What it’s like to be a solar scientist

As one of the younger members of the UK’s STEREO team, I thought it would be nice to provide a few updates about what a scientist does day-to-day. I am currently coming to the end of my PhD, and am therefore busily writing up a thesis. But, of course, there are a few more interesting things to talk about apart from me sitting in front of a computer!

A lot of my work uses the Heliospheric Imagers on the STEREO spacecraft. In particular, I have been spending my time looking at solar storm case studies, and analysing the overall shape of them. The simplest approximation to the shape of a solar storm is a cylinder. If you observe one end on, you will see a circular shape. I found a perfect example of one that happened in February 2008, using the STEREO Ahead spacecraft (in the pictures below the front half of the circle fades away fast but, a semi circle of the rear edge of a circle can be seen further into space). I then spent some time analysing how this storm grew in size as it travelled away from the Sun.

Neel Savani's solar storm case study

Previously, scientists have looked at the size of solar storms at different locations in space and have predicted the growth rate. My work was the first time that we have been able to monitor a single solar storm this far away for the Sun.

One problem with my analysis is that solar storms, like hurricanes on Earth, are incredibly variable from one case to another. It would be fantastic if we could find more examples of near-perfect circular storms. We could then build up a better picture. So let me know if you spot anything interesting, and keep up with the great work.

Neel Savani


  1. Thanks Neel – it’s nice to read about some of the science behind the project. And now we have something else to look out for and report!

  2. Here here, what Jules said. Nice to get some behind the scenes stuff. Hope your thesis goes well. 🙂

  3. Very interesting. Is there a moving clip you could post in the Forum? Do you know how fast this was traveling? If we get some clues, we could classify suspected circular storms as ‘something else’ on ‘What’s That?’. If you think that would be helpful, that is.

  4. I agree with Lolinda, we would love to help, but we need some sample videos so that we know what a near-perfect circular storm looks like.

  5. Hello all thanks for the comments and suggestions. I will try getting a movie online for everyone to see somehow.

    The speed of this storm was about 250km/s.

    classifying them as ‘something else’ is a good idea. but I will check this with the powers-that-be first. This way logistics will work

  6. hi Neel, I think I have found some but how can I send you the videos on which one can see such solar outbursts.

  7. Hi TilV – exactly what Jules said. I will try having a look at all the updates this week.

    Jules- thanks for picking this up- i must have accidentally deleted my alert email for the earlier blog – sorry.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s