Northern Irish woman wins Chapman Medal

9 July 2014

Lurgan-born solar physicist Professor Louise Harra, of UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory, was recently presented with the Royal Astronomical Society’s Chapman Medal for 2014, becoming the first woman to win this honour.

Louise Harra

Professor Harra took her primary and doctoral degrees at Queen’s University Belfast, and has worked in Japan and the UK as well as being part of multiple international collaborations. Her research is concentrated on the exploitation of extreme-UV and X-ray spectroscopy and solar plasma diagnostics to understand the active solar atmosphere.

Since September 2006, she has been Principal Investigator of the UK’s EUV Imaging Spectrometer on the Hinode satellite mission, and has taken a leading role in exploiting its observations. She is also co-PI on the EUV Imager onboard the ESA Solar Orbiter mission.

In addition to this, Professor Harra is an honorary professor of the Solar Magnetism and Activity Group at the National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing and is a partner in UCL’s Centre for Space Medicine, which aims to make use of technological and analytical techniques from space and apply them to areas of medicine.

The Chapman Medal award is made primarily in recognition of her significant advances in using EUV spectroscopy to understand large-scale solar flows, dynamics and eruptions. This includes the spectroscopic detection and characterisation of large-scale coronal waves, and outflows of hot plasma from the corona following coronal mass ejections.

Particularly notable is her identification of the likely source of the slow solar wind, opening a new channel for understanding its production. She sets her discoveries in the context both of the emergence and the evolution of solar magnetic fields, and of space weather. In doing so, she provides a rounded view of the dynamic links between the solar magnetic field and the heliosphere.