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Oct 5 Science Cafe – Looking at the Sun

Looking at the Sun

Solar flares, the GRIPS telescope & adventures in Antarctica

with Nicole Duncan

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Restaurant Valparaiso

1403 Solano Ave, Albany, CA

 7:00-9:00 pm

Interplanetary space is not empty; a thousand satellites orbit the Earth and a constant stream of particles emanate from the Sun in a sweeping interplanetary wind. Giant explosions occur on the Sun which can release the energy of ~1 trillion atomic bombs within 100s of seconds. These magnificent explosions can accelerate particles to relativistic energies, emit bursts of high energy radiation and are frequently followed by large ejections of charged particles. If directed towards Earth, the radiation and particle ejections can pose risks to astronauts, interfere with satellite communications and disrupt our power grids. Understanding how solar flares effect space weather is vital as humans push farther into space and plan missions beyond the Earth’s protective atmosphere.

UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab (SSL) built a telescope to better understand how the largest flares accelerate particles. The Gamma-Ray Imager/Polarimeter for Solar flares (GRIPS) instrument used the world’s most advanced germanium detectors to detect gamma-rays from flares. The team travelled to Antarctica in Dec 2015 to launch the telescope and recover the data. Join us at this month’s East Bay café to learn more about solar flares, the GRIPS telescope
and the Antarctic adventure to launch it.

GRIPS telescope in Antarctica

GRIPS telescope in Antarctica

GRIPS telescope in Antarctica


Nicole Duncan


Nicole Duncan is passionate about space sciences, hardware and exploration. She graduated from CU Boulder with an Engineering Physics bachelor’s degree in 2010. Joining the UC Berkeley physics department as a graduate student, Nicole has spent the past 6 years working with senior scientists and engineers to bring the GRIPS telescope concept through design, testing and Antarctic flight. When Nicole isn’t at the lab, she can be found rock climbing, backpacking with her pit-bull rescue or putting together a craft project.

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