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Miruna Popescu - solar guides


Miruna Popescu


Miruna PopescuWhere do you work?
I work at the Armagh Observatory (, Northern Ireland. It is one of the UK's oldest astronomical observatories, and was built over 200 years ago.


The most common question people ask when I say that I study solar physics is why am I in Armagh, does the Sun ever peek out from behind the clouds here? Well, actually I use satellite data. Besides, the weather in Ireland is not really that bad; there are quite a few sunny days.


Miruna hold the SunWhere did you study?
I am from Romania and studied in Bucharest. In my last year at university, I took a course in astrophysics. My professor taught the course with such enthusiasm, telling us some amazing stories about the Sun, planets, stars, black holes and galaxies. I was hooked!


What are you studying about the Sun?

I study the origin of the solar wind, which flows from the Sun to the Earth. I analyse data from the SoHO spacecraft, with the aim of discovering more about what is happening in the solar atmosphere that makes million of tonnes of charged particles leave the Sun every second, escaping its huge gravity and travelling through the planetary system as the ghostly solar wind.


I study the part of the solar wind that comes from coronal holes – this is the ‘fast’ wind, travelling at speeds of millions km/hour (the ‘slow’ one travels at lower speeds, only about one million km/hour). Coronal holes are seen as dark regions in the solar corona. Sometimes, they have funny shapes, like this one seen just before Christmas in 2003.



Any magic moments?
Coming from the sky… a few, but they gave me amazing feelings I can never forget. Looking at the Milky Way from Sacramento Peak, in New Mexico, where the night sky visibility is the best I’ve ever experienced, is just fantastic. I have really understood how tiny the Earth is in the Galaxy. I also saw the total eclipse in 1999 from my home in Bucharest. But best of all was seeing the Sun ‘coming down to Earth’ in November 2003. It was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. I was so impressed, that I made this pastel drawing: 'Aurora at the Armagh Observatory'. Drawing has been one of my most enjoyable hobbies, and I sometimes take my inspiration from astronomy. Here you can see a drawing named ‘Genesis’ that represents a new born star.


Miruna pics


What else do you like to do?
In the last year I became a very keen photographer, and I don’t go anywhere without my camera. Here are some of my photos in the grounds of the Armagh Observatory, the ‘Human Orrery’ (, and some other wildlife.


Miruna's photos


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