Institute for Astronomy Home
IFA Home Page   |    Search   |    Other Editions    No. 9 - Fall 2003 
  All Articles  


Next Frontiers of Astronomy Lecture:
Keeping Track of the Sun in Hawaii

Two large solar prominences in extreme ultraviolet light appeared on the Sun on March 18, 2003. The two large prominences make this one of the most spectacular images that SOHO has captured. Credit:SOHO/NASA/ESA

The next Frontiers of Astronomy Community Lecture, sponsored by the Friends of Hawaii Astronomy, will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 4, in the auditorium of the Institute for Astronomy (2680 Woodlawn Drive in Manoa). The lecture is free and open to the public.

The speaker will be the IfA associate director for Haleakala and head of the Institute's Solar Group, Jeffrey Kuhn, who will discuss "Keeping Track of the Sun in Hawaii." The Solar Group operates the Mees Solar Observatory on Haleakala, where scientists conduct research on solar flares, magnetic fields on the Sun, and solar oscillations.

Near the end of October, Institute scientists observed a large cluster of sunspots whose movements triggered solar flares. These large explosions, equivalent to millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs, produced geomagnetic storms with the potential to disrupt electronic and satellite communications. These "coronal mass ejections" traveled toward Earth at millions of miles per hour.

According to Kuhn, the recent activity was 10 times greater than expected for this time in the solar cycle. Such activity is normally associated with solar maximum, the peak in the 11-year sunspot cycle, which last occurred in 2000. Kuhn called the recent activity "surprising," and noted that the researchers at Mees Observatory are working to understand the Sun's variability.

Kuhn received his PhD in physics from Princeton University in 1981 and does research in a broad range of subjects related to astrophysics and astrophysical instrumentation. He is the author of over 120 publications in physics and astronomy and his current research is focused on the Sun and its variability. Kuhn is also the designer of a unique off-axis mirror design that is now being demonstrated on Haleakala√ł as a prototype for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope. See "Na Kilo Hoku" no. 8.

For further information about the Frontiers of Astronomy Community Lecture, please contact Joan Yanagihara at or (808) 956-6712.