The Sun

Solar research at Imperial focuses on two distinct areas: that of solar variability and the causes of solar flares. Both are interesting in their own right, but as the Sun dominates all things in the solar system it is also essential we understand how it impacts our lives.

 

The amount of energy output by the Sun is known to vary on every timescale from minutes to centuries. As Earth's primary source of energy understanding the cause and ultimately the impact that solar variation has on its local environment is very important. Research into solar variation centres on the causes of variation on periods longer than a day and therefore on changes in the distribution and intensity of surface magnetic flux. Here we lay out some basics of the Sun and explain how and why magnetic flux manifests itself on our star. These surface features, such as sunspots and faculae, affect the energy output of the Sun on days, decades and possibly centuries and ultimately change the climate forcing here on Earth. Important questions that need to be addressed include:

 

  • How does the energy output of the Sun vary over decades and centuries? (read more)
  • How does solar energy vary by wavelength over time in the ultraviolet, visible and infrared? (read more)
  • Do very small magnetic features have a significant impact on century-scale time periods? (read more)

 

In addressing these questions, climate models can use more accurate reconstructions of past solar variation to recreate and predict past and future climate variation on Earth.

 

Our work involves collaborations with many researchers and institutions around the world: you can find links to some of these people and places in the External Links section on this page. We are also involved in the SOLCLI, a consortium of six institutions that are trying to understand how the Sun has varied over the last few centuries and how it affects the Earth at all levels from the upper atmosphere to the oceans.

 

If you have any further questions about these topics then please get in touch.