"A History of the Sun, Our Closest Star"

Location: St Cross College

Date: Saturday 21 November 2015

Time: 10:30 - 17:00


The Sun, our closest star, has been a source of fascination and awe since the very earliest civilisations and was worshipped by many ancient peoples who built monuments to mark the position of the Sun during the year. It was long believed that the Sun orbited the Earth until Copernicus and then Galileo proposed a heliocentric Solar System. By the nineteenth century solar astronomy was gaining momentum with observations of sunspots and measurements of absorption lines in the spectrum of light from the Sun and in the 1930s the Sun's mechanism for the production of energy was determined to be nuclear fusion. Since the 1970s there have been a series of increasingly sophisticated satellite missions which have discovered many more intriguing features of the Sun and significantly progressed our knowledge of our closest star, however, a number of mysteries remain including the coronal heating problem. This conference seeks to review the history of the Sun and engage with the latest solar research on the outstanding questions.

The programme for the day is below:

MORNING CHAIR: Alison Boyle (Science Museum, London)

10.30 am WELCOME

10.40 am Dr Francisco Diego (University College London) - Discovering Our Sun: From the Most Important God to a Mere Dwarf Star [VIDEO]

11.30 am Professor David Wootton (University of York) - The Sun: From Copernicus to Newton [VIDEO]

12.20 pm Professor Helge Kragh (Niels Bohr Institute) - The Problem of Solar Energy Generation: From Eddington to Bethe [VIDEO]


AFTERNOON CHAIR: Dr Michael Weatherburn (Imperial College)

2.15 pm Dr Andrzej Fludra (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory) - The Sun from Space: Discoveries from Space Missions over the Past Forty Years [VIDEO]

3.05 pm Professor Philippa Browning (University of Manchester) - Unsolved Questions and Future Prospects for Understanding the Sun [VIDEO]


4.30 pm SUMMARY OF THE DAY'S PROCEEDINGS - Dr Harry Cliff (University of Cambridge) [VIDEO]

There will be a conference dinner at St Cross in the evening following the end of the conference with an after-dinner talk by Terry Moseley (eclipse hunter and former President of the Irish Astronomical Association).