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Sun under double observation

13th August 2018. NASA's Parker Solar Probe, launched on 12th August, will be the first spacecraft to approach the sun reaching 10 solar radii, and will provide science with new insights into our home star over the next few years. An international project under the auspices of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) adds ground-based measurements at the same time - enabling completely new insights into solar activity and its effects on Earth.
Sun under double observation

Parker Solar Probe. (Credit: NASA)

What effect does solar activity have on the immediate surrounding space - and ultimately also on our earth? The space mission Parker Solar Probe will provide answers to these and other questions. They are of fundamental societal interest, as solar activity has a huge impact on our technological capabilities: it may cause interference with GPS navigation and electronic components in airplanes, satellites and hospitals.

With the space satellite, scientists want to examine the outer layer of the solar atmosphere - the corona - and the near-solar interplanetary space. One of them is Prof. Dr. Gottfried Mann. At the AIP he heads the department "Physics of the Sun" and researches, among other things, the sun and space weather. Together with 20 other international scientists, he has secured simultaneous observation time with LOFAR and Parker Solar Probe– a total of 1,024 hours over the next two years. The observation times are deliberately chosen: In the so-called perihelion phases, when the satellite comes closest to the sun, the research group plans simultaneous observations with the earthbound radio telescope LOFAR. "With these ground-based supplementary measurements, LOFAR will provide important data. This will make it possible in unprecedented ways to explore solar activity and its spread from the corona into the interplanetary space," Mann explains.

The International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) is a European joint project under Dutch management with numerous stations in Northern and Western Europe. In the last two years, the ILT has been extended by three stations in Poland and one station in Ireland. Thus, the base length increased to 1,885 km in east-west direction. In north-south direction, the base length is 1,301 km from Onsala in Sweden to Nançay in France. At present, the ILT consists of a central core of 24 stations and 14 further individual stations distributed in the Netherlands as well as an additional 13 international stations in Europe. The AIP participates in LOFAR with its own station in Potsdam-Bornim.

The scientific evaluation of the LOFAR data is organized in the form of six key science projects. One of them, Solar Physics and Space Weather with LOFAR, is managed by the AIP. With its high sensitivity and flexibility LOFAR is a suitable tool for a variety of scientific topics - from the early universe to near-Earth space.


LOFAR-Station in Potsdam-Bornim. (Credit: AIP)

Scientific contact at AIP

apl. Prof. Dr. Gottfried Mann, 0331-7499-292,

Media contact

Franziska Gräfe, 0331-7499 803,

Further Information


Parker Solar Probe

Press release NASA


The key areas of research at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are cosmic magnetic fields and extragalactic astrophysics. A considerable part of the institute's efforts aim at the development of research technology in the fields of spectroscopy, robotic telescopes, and e-science. The AIP is the successor of the Berlin Observatory founded in 1700 and of the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam founded in 1874. The latter was the world's first observatory to emphasize explicitly the research area of astrophysics. The AIP has been a member of the Leibniz Association since 1992.