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Prediction of the Solar Corona: Indian scientists got it right

Kalyan Ray, DH News Service, New Delhi, Aug 23 2017, 17:24 IST
  Five scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research led by Dibyendu Nandi and one researcher at the University of Durham, UK had predicted two broad lotus petal-like structures (helmet streamers) on the southeast (lower left as viewed from Earth) and southwest (lower-right) edge of the Sun, and a third, narrow elongated streamer structure on the northwest (upper-right) edge. DH photo

Five scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research led by Dibyendu Nandi and one researcher at the University of Durham, UK had predicted two broad lotus petal-like structures (helmet streamers) on the southeast (lower left as viewed from Earth) and southwest (lower-right) edge of the Sun, and a third, narrow elongated streamer structure on the northwest (upper-right) edge. DH photo

Indian scientists, who predicted the look of the solar corona before the August 21 total solar eclipse, have been able to capture most of the key features of the corona correctly.

The first set of images of the Sun’s corona on the day of the Great American Eclipse is now available, demonstrating how close Indian scientists were with their maiden effort in anticipating several specific features related to the hot outer region of the Sun.

Five scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research led by Dibyendu Nandi and one researcher at the University of Durham, UK had predicted two broad lotus petal-like structures (helmet streamers) on the southeast (lower left as viewed from Earth) and southwest (lower-right) edge of the Sun, and a third, narrow elongated streamer structure on the northwest (upper-right) edge.

“These predictions have all been largely verified”, said Niruj Mohan Ramanujam, chair of the Astronomy Society of India’s public outreach and education committee.

Preliminary inspection shows the team correctly anticipated the right locations for all the streamers except one on the southeast (lower-right) edge which is observed to be closer to the Sun’s equator than predicted.

The scientists agreed that the model was not completely correct and there was scope for further refinement.

For instance, it correctly anticipated the positions of the streamers – magnetised hot plasma - coming out of the sun, but missed out on finer details of these streamers.

The appearance of new sun spots on August 20, a day before the eclipse may have impacted the outcome, as the computer model used sun spot data up to August 16.

Based on the experience, the IISER team would refine its model and is likely to be ready in time for complementing the observations of the Indian Space Research Organisation's Aditya-L1 mission in which a probe would be sent to study the Sun in 2019-20.

“The Aditya payload will carry a coronagraph that would regularly send Corona data, which would be compared with the IISER model for better understanding of the corona,” said Ramanujam.

A better understanding of the solar corona is crucial to forecast space weather events like the solar storms that can threaten the satellites, telecommunication and GPS networks and bring down the electric power grids.

"We are very satisfied with the overall success of their prediction”, said Somak Raychaudhury, director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune.

A second group from the USA, which also predicted the corona features, is yet to come out with its post-eclipse results


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