telescopes, and showed us some of the phenomena they’ve captured, from solar prominences to ‘sunquakes’. She also discussed the Solar Orbiter, a Sun-observing satellite which will launch in the next couple of years. With the ability to orbit closer to the Sun than ever before, it is amongst the most scientifically ground-breaking telescopes created. As Dr. Matthews quite rightly put, “it’s a great time to be a solar physicist!”
"AstroSoc's TTT is always a successful event and this term was no exception. Dr. Matthews' talk on solar physics was fascinating, and our members enjoyed a hands-on experience with the telescopes (despite the cloudy weather)" - Alice Perry, AstroSoc Events Officer