News release: University lecturer investigates Astrophysics X-file The Truth is out there!

Media and Promotion Office (2002) News release: University lecturer investigates Astrophysics X-file The Truth is out there! Other. University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Preston.

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Dr Robert Walsh, a senior lecturer in the Centre for Astrophysics at the University of
Central Lancashire, has been awarded a prestigious Research Fellowship by the
Leverhulme Trust. The award has a value of nearly £20,000 and will enable Dr. Walsh to
conduct research in Solar Astrophysics, concentrating on the heating of the Sun's
Dr Walsh's solar physics' research centres on a long-running solar mystery about the
halo of electrified gases that surround the Sun, called the corona. While the light surface
from the Sun, visible from the Earth, has a temperature of 6000 degrees, the corona (the
crown of light we see around the moon at a total eclipse) is at a temperature of two
million degrees.
"The problem is like an Astrophysics X-file! It is totally counter intuitive that the Sun's
temperature should rise as you move away from the surface," Walsh explains. "It is like
walking away from a fire and suddenly hitting a hotspot, thousands of times hotter than
the fire itself!"
Using the latest space-based solar observatories along with sophisticated computer
models, Walsh believes that the Sun's strong magnetic field is the culprit behind this
unusual "coronal heating problem".
"I believe the research that will be undertaken in this Leverhulme Fellowship will show
that the Sun's strong magnetic field can carry solar waves upwards from the bubbling
solar surface. Then these waves dump their energy in the corona, like ordinary waves
crashing on a beach. Also, this solar magnetic field can get twisted up like an elastic
band. Eventually the tension gets too great and the magnetic field can "break", releasing
huge amounts of violent energy, heating the electrified gases."
In December 2000, Robert was given the title of "Scientist of the New Century", after
delivering an award-winning lecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London.
9 April2002
Note to Editors:
1. Dr Walsh's project is entitled "The Enigma of Solar Coronal Heating"
2. The Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship last for two years. Out of 500
applications, only 140 awards have been given. Awards vary in value, with the
maximum amount being £20,000
3. Dr Walsh can be contacted on tel: 01772 893557

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