Philippa Browning was interested in astronomy from a very early age, partly inspired by the Apollo moon landings. She studied mathematics at Cambridge and then did a PhD in St Andrews. After joining UMIST in Manchester as a lecturer in physics – the first woman lecturer there – she is now a Professor in the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester. Her research is concerned with the interactions of plasma with magnetic fields, aiming to understand solar activity such as flares and why the solar corona is so hot. She is married to Ivan and has three grown up children. In her spare time she enjoys walking, singing and skiing.
Solar flares – the most powerful explosions in the Solar System
Saturday 1st February 2020: Session Three
Solar flares are powerful “explosions” in the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona. They are caused by a rapid release of the energy stored in the strong magnetic field of the corona – the magnetic field lines break in a process known as magnetic reconnection. This heats the gas to temperatures of tens of millions of degrees and creates beams of very high-energy charged particles. The particles and electromagnetic radiation from flares can have significant effects on the Earth and our space envIronment. Since a solar flare was observed for the first time in 1859, we have learnt a lot about these exciting events, but there are many puzzles remaining which we may begin to solve with the help of new data from space missions.