Solar Physics

Observational and theoretical research on the physics of the sun is carried out at Stanford University in several research groups. This URL will link you to the projects carried out by a group of scientists and supporting staff associated with the Center for Space Science and Astrophysics (CSSA) and the Hansen Exerimental Physics Laboratories (HEPL), under the direction of Philip Scherrer (HEPL and the Department of Physics).

We are studying the structure and dynamics of the Sun with a combination of instruments. The MDI instrument on the SOHO spacecraft located at L1 about 1.5 million km sunward of the Earth was retired earlier this year after 15 years of service. The data archive continues to be invaluable for understanding the Sun.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory which carries our Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager was launched Feb. 2010. HMI is operating very well and is producing helioseismic and magnetic field observations at high resolution each 45s.  There are many analysis and modeling opportunities to help exploit these unique observations.

MDI and HMI provide helioseismology and magnetic field data with which we study the solar interior and atmosphere. We study both local dynamics and the global scale structure. Simulations are increasingly important.  Predicting the solar sources of Space Weather is one of our long term research goals.

We also operate the Wilcox Solar Observatory in the hills south of campus includes an apartment for the student observer. The group is 35 people including 20 staff scientists and 4 grad students.

Please see Solar Physics at Stanford University for detailed information.

Click the images below to see a larger version

A long whip-like eruptive prominence is captured in this EIT 304Å image on 30 July 2002. Although one end of the prominence is still attached to the Sun, it probably broke away soon after the image was taken--it was gone in the next image 6 hours later. Prominences are huge clouds of relatively cool dense plasma suspended in the Sun's hot, thin corona. At times, they can erupt, escaping the Sun's atmosphere. Emission in this spectral line shows the upper chromosphere at a temperature of about 60,000 degrees K.

Illustration of a CME particle cloud blasted from the sun impacting Earth and creating aurora (in actual photo of aurora as taken by an astronaut on the space station).