Solar Physics
14 Jun 2010



RAL Space has a long heritage of solar space mission involvement, mainly through the development and operation of spectroscopic instrumentation in the extreme-UV and X-ray wavelengths, but also in heliospheric imaging.

Image of the Sun

The Sun


​RAL Space's Solar Physics Group is a cornerstone of UK solar physics research, providing an established, world-leading research programme with observational and scientific leadership over a wide range of key areas.  The basic underpinning experimental expertise of the group is solar atomic spectroscopy, for the derivation of solar plasma diagnostics.

​We use observations of the solar atmosphere to determine the Sun’s plasma characteristics, study complex processes of energy release in big, violent flares and ubiquitous tiny nanoflares, and track huge mass eruptions all the way from the Sun's corona to beyond the Earth's orbit. Our aim is to understand and predict how the Sun works and affects the solar system and the Earth's environment.

Solar Physicists at RAL are currently involved in operating and exploiting the RAL-led Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer (CDS) instrument aboard the biggest solar spacecraft, ​​The Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)​, and the RAL Space-led Heliospheric Imagers aboard the NASA Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO​) mission. They are also involved in the operation of instruments aboard the Hinode and Coriolis spacecraft. In addition, we are involved in the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched in February 2010, and lead the UK contribution to the Spectral Investigation of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) spectrometer on the ESA Solar Orbiter mission, that launched in February 2020. In the past, we had involvement in sub-orbital rocket flights in collaboration with US colleagues, as well as roles in other prominent solar missions such as Solar Maximum Mission​ (SMM), Yohkoh and Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE).​

The group has a long heritage, including the NASA Solar Maximum Mission (1980-89) the CHASE Spacelab 2experiment (1985), the Japanese Yohkoh mission (1991-2001), and the NASA SOHO mission. The group has major hardware roles in the NASA STEREO and the Japanese Hinodemissions and studies are underway for a RAL-led instrument for the ESA Solar Orbiter. The Group was involved in the SDO mission; the first of NASA's Living with a Star Programme and also in some smaller projects such as the RESIK instrument aboard the Russian Coronas spacecraft and the NASA Space Electric Rocket Test (SERTS) and EUNIS​​ rocket experiments.

The bulk of the research effort over the last few years has been underpinned by observational work using the SOHO spacecraft and in particular the RAL Space-led Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer (CDS) and more recently, the STEREO and Hinode observations. Specific research areas include studies of fundamental processes in the solar atmosphere, research into solar mass ejection processes and flares and plasma diagnostic techniques.

RAL Space Solar Physics projects:

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries