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Lyndsay Fletcher - solar guides


Hi, my name's Lyndsay Fletcher:


Image of Lyndsay FletcherWhat sparked your interest in solar physics?
I was born in Glasgow and grew up in Scotland. I think it was a project we did on the solar system at primary school that got me interested. After that, I always liked science at school, and my teacher gave me a book about astronomy, which just got me hooked.


Image of a poster for Adam and the AntsAt school I had no idea what I wanted to be, I was too busy trying to avoid hockey and netball, and being in love with Adam and the Ants, to think about the future. I chose maths, physics, chemistry, English and German. I thought then, and still think, that you should keep your options open as long as you can, and do what you enjoy most. At the University in Glasgow I studied physics and astronomy, and a bit of maths.


Image of the solar satellite RHESSIWhat type of solar research do you do?
I work a lot with my computer, analysing solar data, which is coming down from instruments on board satellites. I also make and test mathematical models to try and understand what I am seeing. But solar physics is a group effort, so a lot of my day is taken up discussing questions and problems with colleagues, who are also friends.


I would love to understand how solar flares happen. These are the most energetic of explosions on the Sun. The energy released in 10 minutes during one small solar flare is enough to power the whole of the UK for 50,000 years. We have known about flares for decades, but the way they work is still a bit of a mystery. I am now working with a new solar satellite called RHESSI (shown in the image above) which was launched in 2002. We are using the new observations from RHESSI to try to understand solar flares.


Have you travelled a lot?
Yes, I have. I've worked overseas a lot, even though I never really wanted to leave Glasgow! I worked for several years in solar physics in the Netherlands, and then I moved to the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, California, USA to work on observations from the TRACE satellite. That was tough at first, but I learnt to enjoy it - the chance to live and work abroad is one of the great things about a career in science. I even spent several months in Japan, commanding an instrument on YOHKOH. Now I’m back again working in Scotland, in the place I love best, my home - Glasgow.

Image of a loop on the Sun as seen my TRACE
Image of a loop on the Sun as seen my TRACE

Loops on the Sun seen with TRACE


Image of LyndsayWhat do you do in your spare time?
I like the outdoors - I go hill walking when I get the chance, and run to keep fit. I also like to go with friends to concerts and museums, or just shopping. I have my two black and white cats, Rolph and Mabel, to look after. But my favourite hobby is singing - both in the shower and in choirs.


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