Humuhumu and I spent well over an hour in the Science Museum exhibition “The Sun: Living with Our Star”. She enjoyed all the objects in the exhibit, but particularly the hands-on things, like reading different types of sundial, and seeing how much solar power she could generate using a set of rotatable mirrors (see below).
Humuhumu maximising her solar power generation.
Selfie on our own personal bus service to the exhibition. Very excited. Please note my very nerdy Cluster mission hoodie.
The entrance to The Sun, which is not at all unnerving.
Humuhumu points to her favourite wavelength of light to view the Sun: the one where you can see the most charged particle activity along magnetic field lines. Also, it is purple, which is her favourite colour.
Still from the video “What is the Sun made of?” The caption says, “The astronomer Henry Norris Russell even persuaded her [Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin] to reject her own findings.” SPOILER ALERT: She was right about the hydrogen. SPOILER ALERT TWO: Four years later, Dudey McDuderton realised she was right about the hydrogen and published. SPOILER ALERT THREE: He usually gets the credit.
I will pause now whilst no woman reading this is at all surprised.
Aaaaaand back to the fun stuff.
Weird old illustration of sunspots. I would like to know what the person who drew this was actually thinking about at the time. *eyebrow wiggle*
Mini tokamak, because humans want to copy the Sun and its awesome fusion power.
Look at all those spacecraft, watching the Sun, still trying to figure out exactly how it works.
The highlight of the exhibition for Humuhumu (and who can blame her) was the gigantic screen showing video of the Sun from SDO, the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. It was 8 and a half minutes of gorgeous intensity with a thrumming ambient soundtrack. She watched it twice with rapt attention.
Magnetic loops at the edge of the Sun in UV (171 Angstroms).
Single magnetic loop at the edge of the Sun in UV (304 Angstroms).
Transit of Venus, up top, across the face of the Sun in UV (304 Angstroms).
Magnetic activity on the surface of the Sun in UV (171 Angstroms).
As above. Nature makes magnificent art, no?
Last but not least, we were very excited to see one of Mummy’s work colleagues in a video in the exhibition!
Helen in the lab, pretending to do something important with a bunch of cables. Or maybe she’s not pretending - she is wearing a grounding strap! :D Anyway, she’s saying, “I have touched this object and now it’s going to go up into space.” Which is a pretty cool thing to be able to say.
Helen O’Brien, Solar Orbiter Lead Engineer, Imperial College London, saying “It’s really exciting that as well as Solar Orbiter…” The missing bit is about the Parker Solar Probe, which is also headed Sunward and launched earlier this year.
The lighting is poor, but here is Humuhumu with one of the Solar Orbiter magnetometer sensors.
The objects in the case on their own are, from left to right, the electron analyser, the magnetometer sensor and a section of the heat shield that will protect the payload.
This is only a small and highly personal sampling of the objects, activities and videos on display. We enjoyed them all, and it was well worth the £15 price of admission (for me; children 16 and under go free). Do go, if you can! It’s on through early May of next year.
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