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The Sun, our star, is now in a quiet phase of its activity cycle. Several solar space observatories have been watching the Sun over the past couple of decades: SoHO, Stereo, Hinode and the Solar Dynamics Observatory. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was launched in August 2018 and ESA’s Solar Orbiter will be launched in 2020. These satellites will travel closer to the Sun than ever before. This talk will review what we have learnt about our dynamic Sun, in particular, what we know (and don’t yet know!) about sunspots, solar active regions and flares (huge explosions), and how the Sun affects the Earth’s environment (space weather). Indeed, what do we hope to learn in our new journey to the Sun?
Dr Helen Mason is solar scientist at the University of Cambridge. Her field of research is solar physics, in particular, the ultraviolet and X-ray spectrum of the Sun. She has worked on many joint UK, NASA, ESA and Japanese space projects including Skylab, the Solar Maximum Mission, Yohkoh, SoHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory), Hinode, SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) and IRIS. Recent solar space observations have completely changed our view of the Sun.
Helen has always been keen to convey her passion for solar physics to the public and to young students. She has given many public lectures and worked closely with UK schools. She has participated in many radio and TV programmes, for example, BBC4’s ‘Seven Ages of Starlight’.
She has produced an educational website for teachers and students (11-16 year old) called Sun|trek (www.suntrek.org) which is used extensively worldwide. In 2014, Helen was awarded an OBE for her services to Higher Education and to Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. In 2018, she was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s Annie Maunder Medal for Outreach.